Living in the future…
The definition of anxiety is : A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an likely event or something with an uncertain outcome.
There is an area in our brain which is responsible for anxiety, the amygdala. This area of the brain is most active when you experience fear and is responsible for triggering the body’s fight or flight response. Anxiety and panic attacks can occur when environmental or emotional stressors convince the amygdala that you are in danger.
We all experience an amount of worry and fear, but what determines when the worry and fear are unhealthy?
Anxiety Disorders & Symptoms
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Characterized by worry, restlessness and difficulty thinking.
- Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, concerning a number of events;
- The individual finds it difficult to control the worry;
- The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following six symptoms (only one item required in children):
- Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
- The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning;
- The disturbance is not due to the physiological effects of a substance or medical condition;
- The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions.
Obsessions are defined as:
- Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive and cause marked anxiety or distress; but are not excessive worries about real-life problems;
- The person attempts to ignore, suppress or neutralize these thoughts, impulses, or images;
- The person is aware that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind, as opposed to delusional in nature.
Compulsions are defined as:
- Repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession;
- The behaviors or mental acts are directed at preventing or reducing distress or a dreaded event or situation;
- These behaviors or mental acts may not always be associated with the content of the obsessional theme. For example, if the theme is Contamination, the ritual may involve mental rehearsal or counting;
- The symptoms of OCD are not the result of another psychiatric disorder present or caused by a medical condition or substance abuse. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Panic Disorder – Characterized by sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer. These are called panic attacks, not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder.
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
- An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
P.T.S.D.– Is anxiety that is related to a traumatic event in one’s life. Symptoms develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event that involves death or threatened death such as warfare, motor vehicle accidents, sexual or physical assault or complex medical treatment such as an emergency surgery.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health to be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms include:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
Avoidance symptoms include:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
Cognition and mood symptoms include:
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
- Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy
- Medications, including antianxiety medications and antidepressants
- Complementary health approaches, including stress and relaxation techniques, exercise and brain health.