I write a lot about anxiety and panic attacks. It occurred to me that few people may know what the definitions and symptoms are. Even definitions since I was first diagnosed have changed. While the wheel in mental health has not been reinvented it has been refined. It evolves, and continues to evolve as modern medicine makes new discoveries about the brain.
Anxiety Disorder is a constant, excessive and nonstop worry or worries that occur almost all day, every day. It will interfere with you day to day life. Physically you can experience symptoms such as stomach aches, vomiting, feeling like you are going to throw up, sore muscles, tiredness, anger, dizziness and many more.
Anxiety Disorder can include panic disorder/panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and other forms of anxiety. Anxiety has many related disorders and can coexist with other mental and physical illnesses.
Everyone experiences anxiety right? Just tough it out, right? Wrong, any type of Anxiety Disorder when experienced is more persistent,overwhelming and debilitating than normally experienced anxiety. It interferes with you daily life. You get up to leave a crowded theater even when you really want to see the show. You can’t fall asleep no matter how tired you are. You ruminate on certain or all worries to the point of inaction no matter how remote or silly they seem to others. You have physical ailments that begin to appear and cannot be resolved by normal medications. You begin to avoid places because you start to relate them to feeling awful.
The cause of anxiety is unknown. It can be a variety of factors from biological, genetic, experiences, environment and more. For me, I believe that it was a combination. Panic Attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and more run in my family. While my paternal grandmother was not formally diagnosed I believe she had it. My father was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder and others, and my son was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. Then I believe the way I was raised also contributed to my anxiety as it added stress to an already stressful life.
I made a vow to raise my son differently and I did. To watch him get it and go through it nearly killed me and triggered my own anxiety again. It was devastating to me. “What did I do?”, I thought. What didn’t I do? The thing is nothing I could have done, would have prevented my son from getting it due to our genetic predisposition. What I can effect is how his treatment and support is. How he handles what his disorder is doing to him. That’s because Anxiety is a disorder/disease just like cancer, or diabetes. Now before you go off telling me cancer etc are different, understand that I say this because many people believe that mental illness is a character flaw and not a medical condition. We should be able to think it away. There are a few that can. Most people need therapy and lifestyle changes. Some also need those and medicine.
Anxiety effects every relationship you have. It effects every opportunity that comes your way. For me, I lost over four years of my life that I can’t get back. You need all the support you can get. Overcoming your own mind is one of the most difficult things a person can do.
Then there is the fear of what other people think. Will they think that I am crazy? Will they stop wanting to be around me? What if I am discriminated against. Recently in the news a member of the ground crew in Seattle stole a small jet, went on a joy ride and crashed it. On several different news channels they were asking if ground crews were screened for mental illness. It made my heart sink. First, we have no idea if this man had mental illnesses or not. So why speculate. Second most people with mental illness do not harm themselves, fewer harm others. There are already some things that those with mental illness cannot do. One of my greatest fears is the information age and mental illness. Where someone can with the touch of a button get your medical history and use it to disqualify you from a job or community.
How do you treat anxiety? It really depends on the individual. Each person must have their own type of treatment. Which is how mental illness differs from other illnesses of the body. One of the more successful treatments is CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This type of therapy involves changing your thinking and habits to manage your anxiety. In addition, medication can be prescribed to help you control and minimize your anxiety. What medication and how much depends on each person. It’s important that you maintain contact with your medical providers to ensure you get the best care possible.
I myself have been on so many medications. Some worked better than others. Some side effects are worse or better. Only one medicine did not work for me. I’ve been changed around many times. Sometimes, I can’t keep track of everything I’ve been on. This is the hardest part of a disorder. Finding the right combo of drugs to use. If you are at this stage please keep the faith. It may take an extended period of time to find the right combo of medication. Then again, you may not even need meds or you can get it right on the first dose!
Panic Attacks are acute, intense instances of fear. They can last for a few seconds to a few hours. The often can come out of the blue, but some also are triggered by circumstances. The fear is so intense that it can cause you to flee the area, feel like you are having a heart attack or a break down. You feel as if your body and mind operate separately. The biggest part of these attacks are learning to regain control of you body again. It involves relaxation, deep breathing and other techniques to bring down the intensity of the reaction. Short lasting medications are also used for certain patients to take the edge off the attack.
For more information or diagnosis, please contact your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional. You can also check out the website of The Anxiety and Depression Association of America at www.adaa.org, Web MD, or NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://www.NAMI.org .
This article is an opinion piece and not to be used for self diagnosis or in place of advice from a medical professional.