Anxiety is very common and part of the normal range of human emotions that you can experience. It can range from mild, low level anxiousness about some situations, which may be suitable given the situation, or it may be excessive. When anxiety starts to rule your happiness, however, and you now avoid certain situations, this is known as an anxiety disorder.
There are several kinds of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalised anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder – people with this condition experience feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning, which is commonly known as a panic attack. Other indications of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or ‘going crazy’.
Social anxiety disorder – also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about normal or everyday social situations. The worry often centres on a fear of being judged by others, or acting in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
Specific phobias – a specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
Generalised anxiety disorder – this disorder involves excessive or extreme worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
As part of the above anxiety disorders the overall general symptoms of anxiety include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
Feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
It is quite common to see patients who are unaware that they are suffering specifically from anxiety but have a number of the signs above. They often present wanting help with not being able to fall asleep or waking in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. This is often the first sign that anxiety is starting to affect your mental well-being. One particular patient of mine who highlights this was a young woman in her twenties who had a very stressful job with high- level responsibilities for her age. Prior to starting this job she had no problems with sleep, but soon after being promoted to her new role she began finding it hard to fall asleep at night. She started to panic about not being able to sleep, which caused the problem. She then started having episodes of having trouble breathing, tingling around the mouth and fingertips, feeling dizzy and faint, and experiencing rapid heartbeats. She thought she was having heart troubles and had presented to the emergency department on several occasions only to be sent home with a clean bill of health. When she came to see me she was in quite a state of panic. She spoke quickly, looked tired, and found it hard to sit still. We investigated a number of things to rule out any organic cause for her symptoms.
When these came back negative I explained that I thought she was suffering from anxiety related to stress. She was hesitant to accept the diagnosis but when I explained that suffering anxiety did not mean that she was not able to mentally cope with her work situation, nor did it mean that she had caused this condition but rather her body was giving her clues that it was time to rest, she was more accepting. We then started the process of changing the anxiety response and putting some stress-management strategies in place. What this involved I will explain a little later, but first let us look at what exactly causes depression and anxiety.
Holistic Medical Doctor