Anxious Much?

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Diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart diseases, hypertension etc. have all of a sudden become common in every household. They have been termed by doctors as ‘lifestyle disorders’. Despite the many warnings given to us about the hazards caused to our health due to our faulty way of living, we still give in to our impulses and continue to live that way. Many of these disorders are often related to a mental disorder – high amount of stress, tension, anxiety etc. In India (and many countries around the world), any kind of a mental disorder is usually frowned upon by people. They are often associated with being ‘mad’ and hence people are afraid to come out in the open and end up not being treated. One of the major mental disorders or rather an illness is anxiety disorder.

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Anxiety is like any other emotion. It is but natural to get anxious before an exam, an interview or even at your wedding! But like all other emotions, an excess of it can hinder your daily activities and may prove detrimental to your health. Worry and fear are the two main emotions that let’s say form anxiety. There are a few types of anxiety disorders.

Panic disorder – When feelings of terror happen to strike all of a sudden along with sweat, palpitations, chest pain and choking. These symptoms are common to heart attack too.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – The feeling and the thoughts to perform rituals or routines over and over again; the thoughts are called obsessions and the actions are called compulsions. E.g. repeatedly checking if doors are locked, windows are shut etc.

Post – Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This usually occurs after a person has been through a severe trauma like sexual or physical assault, loss of someone close etc. They tend to be numb emotionally as they have lasting thoughts of their trauma.

Social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) – This occurs when a person constantly worried or is self – conscious during any social interactions. It often centres on a fear of being judged by others or being embarrassed.

Generalized anxiety disorder – This involves a constant, overwhelming and an unrealistic worry and tension without any reason.

Phobias also are a form of anxiety disorder.

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There is no definite cause found by scientists and researchers as to what causes anxiety disorders. It however has nothing to do with personal flaws or up bringing and more to do with the surroundings, stress and the way we react to situations. Some symptoms include:

  • Excessive worrying that makes you unable to functions properly coupled with fatigue.
  • Loss of sleep. Lying awake for long hours with constant thoughts or none at all and waking up with your mind racing instead of feeling fresh.
  • Having irrational fears or phobias.
  • Tension in the muscles. Unnecessary clenching of fists or flexing of body muscles.
  • Irritable bowels and indigestion. Stomach cramping, nausea and constipation.
  • Stage fright. Getting jitters before any meeting or talking/interacting with people and avoiding it all together.
  • Being excessively self – consciousness.
  • Panic. Numbness in fingers, chest pain, throbbing heart, sweaty palms, shaky hands. However not all panic attacks are symptoms of anxiety disorders.
  • Having constant flashbacks of things you’re trying to forget.
  • Wanting to be perfect in everything – from arranging books in the perfect order to getting all your pens, erasers in order. Cleaning and re – cleaning your rooms, the cupboards, the shelf etc.
  • Doubting the self and everyone else. Getting suspicious.
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts.
  • Nightmares.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • An inability to be still and calm.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Dizziness.

If you get any of the symptoms above and the doctors are unable to diagnose any physical cause than you should refer to a psychologist/psychiatrist. Here is where people make mistake. Referring to them is kind of a social taboo. But it is completely okay to go to a psychologist/psychiatrist unless you want to spend your whole life struggling to cope with these symptoms. In most cases, medications are prescribed like anti – depressant or anxiety reducing drugs. Psychotherapy which is a type of counselling wherein the patient is advised various strategies to cope with anxiety is another common form of treatment, this may or may not include cognitive – behavioural therapy (changing your way of thinking). Also, a few lifestyle and dietary changes are helpful in the initial stages.

Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented. So if you have experienced any kind of trauma it is advisable to seek some help or counselling. A few simple measures can help prevent the disorder from becoming very serious:

  • Taking a deep breath before beginning anything. You’ll be surprised at the wonders you perform.
  • Try getting good sleep by going early to bed or exercising.
  • Keep your mind active. Keep yourself busy.
  • If you’re constantly plagued with fears, ask yourself if they’re rational. Tell yourself you can face it. Challenge yourself.
  • Be more interactive with friends. Make more friends.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. You are most likely to get addicted.
  • Find a hobby or do something you enjoy. Read a book. Listen to soft music.
  • Take a break. If possible, go on a holiday.
  • Accept yourself for what you are.

A few changes here and there and you can help yourself from becoming too anxious. Remember, anxiety is just another emotion. And every emotion can be controlled.