People often feel anxious due to the increasing demands of life, life stresses and constant pressure and uncertainty. When do you know when you are experiencing normal anxiety and when you have an anxiety disorder?
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It is characterised by three main characteristics; worry, fear and a loss of control. It affects us on three main levels; thought level, emotional level and behavioural level. Negative thoughts cause a spiral that leads the anxious individual to fear, worry and feel out of control.
Normal anxiety vs anxiety disorders
Everyone experiences anxiety. It is a natural response to stress and often disappears when the stressful situation is no longer present. Normal anxiety is an unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension. This response includes physiological responses (restlessness, heart palpitations, mild stomach discomfort and perspiration (e.g. sweaty palms)). It also includes emotional distress (nervousness, discomfort, worry and fear).
Anxiety disorders are intense or disproportionate emotional responses, which often include panic. They cause distress and interfere with the person’s social or day to day functioning. Anxiety disorders are ongoing for long periods and feel impossible to manage or control.
Types of Anxiety disorders
Panic disorder and Agoraphobia – Frequent, spontaneous panic attacks and avoidance.
Specific Phobia and Social Phobia – Persistent, excessive, or unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation. Persistent fear of social or performance situations that causes feelings of embarrassment or humiliation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Excessive and repetitive thoughts or behaviors. This includes intrusive thoughts, rituals, preoccupations, and compulsions.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – Development of symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event. Fear and helplessness are experienced when thinking about the event.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder – Consistent and excessive worry about several events or activities for most days, and physical symptoms.
Treatment of Anxiety disorders
Pharmacotherapy – Antianxiety medication may be required if the symptoms are severe and the person is struggling to function.
Psychotherapy – Counselling is effective in assisting with effective coping skills and anxiety management techniques (breathing and grounding techniques).