There are so many different anxiety disorders out there. I do want to make sure that there is a distinction between phobias and anxieties. You can have a fear of something, an anxiety is more extreme. There are different kinds of anxiety out there.
Panic disorder is usually what people think of when you mention anxiety disorders. It is, essentially, having panic attacks. Panic attacks are THE worst. You feel out of breath, dizzy, choked up. WebMD explains, “People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attackinclude sweating, chest pain, palpitations (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.” And the reasons for the panic disorder can vary. It can be claustrophobia, social phobia, speaking in public phobia, fear of spiders, or fear of heights. WebMD elaborates, “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.” Medical News Today explains that these attacks are “characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing.”
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
It is probably the hardest thing to deal with, as someone who has OCD, because it has a really strong stigma. People usually associate it with cleanliness and order, but, honestly? I’m not that tidy. OCD has to deal with an obsession with an idea or object. It can be that you are anxious about germs, or you are anxious about buying new books (Me!), anxious about losing weight. According to WebMD, “People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions.” So, you have the fear of not having something (having not locked the door, for instance), and then you have a compulsion to deal with it (checking that you locked the door). For me, it is about buying things and dyeing my hair. Sometimes, I wake up at night in a panic because I need to dye my hair (obsession), so I do (compulsion).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Often associated with wars and soldiers, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a response to something traumatic. It can be rape. It can be sexual assault. It can be molestation. It does not have to be war related, but it can be. It can be witnessing someone’s death. It can be dealing with a hurricane. It can even be when you are dealing with too much stress. WebMD writes, “PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and tend to be emotionally numb.”
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
This disorder is the worst. I may be biased saying this because I have it, but, my goodness, it is awful. It is essentially being nervous for no reason. Even WebMD explains lamely, “This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.” There would be nothing to be afraid of and I would find myself having panic attacks, fainting, sweaty palms, and a dry mouth. I used to call it the “fear of everything and anything,” and I think that summarizes GAD pretty well. But if you are still confused, Medical News Today explains it fairly well: “is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation.” I remember being scared of books not coming in the mail. I would worry about food not being cooked well. I would worry about my dresses hitching up.
Usually, anxiety disorders are accompanied by lots of physical reactions. Sleeplessness can be one of them. Another one is sleeping too much to avoid the stressful or anxiety-inducing event. Paranoia is common. Another side effect is having panic attacks. Heart palpitations and difficulty breathing are also other side effects of anxiety. Dizziness and stomach pains are common, too. In addition, there are nightmares, flashbacks, and nausea.
Medical interference can come in really handy when it comes to anxiety disorders, depending on the intensity. Some people come to control their panic attacks or manage them through breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. But, for some people, like me, for instance, medication helps a lot. Since taking my medications (and it takes a while to find the right combination, especially since anxiety comes hand in hand with depression frequently), I have been having fewer panic attacks. Therapy is also another prescription that helps along with a white death strain to make you feel more relaxed. Talking about your anxieties helps you conquer them. You come to see them as hurdles, mounds not mountains, they become less scary, I suppose.
Like depression, anxiety is a complex illness. It is an illness. Medical News Today explains, “Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.” It is an issue if it hinders your way of living and the quality of your life. If you are struggling to function in life, this is an issue that you need to address. It is scary (and pun not intended, I swear), but anxiety can be lessened.