Do I Have Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is to be expected in stressful circumstances. However, it can become a persistent difficulty that creates its own problems. An anxiety disorder is characterised by nervous ailments that culminate in unexpected panic attacks and a state of persistent uneasiness. Even though anxiety attacks may not relate to real risks, they can be harmful by causing alarm and distress. People with an anxiety disorder typically have a disabling condition in which they suffer frequent panic attacks.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a physiological state associated with feelings of fear, apprehension and worry. These feelings are as common and intrinsic to the human experience as happiness and joy. Studies suggest anxiety is a protective mechanism; it is our body’s way of warning us against entering potentially harmful situations.

Anxiety happens when our mind perceives danger, which may be real or imagined. Our body reacts to the threat by preparing for swift action. Your heart rate and blood pressure rises, increasing blood flow to major muscle groups. Sweating acts to prevent the body temperature from rising.

When the threat is just imagined, bodily reactions lead to the physical symptoms of anxiety. While in a confused and sedentary state, sufferers may experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, chills, trembling and nausea.

Sigmund Freud considered anxiety to be a signal of danger that results in defensive physical behaviors. These behaviors are meant to enable our bodies to overcome danger. He believed the anxious feelings originate from traumatic experiences. They are reinforced through classical conditioning.

When we see or feel something associated with a traumatic experience, there is a resurgence of the old feelings of anxiety. We may feel a sense of panic or dread. There is an urge to escape. But avoiding or running away from such situations, without addressing the anxiety, just creates a habitual, reinforced response.

Development

An anxiety disorder is more likely for an individual with a genetic predisposition or hereditary sensitivity. Anxiety attacks happen when the person is exposed to an external stressing element. A state of panic can be facilitated by traumatic events, prolonged stress, or the use of illegal drugs or prescription medication. People who have recently endured an intense life event that has affected them negatively are prone to developing an anxiety disorder. It starts with an initial panic attack.

Progression

How does anxiety disorder develop from a circumstantial panic attack? Well, the first anxiety event creates a sensitivity in the central nervous system. Then, the person is more susceptible to outside threats of a varied nature. An ache in the chest, for example, may feel like the start of a panic attack. This could start another bout in the vicious circle of anxiety disorder. Even if there is no real threat to justify a panic response, the person may start fearing anxiety.

Treatment

Treating anxiety disorder relies on behavioral and cognitive therapies. These serve to break the circle of fear in which panic attacks causes further attacks. Patients gain a greater sense of control and personal empowerment.

Antidepressants or tranquilisers offer only temporary relief and should not be used for extended periods. If other therapies are not used in parallel with drug administration, symptoms may well return when the drug treatment is over. The anxiety disorder could then evolve to more severe forms.