We all experience some level of anxiety every now and then. A few of the more common examples include being put in harm’s way, giving a speech to a roomful of your peers, and getting through an interview for an important job. It’s normal to experience anxiety in such situations. Then there are people who experience anxiety on a frequent basis, and feel anxious when there are no immediate threats present. This type of anxiety requires treatment.
Before we get into some of the treatment options, it’s important to understand what anxiety is, and how it happens.
Anxiety happens when our body reacts to an imagined threat as if it were real. Our breathing and heart rate changes, adrenaline starts flowing, and we sweat as we go into the fight or flight response. There are times when this comes in handy, but the person with an anxiety disorder goes well beyond that point.
While you may be able to live with the occasional bout of anxiety, you should seek treatment if it is causing a negative impact on your life. A negative impact is anything that takes away from your quality of life, and your enjoyment of it. Not going to social events, staying inside due to a fear of the outside world, never stepping out of your “safe zone” because you’re afraid you won’t be able to cope are some common examples.
One of the difficulties of diagnosing anxiety is that many of the symptoms can be related to other conditions. Therefore, the sufferer may assume that they have another medical problem, when in reality they actually have an anxiety disorder. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: shortness of breath, strong heartbeat, nausea, chest pain, fatigue, headaches, stomach pains, and insomnia. That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Someone with a strong heartbeat and pain in their chest would be fully justified in thinking they were having a heart attack, but it could just be a panic attack.
NOTE: Never assume chest pains are okay unless under the direct guidance of a doctor. Even if you have anxiety, the symptoms of a heart attack should never be ignored.
A person with an anxiety disorder thinks differently. For the sake of example, let’s say snakes make them anxious. Our sufferer sees a picture of a snake, and then his mind and body go into a different state. He sees the picture and thinks about how some snakes are poisonous, and they can bite. “What if,” he thinks to himself, “a snake bites me?” He continues by imagining being bitten, injected with venom, dying, and leaving his family destitute due to his being dead. All of this from seeing a picture!
However, his difficulty is how to stop the snowballing effect of these thoughts when they happen. Many of the treatments for anxiety are intended to stop the thought process, and a sense of calm replaces the sense of anxiety.