Could You Actually Have An Anxiety Disorder?


Chances are, you’ve felt a bit of anxiety
at one point or another. Maybe before you started a new job or before
you got surgery, but some people live with anxiety disorders, which are much more persistent
and severe than normal feelings of anxiety or nervousness. Almost 30% of adults will be affected by these
conditions in their lifetime. Which begs the question, what are
anxiety disorders anyway? People with anxiety disorders frequently experience
feelings of excessive fear, worry and panic in normal, everyday life. They may be grocery shopping and suddenly
feel a wave of terror for no reason at all. Their heart rate skyrockets. Their breathing quickens. Adrenaline pumps through their body. They eventually calm down, but it isn’t
always momentary attacks like that. Oftentimes, it’s persistent, hard to control
fear that affects people’s everyday lives. This anxiety and the coupling symptoms like
trouble concentrating, fatigue and even gastrointestinal problems, are very difficult to deal with. As with all mental illnesses, anxiety is not
just an overreaction or a personal weakness. There is science backing up these diseases,
so telling someone to relax or let it go can be pretty insulting. These conditions are deeply rooted and it’s
not that easy. Anxiety is believed to start in the amygdala,
the brain’s so-called “fear center”, where emotions are processed. Neurotransmitters then alert the sympathetic
nervous system of the perceived threat. This is when muscles tense, heart rate and
breathing speed up, and blood flow is rerouted away from abdominal organs and towards the
brain. This is our body’s fight-or-flight response,
or it’s way of telling us we’re in danger. This bodily response is what happens whenever
anyone feels panicked, but brains with anxiety disorders experience something a little different. These conditions are characterized by differences
in neuroendocrine, neurotransmitter and neuroanatomical functions. To put it simply, these people’s brains
function differently. They also appear to have unbalanced activity
levels in different parts of the brain. More activity in emotional centers versus
higher cognitive centers. Some of these abnormalities are so major that
they can be seen on brain scans. While the exact causes of anxiety disorders
aren’t fully understood, there are a number of things that can increase your risk of developing
one. If you’ve been through a serious trauma,
you’re more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Genetics, certain personality types and other
pre-existing conditions have also been linked to these illnesses. Regardless of what may have caused the onset
of an anxiety disorder, there are a number of different types you can have. General excessive, uncontrollable nervousness
is called generalized anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia is extreme fear of being trapped
and unable to escape. The fear of being embarrassed in social situations
is social anxiety disorder. Panic disorder comes with extreme sudden panic
and impending doom. Specific phobias, of things like heights and
snakes, are also considered anxiety disorders. About 30% of people with anxiety disorders
go through life without seeking treatment. But as horrible as these conditions are, they
are treatable. Benzodiazepines and antidepressants are commonly
used to treat anxiety. Talking to a therapist is very helpful too. CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy reduces
anxiety by creating a new way of thinking, reacting and behaving. Those with anxiety disorders are advised to
avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine and to exercise regularly. Other self-care techniques like meditating
and yoga can be effective in lessening anxiety too. And remember, there’s no shame in seeking
help to improve your mental health. You wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken wrist,
would you? Exactly. What do you do to calm yourself down when
you’re feeling anxious or tense? Let us know in
the comments.

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