I have been plagued by anxiety for as long as I can remember. It was exhausting going through each day constantly worried about what people thought of me, what they were saying about me, how did I look to everyone, was I doing things correctly, was I good enough…and so on. I was constantly worried about everything and my inward worrying meant I was always in my own little world…distracted and unable to concentrate on what was going on at times. It didn’t just stop when I was home. Anxiety robbed me of sleep…I’d lay awake at night while everyone was sleeping and think and worry…I’d even worry about not being able to sleep and how was I going to wake up the next morning. It seemed endless and was tiring.
What is Anxiety? What does it feel like?
Feeling some anxiety when dealing with a challenging situation in life is a normal. It is when our anxiety interferes with our daily life that could indicate an anxiety disorder.
HelpGuide.org explains that anxiety is our body’s response, “to danger, an automatic alarm,” that sounds when we feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation (http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-attacks-and-anxiety-disorders.htm). It can be useful in helping us “to say alert and focused,” moving us to action and in motivating us into solving problems. Anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with daily life, our relationships, and responsibilities.
Anxiety covers a variety of disorders, therefore the symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms include: feelings of dread, difficulty concentrating, “feeling tense and jumpy,” assuming the worst, being irritable, restlessness, worried about and “watching for signs of danger,” going blank (HelpGuide.org). Some of the physical symptoms one with anxiety may feel are: feeling tense and nervous, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, feeling shaky, “feeling weak or tired,” insomnia, upset stomach, “frequent urination or diarrhea,” and headaches, (Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/dxc-20168124; HelpGuide.org). Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, anxiety due to a medical disorder, separation anxiety disorder, are among those on the list of of types of anxiety disorders (Mayo Clinic).
An anxiety (or panic attack) is when a trigger situation (such as being stuck in an elevator) occurs and the individual feels a loss of control with their body…heart racing, face flushing, trembling, intense fear, crying, sweating, for example. An attack will last about 10 minutes and some may even fear that they are having a heart attack. I recall having one back in the 1990’s in which I had to suddenly leave the room due to the symptoms being so intense. For a long time afterward, I was fearful the attack could happen again. I avoided what social situations I was able to (since I was in college at the time and doing an internship) in order to avoid having another one. Some individuals become so paralyzed after an attack that they avoid all situations and become imprisoned in their home, afraid to go out (HelpGuide.org).
Tomorrow’s post will expand upon this topic and include ways to cope with anxiety.