January 30 2021 – Mukesh Kumar
If you think that there are no differences between anxiety and anxiety disorders, then you need to tune in and learn more about anxiety disorders because it is a whole different concept.
Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorder:
Anxiety is a natural emotion. It’s the way our brain responds to distress and warns us about the possible threats moving forward. Every now and then, we feel anxious. Being a little anxious occasionally is normal. But anxiety disorders are a whole different dimension. They're a category of mental disorders that trigger distress and paranoia that are relentless and overwhelming. You avoid social gatherings or meetings because of the exaggerated symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety needs a stressor to be triggered, like an exam or a deadline to meet while anxiety disorders don’t require a stressor to be triggered. A person with an anxiety disorder feels anxious all the time without any reason. The intensity and duration of an anxiety disorder are quite severe and exaggerated than anxiety. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder might feel anxious about a stage performance several weeks beforehand. While a person with anxiety will just feel anxious several minutes before stepping on the stage.
Many individuals with anxiety disorders can control their emotions with proper therapy and medications. Therefore, the key difference between anxiety and anxiety disorder is that anxiety is a natural process for coping, whereas anxiety disorder is an exaggerated psychiatric disorder that require psychotherapy.
Many people consider anxiety to be an abnormal response to normal situations when in reality every person experiences anxiety at a certain stage or occasion. Some people are anxious about exams while others are anxious to climb a mountain. It is a natural response and there is nothing wrong with it, however, if this response exaggerates and hinder normal functioning, then it can get really scary. And we call this exaggerated response to being an anxiety disorder.
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Types of Anxiety Disorders:
There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Let’s learn more about them.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder feel persistent fear, concern, and anxiety about events beforehand. The concern is greater than the nature of the situation. The condition triggers physical effects in the body, such as headaches, muscle bloating, and insomnia. The following are some of the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
- Increased breathing rate or hyperventilation
- Ongoing or excessive worrying over petty matters
- Lack of focus
- Irritability and nervousness
- Unexplained tiredness
- Tachycardia or increased heart rate
There are two treatments, psychotherapy and medications, for GAD and the implementation of respective treatments depends on the severity and nature of the symptoms. However, only through trial and error, we can discover, which treatment works best for us. Medications like antidepressants, buspirone, and benzodiazepines can be the treatment of choice for patients of GAD. While the psychotherapy part revolves around cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological counseling.
This involves a diverse range of anxiety disorders that are mainly based on fears and involve escaping from certain situations. In this disorder, the person feels entrapped and feels like escaping in scenarios that require commitment and consistency. Following are the symptoms of agoraphobia.
- Claustrophobia or fear of enclosed areas
- Experiencing a loss of control
- Fear of leaving home or their safe zones
- Demeaning or idolizing a relationship
- Intensity of emotions
- Fear of crowded places
Systematic desensitization and the use of drugs like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety agents can be the treatment of choice for people suffering from agoraphobia.
This anxiety disorder is a vicious cycle of obsession and compulsion. This vicious cycle starts with an episode of obsession, which is an exaggerated and un-wanted behavior associated with overthinking. Then the episode of obsession is followed by strong and uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is further followed by an extended period of relief, which is then further followed by episodes of compulsion. Compulsion is an extreme behavior where the individual goes to great lengths to alleviate the obsession. Following are symptoms of OCD:
- The constant need for reassurance
- Being intensely anxious when things are not symmetrical or orderly
- Trembling or shaking while being intimate in the public
- Inability to break a certain routine
- Rough and dry hands by washing it extensively
Treatment of Obsessive-compulsive disorder is mostly encompassing cognitive psychotherapy which we can divide into four phases: relabel, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. In the relabel phase, the patient is made to tell himself something, which is opposite to what he might be feeling like he has to say that his hands are not dirty even if he feels that they are dirty. Then, in the Reattribute phase, he blames or attributes the negative thoughts to the OCD rather than obsessively reacting to them. In the refocus phase, the patient divert his attention onto something else. Then eventually, in the revalue phase of the cognitive therapy he downgrades his mental illness by saying that these thoughts are just due to my stupid brain and this disease and there is nothing wrong about me other than the perception.
I am quite sure, very few of you would be aware of the diverse types and symptoms of anxiety disorders and I am going to blame the social stigmas associated with mental illnesses for the ignorance and lack of knowledge. Almost 284 million people suffer from anxiety disorders annually, yet the awareness is so scanty. We need to run social media campaigns for the awareness of the masses so that people suffering from anxiety disorders could come forward and get their selves treated.