Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience.  It’s a defense mechanism designed to keep us alive.  We worry about things that may harm us, and that keeps us alive.  Whether it’s a sabre tooth tiger, your boss, or tax day, we all worry about things and that keeps us alert and prepared to handle various situations.  However, for some people, the anxiety response is triggered too easily, too frequently, and too intensely. 

This can happen as a result of various factors including genetics, past trauma, or use of substances.  About 18.1% of the adult population in the U.S. could be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in any given year.  The symptoms include more than just excessive worry, but can manifest themselves as various physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, trembling, increased heart rate, unexplained aches and pains, fast breathing, nausea, trouble sleeping, and change in daily routines such as eating patterns.  Because this type of disorder is so common, it’s important to understand various anxiety disorders.  Here are some common types of anxiety disorders. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – This disorder is characterized by unusually intense feelings of worry and anxiety that are persistent and ongoing.  The source of the anxiety is sometimes difficult for the person to identify.  The symptoms must be present most days for 6 months or more to warrant this diagnosis.

Phobias – Phobias are very common.  The person has a fear of a specific thing (eg. Spiders, snakes) or situation (eg. heights, closed spaces).  The degree to which the phobia affects someone’s life depends on the object of their phobia and its intensity.

Social Anxiety – The person’s anxiety is increased in social situations.  They may feel very insecure, and have a fear of humiliation or embarrassment. 

Panic Disorder – A person with a panic disorder experiences recurring panic attacks.  Panic attacks are periods of extreme anxiety, manifesting itself in intense physical symptoms and occurring suddenly, without reasonable external stimuli to warrant such an episode.  Panic attacks can be so intense that they look like a heart attack or other life threatening situation, although a panic attack itself is not life-threatening.  Just because someone experiences one panic attack does not mean they have a panic disorder. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, occurs as the result of a traumatic event.  Traumatic events could be any situation that produces excessive terror or distress (eg. Abuse, assault, combat, natural disasters, or loss of a loved one).  The person may re-live the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories.  They may also avoid situations in which triggers for their trauma may occur (for example, loud noises).  Hypervigilance and negative thinking patterns are also common.

During stressful times, we are most likely to experience some anxiety. But, in most instances, those feelings will pass. However, if you or a loved one are experiencing continued symptoms of anxiety, please consult your physician and/or mental health professional – SMA Healthcare is here for you 24/7 at 800-539-4228.  If symptoms include thoughts of suicide, please consider utilizing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. 

 

References

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Mental Health First Aid Participant Manual

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967