“It was dark and I was watching the murder in horror. I was cold and sweaty, both at the same time but seemed to be frozen and welded to my seat. The darkness was killing and though I was sipping my coke I could not ignore my heart beating wildly against my chest. I was drenched n a cold sweat and was shaking. It was so dark everywhere. I wanted to run”.
It happened to her every time they went to watch a movie or a play; the darkness, the sea of faces and the enclosed spaces seemed to scare the daylight out of her; so much so that she stopped thinking rationally. When her husband asked her “What are you scared of?”, she could not think of an answer. But scared she was, to the point of passing out in sheer terror. She had GAD (General Anxiety Disorder).
So what is GAD?
There are different types of anxiety disorders people suffer from. In GAD, people typically complain about a heart- attack-like feeling or report an attack.
We end up taking anxiety lightly, at least the rest of the family or friends do and the sufferer ends up suffering in silence not able to voice her thoughts, just like the lady above. Most people do not understand what anxiety is, they do not accept that is a form of a mental illness and that the sufferer needs help.
Today, I am going to try to dispel the clouds of misunderstanding that ‘Anxiety’ is shrouded in. I am going to try to answer some questions that people ask me about ‘Anxiety’. Here you go:
Q # 1: What is anxiety? I feel anxious even before a presentation. Is something wrong with me?
Anxiety before presentation or a performance is perfectly normal. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it starts occurring regularly.
Anxiety has three characteristics:
a) It has to be intrinsic (within you)
b) It is vague – does not have a shape – you really cannot pinpoint its reason
c) It is conflict producing – it puts you in a dilemma
Anxiety is not fear and there is a difference between the two. Fear is external, has a definite shape (you know what is it that is making you fearful) and fear never produces conflict. Example: There is a snake under your chair and you are terrified of it – that is fear.
But anxiety is – you are scared ‘something untoward’ is going to happen and you don’t know what that ‘something’ is, why it could happen or when it could happen.
You become a patient of anxiety when it starts becoming a frequent phenomenon.
Q # 2: How do I know that I /my near and dear one may be suffering from anxiety? What are its signs?
Questions to ask yourself :
1) Are you constantly worried?
2) Are you gripped by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake off?
3) Do you believe that something bad will happen, always?
4) Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
5) Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
6) Do you feel that there is danger lurking around every corner?
7) Is your normal life disrupted due to excessive worrying?
Q # 3 Is anxiety of one type, people worry about so many different things…?
There are different types of anxiety disorders people suffer from, as is given below. In all these, people typically complain about a heart- attack-like feeling or report an attack.
1) Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms will be among those mentioned above.
2) Panic Disorder: The person has a heart-attack-like feeling, palpitation (heart beating wildly), profuse sweating and a feeling of ‘I am going to die’.
3) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsession about something to the extent that the person feels that it will be the end of the world if he/she does not perform a particular task. Example: A person may have an obsession about cleanliness so much that he/she may even try to keep toilets outside his home clean, unknowingly).
4) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This anxiety is the result of some trauma the person has or is suffering from like bereavement, death of a near one, shock due to accident, close shave with fate, etc.
5) Specific Phobias: A phobia is an intense, irrational fear about a particular thing such as Hydrophobia (Fear of water/ocean/swimming), fear of closed spaces like Claustrophobia (a person may be terrified about getting stuck in a lift) or Vertigo - fear of heights.
Q # 4 How does anxiety affect my body?
1) Anxiety may cause disturbances in your Blood Pressure
2) May affect normal functioning of your thyroid and cholesterol
3) Anxiety has a direct correlation with many illnesses – diabetes, BP
4) Anxiety before a pre-surgery blood test or MRI is even known to affect the prognosis (readings).
Q # 5 Can Anxiety be cured? How?
There are various ways to address ‘Anxiety’. Anxiety disorders respond very well to treatment and more often than not in a relatively short period of time. So stop worrying! The specific treatment approach depends on the type and severity of the anxiety and the individual. Most anxieties are treated with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two.
Behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past. Behavioral therapy for anxiety usually takes between 5 and 20 weekly sessions.Medication for anxiety disorders: This is most effective when combined with behavioral therapy and anxiety self-help methods.
Q # 6 Do I have to take medicines for life? Will I get addicted to these medicines?
The duration for which you may need to take medicines depends on the type of illness. In an acute illness, it is good for you to begin with medicines and later switch to therapy.
Q # 7 Will medicines make me drowsy or stop me from work?
These days medication has no sedation, which means you will have no difficulty in concentrating on tasks and day-to-day functioning will be normal.
So just relax. Anxiety can be cured.