It’s normal to worry and feel tense or scared when under pressure or facing a stressful situation. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when we feel threatened.
Although it may be unpleasant, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help us stay alert and focused, spur us to action, and motivate us to solve problems. But when anxiety is constant or overwhelming, when it interferes with your relationships and activities—that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.
Do you have an anxiety disorder?
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
- Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
- Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
- Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
- Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious?
- Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
- Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
Because the anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Still another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.
But despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.
Emotional symptoms of anxiety
In addition to the primary symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Anticipating the worst Irritability
- Watching for signs of danger
- Feeling like your mind’s gone blank
Physical symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, anxiety involves a wide range of physical symptoms. Because of the numerous physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is discovered.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset or dizziness
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Tremors and twitches
- Muscle tension
The link between anxiety and depression
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand in hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions.
Anxiety attacks, known as panic attacks in mental health circles, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger— getting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you’re giving in a few Anxiety attacks are frightening but the good thing is, episodes are generally harmless. In most cases, attacks rarely last for more than 30 minutes, with peak of intensity within the first 10 minutes. What make such attacks dangerous is if it becomes chronic and if it already affects the well-being of a person and already disrupts his normal way of life.
During attack, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you’re about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people believe they’re having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn’t available or you can’t easily escape.
Several treatments are proven very effective in stopping anxiety attacks. Let us look at some of the more popular ones:
Breathing technique –
It is one of the most effective ways in controlling anxiety attacks. Proper breathing helps slow down heartbeat and helps calm the tensed muscles as a result of the attack. Breathing also diverts the mind's attention from the "trigger" and calms the self, thus, stopping the attack even faster. Proper breathing techniques are easy to learn and master.
It is a great tool to alter your thought process as well as your body's reaction to those fearful thoughts. During an anxiety attack, lay down on your back or in any comfortable position and try to process your thoughts. Identify the origin of such fearful thoughts. Know if it is real. If you concentrate enough in finding the origins of your thoughts, you will soon realize that they are really not a valid reason for excessive fear. It may sound simple, and it is. Psychiatrists now recommend self-hypnosis as a treatment for anxiety attacks and other anxiety disorders. (Hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be used together by your therapist to stop symptoms of anxiety attacks.)
It has long been credited to relieve stress and anxiety as it promotes the release of negative energy from the body, relaxes tensed muscles, and calms the mind, which in turn, effectively reduces irrational fear and apprehension. Meditation may not be for all because of the time required to master the technique, however, with proper guidance of an expert or a little bit of patience and dedication, you can reap its benefits.
(such as chamomile, passion flower, lavender, and ginkgo biloba) are very effective long-term treatment for anxiety attacks. Since they are all-natural, they posses no side effects. They may not be as aggressive as prescription drugs but they work just as effective.
Prescription medicines –
They are a major help in stopping the symptoms of anxiety and episodes of anxiety attacks. Antidepressants are the most common anxiety treatment. They must be taken continuously, which may take as long as six weeks before noticing the effects. Beta-blockers are a type of drugs that prevent symptoms from recurring. SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors boost the level of serotonin in the brain which regulates and normalizes emotions.
They are a very important anxiety treatment. These target the psychological aspect of anxiety. CBT or the cognitive-behavioral therapy is used to alter the way of thinking – converting negative thoughts into positive ones. Techniques used in CBT include role-playing and relaxation technique. Exposure therapy exposes the person to the physical sensations of panic in a safe and controlled environment. Through repeated exposure, patients gain greater self control and more confidence in facing fearful situation.
Prescription medicines and therapies, when combined and used at treatment, are very effective. Medical studies show that the response rate of patients is much higher if both methods are used compared to those that are treated using either method.
Causes of Child Anxiety Attacks
Child anxiety, just like that of adults, is a normal, healthy emotion felt as a response to certain stimuli. But when anxiety becomes recurring, irrational and intense, it may be considered as a disorder. Episodes of anxiety attacks can disable the child from performing his daily duties in school and at home. And while it is generally safe, anxiety attacks can affect how the child lives.
Since children are more fragile, they more vulnerable to such attacks and the effects of these attacks may be more severe than to adults. But what causes anxiety attacks? Here are some of the most common reasons of anxiety attacks:
School Phobia and Separation Anxiety
When a child reaches a certain age, he or she develops school phobia. The exact reason for this is still unknown, but what happens is, the child becomes excessively afraid of going to school. A child manifests this fear by creating reasons and complaining ailments such as toothaches, headache, and stomach cramps to keep him or her from going to school. School phobia is often linked to separation anxiety but the latter can manifest to situations other than in school (e.g. being with a group of people or joining other family for the weekend).
Again, the exact reason for this is unknown. Separation anxiety is excessive fear of being away from someone whom the child is comfortable being with. Tale-told signs of separation anxiety are similar to school phobia.
Stress is linked to anxiety attacks. It may be a result of heavy responsibilities at home and in school, unfinished tasks, physical and psychological abuse, a school bully, environment that is unfit for the child's age, violence, etc.
Change in lifestyle
A child creates friends in school and in the neighborhood. These friends would make him or her feel comfortable and accepted. So when the family moves to another place or to a different school, a child loses the friend and comfort he or she has established and forces him or her to start all over again. If the child cannot cope with this stressful situation, it can lead to episodes of anxiety attack.
In many cases, anxiety attacks just come out of the blue, or happen without any logical, clear or apparent reason. It may occur while the child is relaxed during the day and even while asleep. This may only happen only once. Perhaps, an anxiety attack is brought about by unresolved internal issues, which are not directly connected with the trigger. For example, a child who experiences a death of a loved one may panic whenever a certain, almost similar situation happens. The traumatic experience that he or she went through in the past which are not processed properly can come out, in this case through an attack.
A child may also show episodes of anxiety attacks because the problem at hand reminded him or her about family conflicts. Fighting in the family as well as divorce of parents may be traumatic to a child that when witnessing a similar situation, he or she goes into a panic.
Take note that there is no single reason (and it takes several factors) for a child to have an anxiety attack, but whatever it is, what's important is how do deal with it properly.
Handling Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks can be seen as an abnormal and irrational panic over trivial things or accidents or for no reason at all. Attacks usually occur without warning and a person can simply burst into fear. Triggers can cause anxiety attack – like getting stuck in the elevator or being called to recite in the class – but in other cases, attacks come out of the blue. An anxiety attack is disproportionate reaction to the situation or the problem at hand, leaving the person excessively fearful, or sometimes incapacitated, which affects life, relationships, happiness and peace of mind.
Symptoms of Anxiety Attack
A person undergoing an episode of anxiety attack shows the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitation (increase in heartbeat)
- Hot flashes or chills
- Surge of overwhelming panic
- Feeling detached or unreal
- Trembling or shaking
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling of losing control, going crazy; or fear of dying
- Choking sensation
- Nausea or stomach crams
- Chest discomfort or pain
Handling anxiety attacks
Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes and rarely last for half an hour. But during this time, a person can totally lose control of himself and show symptoms mentioned above. To handle this attack, a person must:
Although it is often impossible to relax during an attack, it is very crucial not to submit yourself to your emotion. Breathe. Deep breathing helps calms and relaxes your mind and body. During an anxiety attack, focus your breathing to slow down your heartbeat. This also diverts your attention from the attack which helps you recover faster. Take some time and practice deep breathing exercises even if you are not stressed or feel anxious.
Think positively –
Again, during an anxiety attack, it is often impossible to relax or even calm yourself, but you have to be in control. Push more positive thoughts to your head. Instead of thinking that others will humiliate you or you are going to faint because you cannot take the pressure, think of the good things. Do no anticipate that something bad will happen because in reality, there isn't. Keep in mind that the more you think negatively, the more anxious and panicky it is going to be.
Think that it will be over soon –
It will. Anxiety attacks do not last for more than an hour so there is no reason for you to think and feel that your world is over. You don't have to be mindful of the time. You don't even have to count every minute that passed. What you should be doing is be conscious that it will not going to last forever.
Start an exercise program –
We have heard that exercise has lots of benefits both to the body and the mind. It is also a great stress buster and anxiety reliever. Experts agree that as little as 30 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times a week is enough to lower the level of stress and reduce the chances of having episodes of anxiety attacks.
Talk to someone you trust –
It can be your friend, your wife (husband), a relative or a therapist. Often, having someone who listens and understands what a person is going through will make a lot of difference. This is because it allows you to bring out your emotion rather than keeping it to yourself.
Be Happy – You Can Handle Anxiety Attacks Easily.