What is anxiety?
- Anxiety, at it’s core, is the product of uncertainty and feeling of powerlessness.
- Uncertainty x powerlessness = ANXIETY
- Anxiety is the perception of loss of control.
- Anxiety is usually accompanied by fear and worry.
These thoughts and feelings can be accompanied by intense physical symptoms that are the body’s fight or flight response to a perceived threat. These may include:
* shortness of breath
* racing heart
* feeling light headed or dizzy
* chills or flushed
* tingling in hands and feet
* chest pain or discomfort
* feeling of choking
* nausea or abdominal distress
* fear of dying
* feeling disconnected from reality
If you experience four or more of these symptoms in an intense surge that peaks within minutes, you may be having an anxiety, or panic attack. Panic attacks can occur in the context of any anxiety disorder. If worry or concern about having panic attacks is impacting your life to the point of avoiding certain places or activities, you may have developed panic disorder. Over time, if experienced chronically, these symptoms can have very negative affects on health including diabetes, high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome and changes in heart structure.
Anxiety, like uncertainty, is a normal part of life. However when it starts impairing function, particularly in work or relationship, or affecting health, causing, for example, chronic stress or addiction, it may be diagnosed as a disorder. Anxiety is the most common type of mental disorder, estimated to affect one in eight people. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
There are several specific anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): excessive worry affecting sleep, mood, energy, memory and concentration.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): the aftermath of being subjected to a traumatic event causing a change in mood, hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviours and re-experiencing.
Social Anxiety Disorder: avoidance of social interaction or performance due to fear of judgement, embarrassment, humiliation or shame.
Separation Anxiety Disorder: fear of separation from, or loss of, a parent or caregiver. Significant distress when separated.
Specific Phobias: avoidance of an object, situation or activity due to the experience of extreme or unreasonable terror in response to exposure.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): symptoms of recurrent, unpleasant thoughts (obsessions) which may be accompanied by repetitive and time-consuming behaviours (compulsions), that seek to reduce distress. When these preoccupations and behaviours pervasively centre around perfectionism, orderliness and control at the expense of flexibility, openness and efficiency, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) may be developed.
First, is important to investigate for any hormonal imbalances that may be making the sensation of anxiety worse. In particular thyroid dysfunction, and low progesterone in women can impact anxiety. In addition, the the chronic stress of anxiety can have important consequences on your physical health that we’ll explore.
A good diet and exercise are essential to treatment success.
Anxiety responds very well to therapy. Together we will look at giving you the tools you need to feel empowered to face fear and the uncertainty of life, and find more peace, ease, confidence and courage.
Sometimes, medication is needed.