Mental Health, Personal Blog

…You have an anxiety disorder

I have struggled with anxiety for quite a while now but I stayed pretty quiet about my diagnosis. It took me by surprise because I always assumed it was part of my depression. Even though my depression and my anxiety disorder are different, they do have some similar symptoms. It is common for those with depression to have anxiety. I have had a “rescue” medication is case I would have a panic attack.
 
Some of my anxiety symptoms that are similar to my depression symptoms are:
 
-irritability
-sleep disturbances
-having problems staying calm
-nervousness
-shortness of breath
 
Everyone will have some sort of anxiety in their life. Whether it be a big interview or a test or having to make a life changing decision you will experience anxiousness. Now if you have an anxiety disorder it’s more than that temporary anxiousness. The anxiety tends to worsen over time. It will begin to affect your daily life like work, relationships, or school. Like depression there are several different types of anxiety disorders. This includes panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and phobia disorders. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
 
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) was explained to me by my psychiatrist and by what I read on the National Institute of Mental Health. I have excessive anxiety that I can’t control. I worry about anything from personal issues, health issues or everyday routine. This has become a problem with me working, with my relationships, with my personal life and my friendships. Some of the symptoms that are experienced with generalized anxiety disorder are according to the NIMH.
 
-feeling restless, wound up or on edge
-being irritable tired
-Having sleeping problems
-Muscle Tensions
-Difficulty controlling feelings
-Having difficulty concentrating
-being easily
 
I was experiencing all these symptoms, which are all very similar to my depression symptoms. This explains why my anti-depressants helped but not 100%. Once they added an anxiety medication it was like someone flipped a switch inside of me. I felt amazing.
 
Someone who has panic disorder will have random unexpected panic attacks. What is a panic attack? A panic attack is a sudden period of intense fear that will come on quickly and reach its peak within minutes. An attack may be unexpected or they may be brought on by a situation or an object.
 
Those who have panic attacks may experience:
 
-Feeling out of control
-Heart palpitations or pounding heartbeat
-Sweating and shortness of breath
-shaking
-feeling of impending doom
 
According to the NIMH people with panic disorder will worry about when the next attack will occur. They will try to prevent those attacks by avoiding certain things like places and situations that could cause a panic attack. Spending all your time trying to avoid certain places and situations can cause even more issues to someone’s life.
 
I’ve been known to avoid certain places when they are very busy. Going somewhere with too many people in a small place will give me a panic attack especially if I have my kids with me.
 
Phobia Disorder is an intense fear to a specific object or situation. Usually the fear of the object is out of proportion to the actual danger such as spiders.
 
People with a phobia may have some symptoms such as:
 
-may have irrational or excessive worry about seeing the feared object or situation.
-endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety.
-Experience immediate anxiety upon seeing the feared object or situation.
– Takes steps to avoid the feared object or situation.
 
There are several types of phobias:
-specific phobias (simple)
-Agoraphobia
-Separation anxiety disorder
-Social Anxiety Disorder
-Selective Mutism
 
Specific Phobia is also known as simple phobia has fears of things such as:
-flying
-Heights
-Blood
-Injections
-Certain animals (snakes, spiders)
They will have an intense fear about specific types of objects or situations. I guess you could say I have a phobia of snakes and spiders. I FREAK out if I see one whether it is inside or outside. I don’t even like to step on spiders because I don’t like the crunching sounds they make.
 
Social Anxiety Disorder. which used to be called social phobia. This is a general intense fear or anxiety toward social or performance situation. I was reading on the NIMH website about this and it was talking about how people who have social anxiety worry that their actions or behaviors that are associated with their anxiety. They often avoid social situations and it can even be an issue at work or school.
 
This is most definitely something that I struggle with because no matter where I go or what I am doing I feel like everyone can tell I have anxiety. I honestly don’t like going out in public anymore. I hate making decisions, especially if other people are involved because what if someone doesn’t like the decision that I make. I don’t want to upset anyone. I hated group projects in school because what if someone didn’t like my decision or I answered a question wrong. Presentation in front of the class was the absolute worse.
 
Agoraphobia is those who have an intense fear of two or more:
 
-using public transportation
-being in open spaces
-being in enclosed spaces
– standing in line or being in a crowd
-being outside of the home alone
You will often try to avoid these situations because one might have panic reactions. In severe cases someone can become homebound.
 
For myself I am scared of enclosed spaces especially by myself. I won’t take elevators unless it’s necessary and never alone. Like I said before I don’t like big crowds especially with my kids it makes me very anxious. I don’t mind being out my home alone. Lately with all the crime in my town and the talk of human trafficking it definitely makes me more aware of my surroundings if I ever am.
 
Separation Anxiety Disorder is usually thought of as something children go through. Adults can go through it also. Adults usually have fears about being parted from someone they have some sort of attachment too. When they are separated they worry something bad will happen. This makes them not want to be alone. Someone with separation anxiety might have nightmares about being separated.
 
I do not have separation anxiety, I must have the opposite because I enjoy my alone time. But my youngest son Elijah is currently going through his separation phase and only wants his mom. I love that he wants to cuddle and give me kisses but at the same time it can be exhausting because he doesn’t want his dad to do anything.
 
Selective Mutism a rare disorder associated with anxiety. Selective mutism usually occurs before 5 years old and is when you don’t speak in social situations but have normal language skills. Some of the symptoms include:
 
-extreme shyness
-fear of social embarrassment
-temper tantrums
-withdrawal
-clinging behavior
-compulsive traits
 
Those diagnosed with selective mutism usually will be diagnosed with other anxiety disorders too.
 
What causes anxiety? When reading about anxiety on NIMH and speaking to my doctors anxiety can be caused by genetic and environmental. The risk factors for different anxieties vary like the symptoms but there are some general risk factors which include:
 
-Temperamental traits of shyness or behavioral inhibition in childhood
-Physical health conditions such as thyroid problems, heart arrhythmias, caffeine, or other substances.
-Physical health examination is helpful in the evaluation of a possible anxiety disorder.
-History of anxiety or other mental illnesses in biological relatives
-Stressful or negative life events in early childhood or adulthood.
 
Once reading about the general risk factors of anxiety, I understand why I have anxiety. I was very shy all the way up through high school. I was 16 when I started drinking a lot of caffeine. I grew up in a very stressful household with many brothers and sisters. I ember my parents argued all the time, and we lived in a very small house. Once I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18 it was a very stressful and negative relationship.
 
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or talk therapy can help people with anxiety. For therapy to work it needs to be specified to the patient’s needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches different ways of thinking, behaving and reacting. CBT can help people learn and practice social skills.
 
I found this information also on the NIMH webpage and found it important to share and to discuss with your provider:
 
  • How well your medications are working or are improving your symptoms
  • Benefits are side effects of each medication
  • Risk for serious side effects based on your medical history
  • The likelihood of the medications requiring lifestyle changes
  • Medication costs
  • Alternative therapies, vitamins, and supplements
  • How medications should be stopped
 
If you are dealing with anxiety you may see if there is a local support group, and if there isn’t maybe consider starting one yourself.
 
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to this picture. I am not a medical professional, if you are having a medical emergency please contact 911 immediately. This post is for informational purposes only. If you believe you have a medical issue contact your local medical provider.

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