Anxiety disorders

Different people have different habits and needs for order and cleanliness. Some people just enjoy doing house cleaning, it creates a sense of contentment and security. Many of us have suddenly found ourselves thinking whether the stove was left on, or a picture of how we stumble, fall and break our nose.

Yet if this becomes a daily occurrence and thoughts come at the most inopportune times, it can be a disorder.

Signs

Obsessive thoughts, or intrusive thoughts , are constantly occurring thoughts or images that are not inherently important in a given situation, but for some reason constantly appear in the head. You can try to get rid of them or avoid them, but often this only worsens the situation. Often, intrusive thoughts are related to something that scares us or that we feel unpleasant, such as violence against someone, fear that the iron was left on, or a door / window open. A person suffering from intrusive thoughts basically understands that these thoughts do not make sense, but cannot get rid of them.

Compulsive behaviors are actions or rituals that a person seems to have to do in order to allay the anxiety caused by his thoughts. For example, it may seem necessary to wash one’s hands frequently to alleviate the fear of contracting a disease, or a person may check the door a dozen times to make sure the door is locked to alleviate the fear of thieves. Compulsive acts seem unreasonable, but if they are not performed, anxiety increases. There may be a sense of shame (due to unreasonable behavior) and a feeling of helplessness (due to the inability to control one’s actions). Usually compulsive behaviors are washing, constant monitoring, or counting, but there may be other repetitive activities.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can begin as early as childhood or adolescence.

Causes

It is believed that obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with a deficiency of serotonin in the brain or with a disorder of serotonin metabolism.

Often, obsessive-compulsive disorder is accompanied by depression and develops as the latter intensifies.

PTSD occurs after an experienced psychotrauma, most often when the person himself was traumatized, but also after a traumatic event that happened to someone close or accidentally seen. Traumatic events are those events that cause fear, terror, and helplessness. For example, natural disasters, accidents, experienced or seen violence.

PTSD can be diagnosed if its symptoms have lasted for more than a month and are significantly interfering with life.

Main features:

  • Recurring thoughts or images of events
  • Nightmares related to the event
  • Suddenly, frames of an event appear before the eyes, during which a person experiences feelings and thoughts or behavior similar to the directly experienced event
  • The desire to avoid thoughts and feelings associated with trauma
  • The desire to avoid trauma-related situations or activities
  • Emotional insensitivity, it seems that there are no feelings
  • Feeling distant from others
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy doing
  • Anxiety symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, trouble concentrating, irritability.

It is quite common to have some anxiety in situations where you need to perform or be in the center of attention of other people. Social anxiety is widespread, but it cannot be considered a disorder until it begins to directly interfere with life.

Social phobia can be called a state when the fear of speaking or the attention of other people is very great, even to the extent of avoiding such situations. Usually people are afraid to accidentally say or do something stupid, strange, funny. As a rule, a person himself understands that such fear is excessive.

Sometimes a person suffering from social phobia is afraid of most situations that require communication – other people’s company, talking with people older, smarter or in a higher position, starting a conversation or attending parties.

Signs

Usually it is a fear of public speaking, such as giving a report or answering in front of a class.

It could also be, for example:

  • fear of blushing in public
  • fear of eating in a public place and related inappropriate behavior
  • fear of using public toilets
  • fear of crowds
  • fear of exams

As a rule, social phobia develops in late childhood or adolescence. Even if it is not specifically treated, it can decrease over the years.

Causes

Like other mental health disorders, social phobia does not have one specific cause. A number of factors must coincide, such as, for example, violations of brain chemistry, heredity and environmental influences.

Occasional anxiety about one or several things is quite common. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition in which a person is constantly anxious, worried about one or more important areas of life, for example, money, family, work, school, health. If an anxiety state has lasted for at least six months and interferes with a person’s life, it already becomes a disorder. As a rule, this concern is excessive. It is relatively unlikely that the things that a person fears will happen, and the anxiety is uncontrollable: he cannot get rid of his disturbing thoughts. Often, after a while, a person begins to worry that he is worried.

Signs

In addition to excessive worrying, common signs are also:

  • sleep disturbance (the person is unable to sleep, sleep is interrupted, or the person wakes up earlier than necessary)
  • muscle tension
  • feeling of anxiety
  • problems with concentration (a person cannot concentrate on one thought or one action, does not notice important details)
  • fast fatiguability
  • irritability

Generalized anxiety disorder does not always have the same manifestation, depending on life situations, it can temporarily recede or intensify in dangerous situations.

Generalized anxiety disorder develops over time, but is most commonly diagnosed in middle or older age.

Causes

Causes can be both genetic, related to brain chemistry, and also caused by the environment.

Brain Chemistry

Generalized anxiety disorder is associated with the most important brain mediator GABA, which has the task of suppression or inhibition. This is especially important in the limbic system of the brain, which is associated with feelings. GABA acts as a natural sedative. In generalized anxiety disorder, the brain is thought to be deficient in GABA or another related natural sedative. As with other anxiety disorders, the neurotransmitter serotonin can play a significant role.

The main symptom of panic disorder is disturbing panic attacks, during which a person may feel a racing heart or pulse, difficulty breathing, a feeling of suffocation, chest pain, nausea or abdominal pain, weakness, dizziness or a feeling of passing out, a feeling of unreality, fear of  loss of self-control, death or insanity, excessive sweating, trembling, numbness of the legs and arms, shaking or fever.

Although the central concept of panic disorder is a panic attack, its one-time occurrence does not yet indicate the presence of a mental disorder, but is a sign that you need to focus on mental health and well-being.

A panic attack usually resolves within 10 minutes, but some symptoms may last longer. Subjectively, during a panic attack, a person feels terrible and the fright experienced can remain in memory for a long time. This, in turn, can lead to avoidance of situations associated with panic attacks. For example, if the first panic attack occurred during gym class, the child may begin to avoid them or anything related to sports.

A panic attack can start completely unexpectedly, “out of the blue” or occur in a certain situation, under the influence of a certain stimulus or mental state. Panic attacks can also start during sleep.

Since the symptoms of a panic attack are related to physical well-being, fear of the disease may arise and it is not uncommon for first aid to be sought, for example, by a family doctor.

Typically, panic attacks and fear begin in late adolescence or around the age of 20.

Causes

There isn’t one definite cause of panic attacks and panic disorder. A combination of factors is usually required, including chemical imbalances in the brain, stress-producing events, and heredity.

Many of us have experienced at least once the feeling of being overwhelmed before a public speaking. Nausea, lump in throat and chest. The heart rate increases and the hands may sweat. Speaking is just an alarming situation, and such a reaction is quite natural.

But if such a feeling arises in a situation where there seems to be no reason: in a store or at a bus stop, but maybe at home – in an environment that until now was considered safe? The heartbeat is so quick that there is a fear of “imminent death”! Another type of fear may arise – because the uncomfortable feeling is so intense and the environment seems to be safe, panic may set in: I’m starting to go crazy!

Description of the panic attack experience:

Lisa had a similar panic attack while sitting at home in the evening. It was a stressful period at work, full of feelings of insecurity and worry about how she would handle the job. As far as she remembers, the episode when she felt extreme physical discomfort, a disturbed sense of reality and a panic fear of losing control – “go crazy” lasted 10 minutes, after which her breathing evened out, the horror passed, and the relief was noticeable, but despite this the fear remained. Over the next few days, she had a lump in her throat – in the evening and at night, the feeling of suffocation intensified until the panic came again. Lisa went to her family doctor, who, based on the symptoms described, suggested that in this case we were dealing with panic attacks. Blood tests also showed that physically Lisa was perfectly healthy. Because panic attacks are relatively recent, Lisa was satisfied with her doctor’s explanation of why and how panic disorder occurs and the assurance that although the condition is extremely unpleasant, it is actually harmless. The sedatives prescribed to be used as a last resort were never needed.

Panic attacks are like a vicious circle

The physical sensations associated with a panic attack are so unpleasant that there is an all-encompassing feeling of fear, which in turn amplifies the physical reactions. It is difficult to forget the fear that has arisen, and it is natural that in the future a person closely monitors the heartbeat, tension and other signs of anxiety. Any sign seems super-dangerous and feeds the fear that the terrible sensations will be repeated, but this time, perhaps with more tragic consequences, thus further amplifying the physical discomfort. Forms a vicious circle. If panic attacks have just occurred, psychoeducation is often enough in order to get rid of them (as in the case of Lisa), . Cognitive behavioral therapy can help overcome a problem that has lasted for a long time, sometimes medication is needed.

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