How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?
As humans, we all experience normal levels of anxiety from time to time. Anxiety is essential in a fight or flight situation, where we need to run or fight off a dangerous predator. Anxiety can …
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As humans, we all experience normal levels of anxiety from time to time. Anxiety is essential in a fight or flight situation, where we need to run or fight off a dangerous predator. Anxiety can become problematic when we continue to experience this type of panic but are not in a situation where fight or flight is necessary.
Approximately 18 percent of adults have an anxiety disorder in a given year, according to Mental Health First Aid, a public-education program available through Community Reach Center and throughout Colorado. There are various forms of anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder is when people experience a general worry that is difficult to control. They may experience panic attacks, irritable mood, trouble with concentration, problems sleeping (sleeping too much or too little), and problems with appetite (eating too much or too little); it also can cause uncomfortable physical symptoms, e.g., headaches and stomach aches, shortness of breath, trembling and shaking, and heart palpitations. A panic attack may cause a person to feel like they are out of control or having a heart attack or stroke.
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after a traumatic event when the person felt that their life or someone else’s life was in danger, such as from physical or sexual abuse, combat experience, witnessing domestic violence, or being in a natural disaster like a fire or earthquake. An individual may continue to re-experience the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel numb, confused about the details of the event, have memory loss, avoid traumatic triggers, or have an increased startled response (jumping when there is a loud noise). Sometimes, PTSD can cause acting out or regressive behaviors, especially in children, or mood instability.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is when a person has uncontrollable thoughts, impulses, or behaviors. A person may have unrealistic fears and may do repetitive behaviors to help control their worry or fear. An example may be a fear of dirt; the person may continue to wash their hands to the point of chaffing. A person also may make multiple checks to ensure that their stove is off and the doors are locked. A person may have to count to a specific number before doing a task, such as eating or leaving the house. These types of behavior interfere with the person’s daily life and can impact relationships or functioning at work.
Phobias are a form of anxiety in which a person has an exaggerated fear of something that is usually harmless. There are many types of phobias — of certain animals, being in a social setting, blood, driving over bridges, and small places. The fear can cause panic attacks.
Anxiety can be a serious mental health issue requiring therapy and family support; it may require medication. If you experience any of the forms of anxiety I have mentioned, please know your anxiety is treatable and does not have to be a long-life condition. Things that can help with anxiety include seeking professional help from a mental-health provider, listening to music, deep breathing, exercising, medication, guided visualizations and eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
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