Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. A mild level of anxiety is common and a normal state of being. A certain amount of anxiety helps people feel motivated to perform well. But when anxiety is excessive and affects a person's day to day life, then it becomes a disorder that needs immediate attention. People often tend to live with anxiety disorder as a normal state of being, before being diagnosed or availing treatment; they tend to live with it for years and it affects their quality of life. This disorder is treatable and early treatment guarantees treatment success.
Normal Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorder -Definition
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most commonly occurring among mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.”
Signs and symptoms:
Nervousness, tension and trembling
Anticipated fear or danger and irritation
Increased breathing, heart rate
Sweating and trembling
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Avoidance and self-isolation
According to ICD and DSM, for a person to be diagnosed with anxiety disorder, a) the person should experience excessive anxiety and worry which occurs for at least 6 months and affects her/his everyday life. b) The person finds it difficult to control the worry. There are more criteria for diagnosis and only a licensed practitioner is authorized to diagnose and help a person with anxiety.
Factors that cause anxiety disorders
Although research reveals that a number of factors may be involved, there are no clear-cut answers as to why certain people have anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders, like most mental health issues, appear to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and challenging life events, such as:
Stressful or traumatic life events
A family history of anxiety disorders
Childhood development issues
Alcohol, medications, or illicit substances
Other medical or psychiatric problems
Types of anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorder is further categorized into six categories such as phobias, panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (commonly known as PTSD) (American Psychiatric Association APA], 2000). Each of these anxiety disorders are distinct, but they all share the same hallmark features like irrational and excessive fear, apprehensive and tense feelings and difficulty in managing daily tasks and/or distress related to these tasks.
Unspecified anxiety disorder causes fear, making it difficult for the patient to think properly, sleep well, or function in at least some aspects of daily life. While the actual causation of undefined anxiety disorder is unknown, the following are some of the most common causes of clinical anxiety in people:
Chemical imbalance in the brain
Drug or alcohol abuse, including prescription drugs
Family history of unspecified anxiety disorder
Previous or current trauma
If you feel that your job or personal relations are getting affected due to anxiousness or unnecessary worry, you should seek help from a licensed mental health professional or therapist who can treat anxiety disorders through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, medication, relaxation techniques and more. Along with proper treatment from a medical professional, it is important to follow a routine that involves exercise, good food and sleep.
Anxiety disorder is not as simple as it seems to be. It is important to take necessary help at an appropriate time. Seeking professional help is inevitable for anxiety disorders.
Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.
How would you explain anxiety disorder to your students?
Can you think of some factors that may contribute to anxiety disorders?
Can you think of the major differences between normal anxiety and anxiety disorders?
Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.
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