Post-traumatic stress symptoms are becoming more common in the modern world.
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Whenever you are faced with a certain situation, could be a job interview or a presentation, your body is likely to respond to the stress you are experiencing. This is referred to as anxiety, which is normal for everyone. However, anxiety can become a disorder when it lasts from a few weeks to months. Anxiety disorders will interfere with your normal life and daily activities and thus it becomes a medical condition that needs treatment. There are different types of anxiety disorders namely;
- i) Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- ii) Specific Phobias
iii) Social Anxiety
- iv) Panic Disorder
- v) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- vi) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with this kind of disorder are excessively worried about everything in their life, including potential threats to them or to their loved ones. A generalized anxiety disorder may appear at any age and for no reason. For instance, a person suffering from this disorder can be persistently worried about money or catching an illness even when there is no potential threat. However, this is diagnosed when a person has had no control over the worry for more than six months.
The symptoms of GAD may include trembling, fatigue, the person may be unable to concentrate or sleep. One may also experience restlessness and muscle tension if they have a generalized anxiety disorder. The most challenging fact about GAD is that the person is aware that the situation should not cause as much tension and anxiety, but they do not believe that. This is why they feel like they don’t have control over the worry. It is necessary to seek medical help if the worrying and anxiety are affecting their daily life or they are unable to go about their routine activities.
There is no defined cause for Generalized Anxiety Disorder but several things may lead to this disorder;
- i) Brain chemical imbalance
Alteration of brain chemistry may cause anxiety. Serotonin and noradrenaline are responsible for controlling mood and if imbalanced, they may result in a long-term condition of GAD.
- ii) Genetically inherited
It is highly likely to have this condition if you have a close relative with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For instance, if one of your parents has that condition, you may inherit their genes and thus develop GAD.
iii) Traumatic childhood
People who experienced child abuse or witnessed domestic violence in their childhood are at high risk of developing GAD. Experiencing bullying might also contribute to this disorder
- iv) Alcohol/Drug abuse
Addiction to alcohol and drugs can lead to anxiety, especially if the person withdraws from using them. Over time, it might develop into a long-term disorder.
There is no specific way of treating GAD. It depends on how the disorder is affecting the patient’s life. However, psychotherapy is mainly used to treat the disorder, which includes learning how to solve problems by talking to a therapist. This is aimed at reducing the anxiety symptoms as well as manage your concerns and worries. In more serious cases, a therapist may recommend the use of medication including antidepressants, Benzodiazepines, and Buspirone for anxiety.
Specific phobias refer to extreme fear and aversion to a specific situation or thing. Even though we all experience fear and anxiety towards something, dreading one thing or situation can become an anxiety disorder. It could be fear of a certain animal, water or relationships with other people. This disorder has been known to develop during the early childhood stages and can be triggered by various factors. For instance, a person who may have been bitten by a snake as a child may develop an extreme fear of snakes and other reptiles. However, some people may not be able to tell why they have an aversion towards the subject of the matter.
This disorder is characterized by trembling, sweating, palpitations and overwhelming anxiety and fear. The patient may be able to identify their phobia towards something or a situation but has no control over it. This disorder can be corrected by cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this correctional therapy, the therapist focuses on changing the thoughts of the patient in efforts to make the patient withstand the situation or the object causing them anxiety. This way, they are able to face their fears.
Specific phobias vary based on the situation or object that causes anxiety. For instance, there is an animal phobia, situational phobias, and natural environment phobias. They can also be inherited from close relatives or caused by past traumatic events regarding the stimuli.
This is the fear of being involved in social interactions which generate extreme fear of being criticized or judged negatively by others. Social anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the world, with reports indicating that chances of developing this disorder stand at 13%. You can develop social anxiety regardless of your age. People with this anxiety disorder are likely to experience feelings of low self-esteem, inadequacy, humiliation, self-consciousness, and depression.
It is quite difficult to notice when someone is dealing with social anxiety. In normal circumstances, these people come out as quiet, shy and aloof among other unfriendly personalities. However, this is not usually the case. In fact, these people want to make friends and interact with others but social anxiety does not allow them to open up. They are often scared of what others might think about them if they interact with others.
There are several situations that may trigger emotional distress in people with social anxiety. This may include;
- Having to meet new people
- Public speaking situations
- Being the center of attention
- Interacting with people of authority
- Facing criticism or bullying
- Speaking in public, including making phone calls among other people.
While faced with the above situations, people with social anxiety may feel shy or blush. They might also experience overwhelming anxiety and excessive sweating. Often, they want to get away from the social situation as soon as they can. Other people will even vomit or get nauseous when faced with a social situation. This disorder can affect your life negatively. For instance, people with social anxiety may not be able to attend a job interview and even if they do, they might perform poorly due to this disorder.
This anxiety disorder can be corrected through cognitive-behavioral therapy where the patient is guided to understand their fears and regain control. They might be subjected to social situations or the therapist might encourage them to try socializing every now and then until they are able to believe that the fear and anxiety is irrational. One may also find how-to articles and self-help books to curb their fears.
This is the type of anxiety disorder that leads to panic attacks. Panic attacks are the feelings of extreme fear that a person with panic disorder experiences randomly. This may lead to the patient developing fear of leaving their home dreading an attack. This is because panic attacks may happen anywhere at any time and they don’t have to be triggered. These feelings of fear may overwhelm the patient even when there is no real danger. Eventually, the panic disorder victim develops the fear of another attack, making it impossible to carry on with their life.
Recurring panic attacks over a period of time leads to panic disorder which is more common in women than men. These attacks may last for a few minutes, mainly 10-20 minutes while in extreme conditions they may go on for hours. Young adults and teens are more susceptible to panic disorder which may be caused by major transitions in life. It can also be passed on genetically from close relatives with women having been reported to develop this disorder more than men. However, previous traumatic events might also contribute to panic attacks.
While experiencing a panic attack, the patient may feel like they are about to die, with extreme shortness of breaths, hyperventilating, nausea, numbness, trembling and palpitation. At that point, the person might feel like they are detached from themselves and cannot think clearly. Like many anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat or eliminate panic disorders.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
For instance, some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing or experiencing a stressful event like an accident. This disorder is common among soldiers who go to war and return. PTSD may be triggered by flashbacks or extreme thoughts of the event. This may cause nightmares and anxiety to the person experiencing PTSD. Most people with PTSD tend to avoid thinking or talking about the terrifying events as a coping mechanism.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD may include recurring memories of the events, nightmares that may involve vivid memories of the events, trouble sleeping and sometimes forgetting parts of the event. People with PTSD may find it difficult to develop close relationships with others and they lose their happiness. They also become hopeless with life and lose interest in making any effort in their lives. They also become quite jumpy and easily startled, in which they have developed fight or flight reflexes.
Other traumatic events that may cause PTSD include losing a loved one, witnessing severe road accidents, sexual abuse, being held captive or even witnessing terrorist attacks. The people who are most likely to develop PTSD include military soldiers, sexual abuse victims, and accident survivors among others.
To cope with PTSD, victims are urged to learn how to deal with anxiety and finding ways to express and manage their emotions. People with this disorder can also join support groups and accept to talk about their experiences. Exercising and seeing a therapist can also help eliminate these symptoms and help regain a normal life.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
This is a long-lasting and chronic anxiety disorder characterized by recurring thoughts and also behaviors that the person may repeat over and over again. People have their routines that they repeat but do not affect their daily life, unlike people with OCD. This disorder might develop in children and also in adults whereby they develop the need to repeat certain behaviors, for instance, washing their hands, or the need to do things in a specific manner. They cannot help but keep obsessing about how they want things done, and in most cases do not believe that anyone else can do it the same way as they do.
The most challenging aspect of this disorder is the fact that it is time-consuming, which may affect your work schedule. You might spend so much time doing one thing if you have OCD. Research suggests that OCD is much more common in women than in men. Some common characteristics of people with OCD may include fear of germs, need for perfection, and fear of interfering or hurting someone or even yourself. They also have compulsive behaviors such as cleaning excessively, and in a systematic way. This may also include checking if you have locked the door repetitively, or if you turned off the oven, even if you are sure and can remember doing it.
OCD may be caused by several factors including, the need to take responsibility, need to control one’s thoughts as well as the need for perfection. People who have OCD are also known to have the need to be sure of everything around them. This disorder can be treated through psychotherapy and also medications to eliminate the obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
Tips to cope with Anxiety
Dealing with anxiety can be a difficult task. It is a part of everyone’s life until it turns into a disorder and you will need to see a professional in one way or the other. An example of normal anxiety might be the fear and nervousness that you may experience during a tough job interview. However, if you have developed an anxiety disorder, you can still cope with it as part of your life. In many occasions, people are able to keep the symptoms in check but may not be able to eliminate the disorder completely due to various factors. Below are 10 tips you may use while coping with anxiety;
Physical exercises allow your body to release the tension and anxiety you may face from time to time. This is because, through exercising, your body will release the feel-good hormones that will enhance your mood. Remember anxiety can be paralyzing to your daily life due to the stress and pain it comes with. It is also rare for the brain to stress while you are working out. Once you have decided to work out, it is important to create a workout routine to follow. This will help reduce the anxiety symptoms. However, in the case where you have panic disorder that may be triggered by shortness of breathing, you should discuss with your doctor concerning which exercises you should carry out and which ones to avoid.
Deep breaths have been known to relax people dealing with anxiety. Whenever you feel anxious, take deep and slow breaths through inhaling via the nose. Your shoulders should be relaxed and chest will rise a bit. Exhale, also slowly via mouth and repeat for a few minutes. These breathing exercises should help you relax and even prevent severe anxiety attacks.
This exercise is quite resourceful for people dealing with panic attacks and panic disorder. Counting numbers out of order or doing simple calculations is a great way to get your mind occupied. It is highly unlikely to have a panic attack when your mind is preoccupied.
4) Challenge negative thoughts
The reason why we get anxiety attacks at times is that we overthink things in a negative way. For instance, if you are about to get into the interview room but you feel anxious, you may challenge the negative thoughts of not getting the job, or being harshly judged by the interviewer. Keeping a positive attitude is an effective way of dealing with anxiety.
For people dealing with PTSD and feelings of hopelessness, maintaining positive thoughts will help you accept the terrifying event and move on.
5) Face your fears
We experience anxiety because we dread something or a situation. Exposing yourself to the things you fear most can help you gain immune against your phobias. This works well for people dealing with specific phobias. For instance, if you are afraid of heights on elevators, you can occasionally use an elevator while challenging the negative things you think might happen to you. Doing this severally can actually help curb the phobia completely. However, do not push yourself too hard.
6) Accept your flaws
People who are dealing with social anxiety and OCD find it hard accepting their flaws. They experience feelings of inadequacy and also feel like they are responsible for whatever goes wrong. It is helpful for one to accept their flaws and also let go of the need for perfection. The truth is, no one is perfect but that does not mean we are not worthy. Being perfect is an illusion and so accepting that you have flaws is necessary while dealing with anxiety. Instead of focusing on what you could have done better, you can focus on what you did, it was the best you could at that moment.
7) Practice Mindfulness
In order to deal with anxiety, it is important to know that it thrives in the maybes and what-ifs. Mindfulness will help you track your thoughts and learn how to react to negative thoughts. To practice mindfulness, it is important to know that your mind is likely to wander and instead of focusing on your breathing and how you feel, anxiety might take over. However, learning how to control our mind from wandering to your fears, paying attention to the present, and who you are is quite effective in calming yourself down. It is important to avoid judging yourself harshly when your mind wanders.
8) Get enough rest
Fatigue can and will trigger anxiety. Getting enough sleep is also an effective way of toning down anxiety symptoms. However, like most people dealing with anxiety you might not be able to fall asleep easily. In this case, mindful meditation can be of great help to them. On getting enough rest, your brains will relax and thus minimize the occurrence of anxiety attacks.
9) Talk about your worries
Avoidance is a harmful coping mechanism for anxiety. Talking to those close to you about what worries you is helpful. For instance, people with PTSD tend to avoid talking about the terrifying events and experiences. They tend to avoid remembering the occurrences for the fear of extreme panic attacks. However, joining a support group or talking to your loved one will offer you a safe space for you to address your dreadful thoughts.
10) Seek professional help
Under extreme circumstances, it is important to seek medical help. Dealing with anxiety is difficult and can be paralyzing to your whole life. However, psychotherapy focusing on cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to help anxiety disorder patients cope with the vice. This involves talk therapy and also the therapist guiding the patient on how to curb anxiety. It also helps in challenging negative thoughts as well as regulating emotions.
It should be noted that not only does anxiety make life hard, but if untreated it can become a life-threatening vice. It may lead to severe depression among other severe mental illnesses. If you experience extreme anxiety, it is recommended to seek medical assistance.