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Anxiety's Warning Signals

During the course of our lifetimes, we all experience different levels of anxiety, depending on the environmental stresses that we are forced to confront. Some research has shown that a mild amount of anxiety has optimal effects upon an individual's performance when compared with no anxiety and excessive amounts. Many of the signs listed below are experienced by anyone who deals with realistically fearful situations. Who wouldn't experience anxiety if they were forced into a cage with a hungry lion? It is when anxiety persists for prolonged periods in situations which are not realistically fearful, that professional help is indicated. Keep this point in mind when watching for anxiety's warning signals.

  • Usually there is some form of somatic expression. Comonly reported symptoms are headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, bowl disturbances, fatigue, sweating, loss of appetite, hyperventilation, and muscle tension. These symptoms can accompany problems with a physical basis so your family physician should be contacted first.
  • Loss of self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness.
  • A change in daily living habits to avoid fearful situations.
  • Spending an increasing amount of time worrying.
  • Difficulty in concentration and decision making.
  • Feelings of apprehension or dread, anticipating the worst.
  • Trouble concentrating and feeling tense and jumpy.
  • Feelings of Irritability and restlessness.
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank.

Experiencing anxiety in realistically fearful situations is a healthy sign. Most clients who enter therapy report that their anxiety has been substantially reduced by the time therapy has ended.

Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This occurs when someone feels anxious and worried all the time and does not know why. They may feel like something bad is going to happen and this fear and worry interferes with their daily life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: This occurs with unwanted thoughts and behaviors that are impossible to stop or control. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts or impulses (Worry that you did not lock the door or turn off the stove). Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you do over and over again (Washing your hands) usually in an attempt to control your obsessions.

Some types of OCD are:

  • Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.
  • Checkers repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.
  • Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen or they will be punished.
  • Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.
  • Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.

Panic Disorder: Repeated and unexpected panic attacks with the fear that another panic attack can occur at any moment.

Panic disorder may occur with what is known as agoraphobia:

  • Agoraphobia is a fear of being in places where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack. Those who experience agoraphobia will likely avoid public places such as shopping malls, theaters, grocery stores or confined spaces such as elevators or airplane.

Phobia: Unreasonable, irrational or excessive fear or avoidance of an object or situation that presents no real danger to you but interferes with your life and causes intense anxiety.

Common phobias include:

  • fear of animals, snakes and spiders
  • fear of flying
  • fear of heights
  • fear of driving over a bridge

When you experience a phobia, you may go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing you fear. Avoidance of this fear may strengthen the phobia.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This may occur after a life threatening or traumatic event. This event can be real or perceived. In other words, you may be a victum of a crime or traumatic event, or witness a crime or traumatic event. It is not uncommon for someone who has seen death or been to Iraq or Afganistan and seen war or fighting to develop PTSD.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:

  • flashbacks
  • nightmares about what happened
  • hypervigilance
  • startling easily
  • withdrawing from others
  • avoiding situations that remind you of the event

Social Anxiety Disorder: The person will experience excessive and unreasonable anxiety in social situations where they are exposed to the scrutiny of others. The person will fear they may act in a way that would be embarrassing or looked at as negative by others around them. It can be compared to extreme shyness or "stage fright". The person with social phobia will avoid or experience extreme anxiety in situations where they could be the focus of someone's attention.

Social phobias may include:

  • public speaking
  • chocking on food while eating in front of others
  • being unable to urinate in public restrooms
  • shaking while writing in front of others
  • taking exams
  • attending parties or meetings
  • speaking up in class
  • going on a date
  • making a phone call
  • meeting new people
  • being the center of attention
  • talking to authority figures

Anxiety can be a healthy and normal emotion in life. But if it is disrupting your life and interfering with your daily functioning, it is important to seek professional help.

You can start by getting a medical checkup with your doctor who can check to make sure that your anxiety isn’t caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Drugs, prescriptions, over the counter medications, herbs and supplements can cause anxiety, so it is improtant to tell your doctor if you are taking any of these.

If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to consult with a therapist. Our clinicians have experience treating anxiety disorders. We will work with you to determine the cause and type of your anxiety disorder and develop a course of treatment to help you cope and deal with your anxiety.

Psychological Consultants and Affiliates, Inc.

60 Messimer Drive, Newark, Ohio  43055

Phone 740-522-2230, 800-522-2457

Fax 740-522-6230

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