Today, anxiety has become a widely recognized English word relatable to several panicky and uneasy moments. The reason is not farfetched as the number of people living in anxiety seems to be on a daily rise owing to different reasons from immediate family issues to several other external causes. This is why it has become an important issue to be discussed, because anxiety, if not properly handled, could lead to depression in the long run.
Anxiety and anxiety disorders were only recognized as phobias in the early days of discovery, but after series of occurrences and examinations, researchers were able to find a link between the panic attacks (phobias) and the irregularity of blood flow into the brain. Anxiety was coined from the Latin word ‘ango’ which means to torment or vex which is exactly how anxiety works in a person.
Unlike fear, anxiety is an entirely different response to situations and most of the time, a means of escape in situation that were only perceived as a threat but in reality not beyond control. In other words, anxiety was never meant to be, but when an individual begins to anticipate the future, how to approach it and how to cope with the turn outs, anxiety sets in especially if such individual have a negative foreboding of the future expectation.
According to David Barlow, anxiety is a “future oriented mood state which an individual is not ready for nor prepared to cope with its negative outcome.” This is the distinguishing factor between fear and anxiety. Fear on its own is only for a short time, and for a present cause. And while the body responds to fear to figure out an escape route from a threat, anxiety interferes with the body’s coping mechanism and rather than finding a means of escape, the body only tries to avoid. But in the real sense, we can’t totally avoid trouble can we? The common adage “he who fights to run, will only run back to fight,” is true of anxiety, because the more you avoid the situation, the weaker you become and the greater the tendency for anxiety disorder.
There have been many different cases of anxiety, some short and sporadic, while others take a longer time to get over, whatever the case, it all starts with the feeling of dis-quietness and unease which when left for a long period of time, becomes a stronghold in an individual. The thing about anxiety is that the source of the edginess could be only a mirage, something unreal that was imagined to be real, but the harm it has caused and still causing a lot of its victims is beyond expression.
Let me shock you a little, everyone at one point or the other have once had an experience of anxiety. This is true because anxiety is a normal human response to some issues. There had been times you got so worked up over an upcoming test, an expectation, and something as simple as a gift. But when you can no longer handle or control your worries and they begin to set you on edge every now and then, you need to watch it. While so many have experienced anxiety in certain areas of their life, not all advanced into a long term problem.
This is why I have to begin with anxiety disorder, because an uncontrolled feeling of anxiety often results in anxiety disorder which has led several people to death, depressions and even mental illness.
Living in an unpredictable world is enough reason to be worried and fearful about things. You are anxious about plans even before they are executed; worried about expectations, whether they’ll be met or not. What’s more is that we even get anxious of successes, even after knowing you have put in so much efforts to get the desired results, you still worry and ask the ifs, the when and the what of the success. Life is full of many things to be anxious about; in fact, it is normal to get anxious about things.
But when you can no longer control your anxiousness or when the feeling goes beyond a normal response to situations rather than being a temporal feeling, then that is a disorder called anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is an uncontrollable feeling or response to situations: bad, mild or good; which lingers on or deteriorates with time, leaving the individual helpless.
Once anxiety becomes a disorder in an individual, it worsens with time and such individual slips gradually into a forlorn state unless help is gotten. Anxiety disorder could hamper your activities, interfere with your performance, reaction and response to situations and most times your relationship with others.
Anxiety disorder differs from anxiety in itself due to the excessive response and interference with man’s daily life. This disorder actually develops when you start to think of it as something that cannot be controlled. Here is the breakdown; anxiety disorder does not begin as a disorder, it begins as a normal nervous feeling that gradually gets a grip on you. The more you suppress, avoid or fear anxiety, the stronger the grip gets.
In a normal human life, many things could cause an anxious response, but recently, we have begun to see these normal responses as something that should not be felt or expressed; but then, negative reactions and impulses such as sadness, failure, stress or disappointment are part of our makeup and very important for our survival in life. When you hide your feelings in order not to feel weak, you end up bottling up feelings you should express, and what happens to an over-inflated balloon is that it bursts leaving its contents spilled.
It is similar for people with anxiety disorder. It could start by running from your fears instead of facing them, or magnifying your fears beyond what they actually are. Simply put, anxiety disorder is like blowing a situation out of its proportion. It is either you face the issue or you let it go because if not handled carefully, anxiety disorder will lead to mental disorder.
It takes about six months or more before anxiety can be considered to be a disorder. This disorder is often expressed in different forms, each having its own unique triggers and symptoms. There is the generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), phobia-related disorder, separation anxiety disorder and so many more. It is possible to experience one or more type of anxiety disorder depending on the cause.
Anxiety disorder has been discovered as the most common mental disorders adults face. This clearly shows how deep it has eaten into our society. In the U.S, the estimated percentage of adults with the different types of anxiety disorder ranges from 7-9% for phobias, 7% for social anxiety disorder, 3% panic disorder, 2% generalized anxiety disorder and about 2% separation disorder. The estimates are a given for any year with women being the most affected.
Anxiety disorder has caused many victims to withdraw or avoid trigger situations, thus leaving certain areas of their lives affected, main areas such as career, interpersonal relationships, and performance at work or in school. In actual fact, before you can be said to have anxiety disorder, the situation must have gotten out of hands or glaringly affecting the major aspects of an individual’s life.
It is still very difficult to identify the main cause of anxiety disorder, but research has claimed it to be a likely combination of different factors such as psychological, environmental, genetic as well as developmental. Some cases have suggested a combination of genetic and environmental stress, which is why it may likely run in a family. The good news though is that anxiety disorder can be treated and patients can go back to living a normal life.
You are afraid of something! Yes, I am too. We all are afraid. There is something that increases our heartbeat, makes our mind race and even set us on edge. We’ve all felt anxious at certain points in life. But I’m sure you didn’t think it was anxiety. Honestly I didn’t too. I used to think it was just natural for me to feel such way. But then, I had to write this book and got so many answers from my research as to what anxiety is.
During my anxious moments, I feel restless with lot of irrelevant scenes I wouldn’t imagine on a normal day getting a hold of me. I would imagine myself falling off a stage if I ever try public speaking, and in most cases, I would imagine my plans failing and would even cringe at the imaginary thought of failure. Funny, but those days can be so bad. I could remember one period I felt so anxious and I was physically down for days, my heart was pounding, and I felt a severe headache and the stinging feel of pins and needles. But now I can attribute it to anxiety. What then is anxiety?
Anxiety means a foreboding or premonition, a state of distress or an uneasiness of the mind. It could also come as eagerness, an earnest but tense desire, apprehension or worry about the future. Note it that anxiety is focused on the future and not the present unlike fear. Anxiety combines the physical and emotional feeling you get when nervous about a thing. It works the same as your normal response to a threatening situation but in a rather negative way.
Just as explained earlier, it is very common to feel nervous or tense when you have a big decision to make or when you are planning a big event. In fact, the nervousness is triggered by the stress of preparing for such event most especially if it has to do with a major aspect of your life. So whenever you are taking a major step like:
- writing an examination
- changing jobs
- giving a presentation
- getting married or getting divorced
- having a baby for the first time
- attending an interview
- starting a business
- or public speaking,
It feels normal to get the jitters and sweat and even feel nervous. It feels more natural to question how you’ll perform and imagine the result. You know, at a point, you may not be able to sleep, and you may lose your appetite for food and interest in other things. But you get better with time and more balanced when the event has passed. I’m sure this will prove to you that anxiety is a normal and natural reaction you have for first time situations and in most cases, repeated situations.
Anxiety versus anxiety disorder
So, while it is normal to feel anxious about a thing or a situation, it is quite difficult to measure when it becomes abnormal or out of control. But a proven litmus test you can use is to identify how strong the feelings get and how long it lasts. Anxiety can become so upsetting when it lasts for a longer time than it should. When you discover you are fretting over mundane issues or you are frequently experiencing the psychological and physical effects of anxiety, at this point, it is safe to call it a disorder.
When anxiety becomes a disorder, you may find it difficult to live life the normal and happy way you used to. You become constantly worried about something happening, if people are watching or bothered about people’s judgment. And instead of the body to relax at the passing away of an anxious moment, the body stays alert, expecting threats from the slightest experience and seemingly unthreatening situations.
For some people, they begin to feel like the whole world is looking out for their mistakes and they become more conscious of their actions and behavior to the point that it becomes so difficult for them to act normal.
Anxiety is usually accompanied by the following symptoms. Some symptoms are on the physical level, while some are psychological.
- Faster or irregular heart beat
- Twists or butterflies in the stomach
- Difficulty sleeping
- A tensed or nervous feeling
- Feeling like others are watching
- Inability to concentrate
- Negative thoughts or expectation
- A busy mind
- Fearing the worst
For so many, it is a combination of the physical and psychological and some others experience more than what is listed.
A long term effect of anxiety is anxiety disorder and with it comes several other effects and difficulties one of which is depression. In our world today, we have seen and heard of so many deaths caused as a result of depression, which in the real sense could have been avoided if the anxiety disorder was easily identified. In addition to that, anxiety often lowers your immune system, hence your vulnerability to certain illnesses whenever you are anxious. While some people face the problem and seek for help, others drown in anxiety by finding a negative way to cope with it.
People experience anxiety disorder in different ways depending on the trigger or root cause. For some, you simply can’t explain why you feel anxious, while others can relate the cause of their anxiety to an experience, whether past or present. Truth is, we never truly outgrow anxiety because everyone, whether a child or an adult has an expectation.
Anxiety disorder is usually caused by but not limited to traumatic events, diets, medications and the physical or mental wellbeing of an individual. The most common forms of anxiety disorder are: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder. Each of these forms of anxiety disorder is expressed differently and may have different trigger or root cause. It is therefore important to understand and identify the causes and human responses so as to know exactly when you need.