Panic disorders include unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms, including shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations and chest pain.
Social anxiety disorder includes an overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. It can be limited to only one type of situation (fear of public speaking or eating/drinking in front of others) or, in its most severe form, it may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. These so-called “rituals” only provide temporary relief and not performing them just increases anxiety.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assault, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. U. S. Department of Health Human Services, Feb. 12, 1914.
Everyone is afraid of something, for example, public speaking or cooking for a crowd, yet, having an anxiety disorder is different. Chronic anxiety is crippling and leaves the anxious person terrified and unable to take action or set aside the worry and restlessness.
Anxiety is common in our country-roughly 40 million people live with debilitating anxiety disorders.
The specific causes of anxiety disorders are not known; however, as with most mental illnesses, researchers believe anxiety disorders are caused by more than just genetics. They likely develop from a complex set of risk factors, including brain chemistry, personality and life events. Less commonly, medical conditions are known to cause anxiety disorders. Aug. 23, 2016.
Over the years I’ve developed lists that I share with my clients. I have lists of the topics couples argue about, roadblocks to communication and how to fight fair, etc. Clients asked about a list of things to do when they are feeling anxious.
In the midst of the high stress event, they have difficulty thinking of things to do, so I put together som suggestions, including these from FIRST for Women, 2010.
I intended that these actions could be accomplished easily and without special equipment.
When you’re hurting, your brain makes endorphins, natural painkillers on similar to morphine. But when you are anxious (for example, even being in cold weather) endorphin production can become sluggish. Firmly massage the arches of your feet. Studies suggest this can trigger an endorphin rush.
HOLD YOUR BREATH
When we are stressed, we tend to breathe quick, shallow breaths (a marker of stress) and we expel too much carbon dioxide. Low blood levels of carbon dioxide disrupt nervous system function and heighten anxiety. Holding your breath for as long as you comfortably can helps normalize carbon dioxide levels, easing anxiety within seconds, say UCLA scientists.
COOK WITH GARLIC
Cooking the garlic slowly at a moderate temperature so the soothing aroma infuses the kitchen reduces stress levels. The aroma and flavor of warm garlic calms the brain’s frontal lobe, which helps nix stress hormone output.
This stimulates pressure points on the soles, releasing the calming hormone dopamine. Wiggle your toes over soft soothing materials like fuzzy carpets and plush fabrics.
Cortisol is connected to anxiety. When blood sugar is raised, it causes the body to produce more cortisol. Fiber helps steady blood sugar and thereby helps curb anxiety.
Another way to reduce the stress hormone cortisol is singing out loud. Singing increases the flow of calming oxygen to the brain-if the neighbors don’t complain.
BRUSH YOUR ARMS, LEGS, TUMMY AND BACK WITH A NATURAL-BRISTLE BRUSH FOR FIVE MINUTES
This reduces anxiety by stimulating thousands of nerve endings, lulling the parasympathetic nervous system into a tranquil state.
TAKE A WHIFF OF VANILLA
This reduces anxiety within seconds because the scent positively affects the limbic lobe of the brain, which controls emotion.
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. You are advised to discuss your options with your doctor and follow his/her recommendations. But in the meantime, at those moments when you are trapped in the anxiety (for example, when you take a test and the brain starts to remember you didn’t pass this test the last time), simply bring your attention to the exhale of your breathing.
This calms the part of the brain that stores up memories and allows you to hook into the higher aspects of brain function. This releases you from the entrapment of the mind and all your resources become available once again. In this more relaxed space, your intuition, your experience and your intellect work together to show you the way. Breathe………
SANDRA STREET, MA, LPC, is a Board Certified Professional Counselor in mental health and addictions.