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Is anxiety taking over your life?

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Do you always feel anxious and on edge? If the answer's yes, then according to anxiety charity NO Panic you could be one of 18% of the population that suffer from an anxiety disorder.

The term anxiety disorder covers a number of conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder as well as panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are viewed as a mental health condition that can be treated with medication, talking therapy and lifestyle changes.

If you think you might have an anxiety disorder or you've noticed that a friend or family member seems to be anxious all the time then read on to find out the difference between stress and anxiety and the signs and symptoms that something could be wrong.

Have I got an anxiety disorder?
I get stressed sometimes - does this mean I have an anxiety disorder?

We all get stressed and feel anxious from time-to-time, in fact, stress can lead to feelings of anxiety. Patricia Andrews, spokesperson for No Panic, says: 'Stress and anxiety are driven by the same chemical reaction in the body, which is a fight or flight/adrenalin response.

Anxiety is caused by a worry about something. Anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder when this worry or anxiety is constant and takes over all your thoughts. For example, you might be worried because your washing machine is broken, but even after it's fixed you've still got feelings of anxiety and these feelings are out of control and over-the-top,' says Patricia.

Anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder when:

  • You feel anxious most/all of the time
  • Your level of anxiety is excessive and intense
  • Your anxiety is uncontrollable and disrupts your job, relationships and social life
  • Your behaviour changes due to your level of anxiety - this could be anything from drinking lots of tea, finding it hard to breathe, not being able to leave the house or performing repetitive rituals, such as counting to 10 before you do something.

Signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder
Muscle tension, aches and pains
Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
Bad moods
Dificulty concentrating or remembering things
Jumpiness and feeling on edge
Inablilty to relax 
Eating, drinking or smoking more than usual
Eating less
Sweating, especially having sweaty palms
Stomach problems and difficulty digesting food

We can all get these symptoms from time-to-time so you need to check whether you are getting these signs and symptoms all the time for more than six months.

Knowing when to get help with anxiety
 If your anxiety takes over your mind, you can't think about anything else, if it's blighting your life and interrupts everyday activities then you know it's a problem.

It's also worth looking at other aspects of your life to see if you're doing anything different:

Do you feel constantly agitated?
Do you get angry more easily than before?
Are you having more arguments with your partner/kids/friends/family?
Do you feel you have to repeat certain actions to feel safer or calmer?

What conditions are anxiety disorders?
There are lots of conditions that you will have heard of that are considered anxiety disorders:

Panic attacks
Obsessive Compulsive Dissorder (OCD)
General Anxiety Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder 
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

How do I get help?
You need to talk to someone because having an anxiety disorder can be very isolating. There are lots of support groups that understand - even if you think you're the only person in the world that feels the way you do.

It's also worth contacting your GP. There are no lab tests that determine whether you have an anxiety disorder but a doctor can diagnose an anxiety disorder, and they can prescribe medication - although this is not a solution on it's own. Your GP can also refer you for counselling but there may be a long waiting list so it's worth finding a help group or counsellor yourself.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is very successful in helping people deal with or overcome their anxiety disorder. 'Essentially, an anxiety disorder is based around a fear that you've created yourself,' says Patricia Andrews, spokesperson for No Panic.

CBT works because it's based on the idea that your thoughts create feelings and your feelings change your behaviour. No Panic report an 80% success rate with CBT.

Anxiety treatment and lifestyle changes
Types of anxiety medication
There are many types of medication that are prescribed for anxiety disorders, and they fall into six categories:

- Tricyclics (Anti-depressants) - a group of anti-depressants , such as Amitriptyline (Lentizol, Tryptizol)

- MAOI's (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) - a group of anti-depressants that are normally prescribed only when no other anti-depressant medication has worked, such as Phenelzine (Nardil)

- SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) - most common type of anti-depressants and medication prescribed for anxiety disorders, IBS and premature ejaculation, such as Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Paroxetine (Seroxat)

- Sleeping Pills - Prescribed to help with sleep and to calm if you are constantly anxious and other medication hasn't worked, such as Temazepam and Zopiclone (Zimovane)

- Anxiolytics (Anti-anxiety drugs) - prescribed, in most cases, purely for anxiety, such as Diazepam (Atensine, Rimapam, Valium)

- Beta Blockers - prescribed for the physical symptoms of anxiety such as palpitations, like Propranolol (Inderal)

What else can I do?
Diet - 'Diet can play a part in helping to control your anxiety,' says Patricia. 'Because anxiety means that your nervous system is already stimulated you don't need anything else that can stimulate it, such as food and drink containing caffeine.'So that means you need to cut out tea, coffee (unless decaffeinated), chocolate and fizzy drinks containing caffeine. 'Having a good, balanced diet is important, especially because if you skip meals you can feel lightheaded and that can lead you to believe that you're having a panic attack,' says Patricia.

Learn to relax - 'Take charge of your relaxation. If your body and mind is relaxed then it's physically impossible to get anxious,' says Patricia.

Talk about it - Talking therapies really help in combating anxiety disorders, CBT has a great success rate. 'Don't be embarrassed. Once you start talking about it you can understand it,' says Patricia.

 Complete article here: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/health/297674/Anxiety-disorder

Comments (1)add comment

Irish said:

An excellent blog written by one who completely understands what anxiety disorder is all about. This will be one of my favorites even though it's not a personal story. I was deeply impressed....Ed
August 26, 2009
Votes: +8

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