PreventPanicAttacks.org – Dealing With Anxiety

Anxiety Disorders

Understanding and Managing Agoraphobia

There are many different anxiety disorders and agoraphobia is one of them. Many people think that it is easy to get over these kinds of conditions but there has to be an understanding of the condition as well as a determination to manage it in order to be able to do so. Treatment options vary depending on the preference of the individual as well as the recommendation of the physician who is treating the patient.

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is well known as a fear that is triggered when a person is in a crowd. This belief may be because of the literal translation of the word which is a fear of an assembled group or marketplace from Latin agora meaning “market” and phobia meaning “fear of”. The fact of the matter is that being all alone in a crowd is just one aspect of the phobia. This kind of phobia is actually about being afraid that there is nobody familiar around to help when help is needed and not being able to escape or avoid something.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

The symptoms of agoraphobia include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear of being alone in a crowd or in a crowded place
  • Fear being on his own
  • Fear of wide, open spaces
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of an anxiety attack or panic attack
  • Being overly dependent on other people
  • Being housebound for extended periods of time
  • Unwillingness to mingle with others

The individual may also experience the full range of symptoms that come with a panic attack when the phobia is triggered. These actual, physical manifestations of a triggered agoraphobia attack may include all or some of the following:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest pains
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Clammy hands
  • Sweating profusely
  • The chills
  • Hyperacidity
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Agoraphobia

This kind of anxiety disorder actually occurs when the individual feels that he has no way out of a crowded place or that relief or help is not readily available. When a person who has agoraphobia is left all alone in a remote area, the anxiety can occur because the individual may feel that there is nobody around who can help if anything were to happen. A person who suffers from this condition may hesitate to leave his home without the company of someone familiar because of the fear of having no one to help when help is needed. This kind of anxiety may also develop when an individual may have had a traumatic experience or a panic attack and he is now afraid that it could happen again when exposed to a similar situation. This would prompt him to shun the company of society in general and avoid crowds. In spite of the fear of being in a crowd, he might also have a fear of being on his own, with no one to support him.

Although agoraphobia is a mental disorder, researchers are leaning towards genetics as one of the reasons why this condition occurs in some people and not in others. Some lineages show a recurrence of anxiety disorders through the generations. Of course, exposure to a traumatic event can also lead to an individual developing this particular phobia. Some researchers also theorize that the condition of the area of the brain that controls one’s response to fear might also have an impact on anxiety.

Treating Agoraphobia

Therapy plays a huge role in treating individuals who suffer from agoraphobia. Many experts agree that this condition can be easier to treat if diagnosed earlier. Full blown cases may take years to treat compared to situations where the patient is not so fearful. A qualified and experienced therapist should be able to guide the person suffering from this condition to try to overcome his situation little by little. The consultation may take several sessions but the therapist should be able to encourage the individual to learn how to manage his fears and anxieties. Treatment can be achieved through cognitive behavioral therapy which shows the patient that his fears are unlikely to come true, teaches the patient how to deal with an anxiety attack and helping the patient recognize potential thoughts that will lead to a trigger replacing these thoughts with a calmer and more positive outlook. CBT will also teach the patient how to handle stress and how to assess situations and avoid potentially panic inducing ones.

Medication is another option in treating agoraphobia. There are just two common types of medications that a doctor might give to a person who is suffering from this form of anxiety. Antidepressants come in the form of Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which have the capacity to make a person feel more relaxed and better about himself. Basically, these SSRIs function to prevent an anxiety attack from happening. The other type pf medication commonly prescribed is an anti-anxiety drug called benzodiazepines. This drug functions by calming triggered symptoms of an anxiety attack. Basically, the second drug is more of a short term relief when the symptoms of agoraphobia start acting up. They can be habit forming which is why it is important to be able to manage the condition as soon as possible and not rely on relief brought about by this medication.

Through all of these, many therapists who treat those who suffer from agoraphobia like to highlight the importance of support from family when it comes to treatment. Patients with families should be supported and helped through the difficult process of treatment in order for them to find inspiration and determination to get through it. The patients should also be determined to learn techniques that will help them relax and be calm. They should also help themselves by avoiding alcohol and drugs that can lower their inhibitions and set off potentially dangerous situations. Most illegal drugs can affect one’s perception of reality and aggravate the situation. Their physical health should be in tiptop shape because treatment can be grueling and taxing to the body.

It is important to help individuals who suffer from agoraphobia because they usually withdraw from society if they are left on their own and become depressed and possibly even suicidal. By showing them that their friends and family care enough to treat their condition, they will feel better and may be determined to get better.

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An Overview of the Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Many times, we double-check to ensure that we have done something, for example, packed needed items, unplugged the iron box, or even locked all doors. However, there would be a problem if we kept checking the same thing over and over again, to a point where the behavior interferes with our daily activities. This behavior is characteristic of people with OCD.

What is OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)?

OCD is an anxiety disorder where negative emotions like apprehension, fear, worry or uneasiness created by intrusive thoughts cause repetitive behavior aimed at reducing anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are referred to as obsessions. The behavior that is repetitive is referred to as compulsions. If you have obsessions, compulsions or both, you are said to have OCD.

A person with OCD may never realize that the obsessions are unreasonable, and they put in a lot of effort so as to stop them. Unfortunately, these efforts increase anxiety. Compulsive behavior is usually an attempt to ease the anxiety. OCD is centered on themes, for instance, fear of contamination from germs. One will therefore keep washing their hands- until they get sore and chapped. The person will try their best to avoid thoughts of germ contamination, but they will keep coming back making them wash their hands even more.

Symptoms of OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)

These symptoms are time-consuming and easily take a toll on one’s personal relationships, emotions as well as finances. Obsessions will vary in clarity from individual to individual. For instance, if the obsession is vague, one could experience a sense of tension or disarray. One feels that life will not go on as smoothly as it did if there is a certain imbalance. If the obsession is intense, one could be preoccupied with thoughts of the death of someone who is close to them, for instance. They may also feel that harm will befall them, that a power beyond them could result in their harm- disease, God or even the devil. Worse still, some people could feel as if they have protrusions emanating from their bodies, or feel as if inanimate objects are ensouled. Some people may suffer from sexual obsessions. They will have thoughts like rape, incest, oral sex, sex with children, animals, or religious figures.

The aforementioned obsessions result in compulsive behavior. Some symptoms of compulsive behavior include for instance, depending on the intrusive thought, hoarding. This is where inorganic matter is treated as if it had the right to be treated as if it was organic. One could also keep checking whether the gas is off, the door is locked or keep repeating words silently. Compulsive behavior is not necessarily obvious to the OCD patient. These symptoms increase in intensity over time, as one gets older. They are worst when an individual is in a stressful situation.

Causes of OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Over time, there has been speculation that OCD that began in childhood may be different from the one that began in adulthood. However, the underlying causes are the same. There are several causes of OCD. The first is serotonin, the chemical in the brain that affects aggression, appetite, pain, mood, and sleep. It is yet to be established whether it is the entire chemical itself or its components that trigger reactions in OCD patients. There is a possibility that brain receptors to which serotonin attaches to could be the cause of the disorder. Secondly, people with OCD tend to have abnormalities in their orbital cortex, basal ganglia as well as thalamus. There is a breakdown in communication among these parts of the brain.

Genetics is the third cause. If people in your family have OCD, or associated disorders like binge eating, there is a possibility that you could get OCD. Research shows that 30% of teenagers suffering from OCD come from families where the immediate members had OCD, or showed obsessive symptoms. If the disorder began in childhood, there is a lesser likelihood of transmitting the same to one’s offspring. If your brain experienced a streptococcal infection, the body would begin to destroy healthy cells, as they would be mistaken for the infected cells. The cells that will be attacked are the basal ganglia cells, which will lead to the occurrence of symptoms of OCD. However, this is a very rare occurrence. Depression is the other cause of OCD.

Sometimes, panic disorders are experienced along side OCD.

Treating OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)

The FDA has approved a number of OCD treatment options. The most popular treatments are anti-depressants, referred to as serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. These drugs increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, however, recent studies show that antidepressants are not effective and may actually worsen anxiety. Other anti-depressants are tricyclic antidepressants. The other treatment is augmentation therapy, where more drugs are combined to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Psychological therapy reduces the frequency of occurrence, as well as intensity of the symptoms of OCD. There are 2 types of psychological therapy- CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and ERP (exposure response prevention). It is important to note that CBT is very expensive, thus is usually offered in groups in health facilities and hospitals. There are a number of benefits of working in a group, ranging from support, motivation to encouragement. The other treatment option is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), which is based on the fact that since anxiety is part of everyday life, it is our reaction to it that results in problems like OCD.

Unfortunately, 25 to 40% of patients do not respond to these treatments. Targeting circuits in the brain, for instance via deep brain stimulation might be the way forward; however, more research is needed. There are also ways that one can alleviate OCD symptoms like relaxation techniques, and aerobic exercise. Stress triggers OCD, thus its management will go a long way in alleviating the symptoms of the disorder.

As we can see, OCD is a disorder characterized by obsessions, compulsive behavior or both. The two can vary in intensity. There are a number of causes of the disorder, as well as treatments. All is not lost, as if one does not respond to treatments, they can manage the disorder via exercise and relaxation. Research in stimulation of circuits might also result in an ultimate solution.

What Causes Panic Disorders?

One of the most common questions asked by patients who suffer from panic disorders (and rightfully so) is what causes panic attacks and anxiety? A panic disorder, which is different from the normal stress that we face in our daily lives, is a sudden surge in anxiety and fear. It makes your heart pound abnormally, and is often characterized by a lack of breath. If left untreated, panic disorders can escalate into more frequent and severe panics.

To effectively remedy this dreadful condition, it is important to understand what causes the disorder in the first place. Unfortunately the causes is usually unknown. Studies however allude to a combination of factors that may be responsible for the disorder. If you suspect that you might be experiencing panic disorder symptoms, seek professional help.

How do normal panics differ from panic disorders?

Experts in human behavior maintain that panic attacks are a crucial part of our survival. If you never suffered from panic attacks from time to time, you would end up walking straight into uncountable danger zones.

Naturally, our brains receive signals that are meant to forewarn us of imminent dangers. When this happens, the Amygdala part of the brain is kicked into action. However, some people’s Amygdala reacts even when there is no sign of imminent danger. This is a sign of panic disorders.

The Amygdala response usually results in the production of the fright or fight hormone, adrenaline. If there was no imminent danger, and thus the adrenaline does not get used, the buildup of the hormone in the body can result into a panic disorder.

A list of possible causes of panic disorders

Family history

In some cases, panic disorders have been known to be hereditary. It can be passed from parents to their young ones like any other genes in the gene pool.

Anxious occasions during childhood

Another common reason why people may develop panic attacks is that as children, they were brought up in a world that was rough and full of distress. An early death of a relative, an abusive parent or severe illness during the early childhood years can result into panic attacks in later years.

Substance abuse

Use of drugs such as alcohol, opium, marijuana, cocaine, and heroine has been known to cause panic disorders. The drugs interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system and may lead to the production of unnecessary adrenaline. Drug users also tend to have a lot of hallucinations, which leads to panicking.

High stress life events

Traumatic and stressful events in life can be a major contributing factor. Some patients who suffer from panic attacks might have gone through traumatic experiences such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or loss of job. Sometimes, even happy events can trigger an anxiety attack such as getting married or starting a new career, which is mainly due to the nervousness or over-excitement of the situation.

Your problem is not your fault

For healing to occur, you need to understand that it’s not your fault. If you suspect that you might be suffering from a panic disorder, it is important that you seek medical attention. People do come out of panic disorders, and so can you.
Are you feeling anxious, distressed, nervousness, worries and fears? Visit our free anxiety help guide on effective natural panic attacks treatment.

An Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Introduction

Do you find yourself feeling anxious or tense all day for no real reason or worrying excessively about things that are unlikely to happen? Well, everyone gets anxious from time to time, but if your fears and worries are so constant to the extent that they interfere with your ability to relax and function, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is not only physically exhausting, but mentally exhausting as well. It wears your body out, interferes with sleep and generally drains your energy. The good news, however, is that you can break free from the cycle of constant worrying and learn to get a grip of your anxious mind.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as a common anxiety disorder that entails chronic tension, nervousness, and worrying, which can often be very similar to panic disorder symptoms. Unlike phobias where fears are connected to a specific situation or thing, generalized anxiety disorder is often diffuse i.e. a general feeling of unease or dread that colors one’s entire life. The anxiety is usually less intense than that experienced when suffering a panic attack, but lasts much longer thus making relaxation impossible and normal life difficult.

If you are afflicted by GAD, you may have the same worries as other people, difficulties at work, family problems, money, health issues, but you are likely to take these worries to a whole new level. For instance, a phone call to a loved one that is not immediately returned may lead you to believe that that person in some sort of trouble or your boss’s careless comment about the state of the economy may become a vision of an imminent pink slip coming your way soon. Sometimes just the thought of how you will get through the day may get you anxious such that you end up going about your activities filled with exaggerated tension and worry, even when there is nothing to suggest so. The bottom line is that you are unable to turn such anxious thoughts off as they keep running through your head- endlessly.

Symptoms

The symptoms of GAD often fluctuate- you may notice worse and better times of the day, or worse and better days in general. And while stress cannot be cited as a cause of GAD, it can exacerbate the symptoms. Not everyone with this condition experiences the same symptoms although most people with generalized anxiety disorder experience a combination of physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms. Broadly speaking, these symptoms are as follows:

  1. Physical symptoms- These include:
  • Feeling jumpy, restless, or edgy
  • Feeling tense; experiencing body aches or muscle tightness
  • Nausea, diarrhea, stomach problems
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much because your mind will not stop racing
  1. Behavioral symptoms- These include:
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating on things
  • Avoiding situations or circumstances that bring about anxiety
  • Inability to be alone, enjoy quiet time, or relax
  • Postponing things as a result of feeling overwhelmed
  1. Emotional symptoms- These include:
  • Pervasive feelings of dread or apprehension
  • Constant worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about what causes your anxiety- you may try to ignore such thoughts but it is almost impossible
  • Deeming your anxiety uncontrollable i.e. there is little or nothing you can do to stop worrying
  • A fear of uncertainty- you always want to know what will happen in the future

Causes

While the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder remains unknown, there are a number of factors that appear to contribute to its development. These include:

  1. Environmental factors

Stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, changing schools or jobs, divorce, abuse, and trauma may lead to GAD. In addition, the condition may become progressively worse during periods of stress. The withdrawal from and use of addictive substances, including nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, may also worsen anxiety.

  1. Genetics

Research continues to show that family history may also play a part in increasing the chances that a person will develop generalized anxiety disorder. This, therefore, means that the tendency to develop this affliction may be passed on in the family setting.

  1. Brain chemistry

GAD has been linked with the abnormal functioning of some nerve cell pathways that connect particular sections of the brain that are involved in emotion and thinking. These nerve cell linkages depend on chemicals referred to as neurotransmitters that send information from one nerve cell to the next. It thus follows that if these pathways linking certain brain sections do not run efficiently, problems related to anxiety and moods are bound to arise. Psychotherapies, medicines, or other treatments that are known to tweak these neurotransmitters may improve the signal transmission between the circuits thereby helping to alleviate symptoms related to depression or anxiety.

Treatment

The two most prominent treatments for generalized anxiety disorder are medications and psychotherapy. If you are found to have no physical illness, you are likely to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist- medical professionals specifically trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses such as this. More often, however, treatment for GAD includes a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication.

  1. Medications

There are several types of medication used in the treatment of GAD including but not limited to busiprone, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. Remember; always consult with your doctor about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of these.

  • Busiprone

This is an anti-anxiety medication that may be used on an on-going basis. And as with most antidepressants, it usually takes several weeks for it to be fully effective.

  • Antidepressants

Antidepressants- including those in the serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) classes- are often the first-line medications in the treatment of GAD. Examples of such antidepressants include duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

  • Benzodiazepines

In certain circumstances, a doctor may prescribe sedatives to relieve anxiety symptoms, but only for the short term as these can be habit-forming. Examples of such sedatives include Xanax, Valium, and Niravam.

  1. Psychotherapy

Also referred to as psychological counseling or talk therapy, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist in an attempt to reduce anxiety symptoms. It is a highly effective treatment for GAD. Alternatively, cognitive behavioral therapy is also widely acknowledged as an effective form of psychotherapy which focuses on teaching specific skills that aid GAD sufferers to gradually return to the activities that they have been avoiding because of anxiety. Through the process, you are likely to notice that your symptoms will improve as you keep building on your initial successes.

  1. Herbal Remedies & Relaxation Techniques

Although this treatment method is often overlooked, it can be extremely effective as both a short term and long term solution. For example, specialized mental and breathing techniques can be used to quickly reduce worries and tension before it gets out of control, while anxiety reducing herbs can help aid you in fighting anxiety by soothing your body and calming your mind, hence making you feel more relaxed and reduce tension.

Social Phobia Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Understanding Social Anxiety DisorderSocial Phobia is otherwise known as Social Anxiety Disorder. It is the most common type of anxiety disorder and it afflicts about 12% of the adult population in the United States.

It is defined as an irrational fear of social situations such as speaking in front of a crowd, meeting new people, being in a party, and other social gatherings. The fear is associated with negative feelings of distress and extreme anxiety, with a grave need to avoid or get out of the situation.

Social Phobia often occurs alongside low self-esteem and depression. While many people experience fear in social settings, those who have the disorder are unable to overcome their thoughts and emotions. As such, they suffer a great deal in terms of their social, academic, or professional life. Those with the disorder have disrupted daily lives and are unable to cope with the signs and symptoms that come with the phobia.

Individuals who have shy or timid temperaments as children have a high risk of developing social phobia. Those who have chronic diseases and body disfigures are also prone to develop the disorder.

While Social Phobia is a chronic mental condition, its symptoms can be managed through several methods of treatments. Since social phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, getting to the root of the problem and treating anxiety naturally can help relieve some of the symptoms of phobia.

Symptoms of Social Phobia

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms include thoughts of dread over an upcoming social situation, such as reporting in front of a group of people, going to a job interview, or going to a party. Sufferers obsess for days or weeks before the event, creating scenarios in their heads about things that could go wrong and how people would perceive them. They often stay up all night just thinking about the anticipated event, making them lose sleep and becoming irritable and fearful throughout the day.

When at a social gathering, they’re often suspicious of other people judging them negatively. They tend to keep to themselves and are always wary about what people think of them. They are highly self-conscious and worry about the smallest details like their clothes, the food they eat in front of people, how they smell, and how they are perceived by others.

After an event, sufferers often think and analyze everything about his/her behavior and how people reacted. They would think about the smallest details and feel a range of emotions such as fear and shame. They can obsess over the event after several days, weeks, or even months after it occurred.

Physiological Symptoms

A sufferer may feel the following physical reactions:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive shaking of hands and knees
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset/diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Tears
  • Walk disturbance – losing balance or having very poor posture when walking in a crowd

Many sufferers also suffer from psychosomatic symptoms such as having a painful stomachache when about to go to a public gathering, or having fever when they have to present a report, or even paralysis.

Behavioral Symptoms

When meeting strangers, sufferers usually avoid eye contact and look away. They also have a strong fear of people with authority and avoid them at all costs.

They also tend to isolate themselves from the crowd when at a party – often seen alone standing on a corner or sitting by themselves. Most sufferers also avoid social gatherings altogether and would rather stay in their rooms or houses than go out.

Those who have the disorder also often engage in pathological or compulsive lying to preserve a self-image.

Children

Since symptoms often occur in childhood, symptoms for children include crying in social situations, tantrums, shrinking, and shaking when brought along to parties or places with lots of people.

Causes of Social Phobia

Though there has never really been one single answer as to the cause of Social Phobia, scientists believe it develops through a combination of many factors.

Genetics

A child who has a parent with the disorder has a strong disposition to develop it as well. Social Phobia tends to run in families and children who show a certain temperament have a strong tendency to develop the disorder. Some babies are born with a shy and timid temperament and they’re most likely to develop the phobia if his social environment enables the progress of the disorder.

Social Experiences

Social events in the past has been seen as the biggest contributor to a person’s disposition to develop Social Phobia. Children who are naturally shy and whose parents value the importance of others’ opinions and using shame as a disciplinary tool often develop social fears in adulthood. These children have a tendency to develop a heightened sense of disapproval – which makes them fearful of how people perceive them since they already have a fear that they are not good enough.

Children can also learn the phobia through observational learning. If the child has a parent who has the phobia and the child sees how the parent behaves in social situations, the child will learn that speaking in public or meeting new people is something to be feared.

Those who’ve had traumatic past experiences such as being bullied or being humiliated at a party or in school also have a tendency to acquire the disorder.

Biological

The Amygdala is also seen to cause social phobia. Since the amygdala is associated with fear responses, scientists theorize that an overactive amygdala leads to a heightened fear response, resulting to increased anxiety.

Treating Social Phobia

The 2 most common types of treatments for Social Phobia are Psychotherapy and Medications.

Psychotherapy

The most common method of psychotherapy for Social Phobia sufferers is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Patients are taught how to regulate their thoughts and guided by a therapist about their perceptive thinking. They are made to evaluate their thoughts and to analyze if their ways of thinking are rational or not, or if their perception of a certain fear is real or imagined. Patients are then given methods to change their perceptions, in the hopes of changing the way they react to the objects of their fears.

Exposure-based Cognitive Therapy involves gradual exposure to the object of fear, allowing patients to conquer the very things that bring them fear and distress. Eventually, patients become desensitized with the objects and eliminate their irrational fears in the long run.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been the most effective method of treating social phobia. It is also the only permanent method of treatment among social anxiety disorder sufferers.

Medication

Common anti-depressant drugs are often prescribed to sufferers. SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are the most common drugs given to patients, which are anti-depressents that increase the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain – leading to an uplifted mood. However, many side effects are associated with this medication.

Other drugs include beta blockers and other medication to manage the symptoms of anxiety.

Natural Treatment

A third treatment method, although not widely used, can actually be quite effective in some individuals. For example, there are natural remedies, herbs, relaxation techniques, and certain other self help procedures that can be used to help alleviate the stress caused by social phobia.