I’m a psychology student about to graduate. I’ve been studying so many disorders throughout these past years, some are common and some are not. But it seems like the “Anxiety Disorder”is way more common than I thought. In the days I had to study and research about that specific disorder, learning all about it, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, I thought it was one of the easiest disorders to deal with. One year later- 2012- life decided to make me regret my words and put me on test being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
There is more than one type of Anxiety Disorders:
•Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
•Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
•Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
•Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
So ok, Anxiety is normal; many people, if not basically everyone, experiences anxiety in their life. Why? Because is a reaction to stress, and who doesn’t experience some stress in life. But when does it become a DISORDER? It becomes a disorder when it becomes too much excessive, when it actually affects you on a daily basis, when it affects you mentally, physically, emotionally and when it affects the way you live life.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder on March 2012. Everyone, including me, thought that since I already had knowledge about the topic and being a psychologist it wasn’t going to affect me much, and it was going to be as if I didn’t suffered from such disorder. But, Oh God, we couldn’t have been more wrong. More than one year later, I’m still struggling.
What causes people to suffer from this?
I haven’t find the exact answer to this question, but here is something I found and think will give you a close idea:
Scientists currently think that, like heart disease and type 1 diabetes, mental illnesses are complex and probably result from a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and developmental factors. For instance, although NIMH-sponsored studies of twins and families suggest that genetics play a role in the development of some anxiety disorders, problems such as PTSD are triggered by trauma. Genetic studies may help explain why some people exposed to trauma develop PTSD and others do not.
Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety. Using brain imaging technology and neurochemical techniques, scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.
So, as you can see they haven’t find one specific cause, and that makes it harder for people like me because since they don’t know the exact cause there is not one accurate “cure” to it. It’s not like you can run to the doctor and get a couple of shots and boom, you are free!
There is obviously some treatment options to help you deal with it, but as my psychologist says- there is no cure, once you have it you can only learn how to live with it and reduce the effects but never get ride of it.
Let me tell you a bit more about the specific anxiety disorder I deal with.
All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.
(NIH, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH)
Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school. In people with GAD, the worry is often unrealistic or out of proportion for the situation. Daily life becomes a constant state of worry, fear, and dread. Eventually, the anxiety so dominates the person’s thinking that it interferes with daily functioning, including work, school, social activities, and relationships
And what are the symptoms?
GAD affects the way a person thinks, but the anxiety can lead to physical symptoms, as well. Symptoms of GAD can include:
•Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
•An unrealistic view of problems
•Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
•The need to go to the bathroom frequently
•Trouble falling or staying asleep
•Being easily startled
In addition, people with GAD often have other anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias), suffer from depression, and/or try to self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol.
Let me tell you in easier words, and exactly my experience.
I started off with panic attacks- I could totally do a post just talking about panic attacks so I’ll be as brief and accurate as possible.
Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset and of variable duration from minutes to hours. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, may reach a peak within 10 minutes, but may continue for much longer if the sufferer had the attack triggered by a situation from which they are not able to escape. Sufferers of panic attacks often report a fear or sense of dying, “going crazy,” or experiencing a heart attack or “flashing vision,” feeling faint or nauseated, a numb sensation throughout the body, heavy breathing (and almost always, hyperventilation), or losing control of themselves. The most common symptoms may include trembling, dyspnea (shortness of breath), heart palpitations, chest pain (or chest tightness), hot flashes, cold flashes, burning sensations (particularly in the facial or neck area), sweating, nausea, dizziness (or slight vertigo), light-headedness, hyperventilation, paresthesias (tingling sensations), sensations of choking or smothering, difficulty moving and derealization. These physical symptoms are interpreted with alarm in people prone to panic attacks. This results in increased anxiety, and forms a positive feedback loop.
My first panic attack happened one day at College, it was obviously very unexpected and I was walking to one of my classes when suddenly I started feeling as if I couldn’t breath at all, I thought it was due to the fact that I ran up to the third floor of the building to get to class, but it was definitely too intense. So I just got out of class, called my dad and just asked him to pick me up, we went to the hospital got some pills that would help me relax for a few days and it was all good. After that I suffered from a severe panic attack where I couldn’t move my hands, my heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t breath and I thought I was dying, so I was hospitalized and diagnosed with what you now know. I started a psychological therapy and I had the option of taking some medication to help me deal with it easier. I was recommended to stop studying and working and take a break so I could process everything, relax and start over with things once I was feeling better and stronger. But I said no to both of the last options. I decided to not take any medication, because I thought I should learn to deal with it without the need of a pill, without having to risk myself to become addicted or dependent to some pill and having a pill control me. And usually every medication ends up affecting you in some way and then you need some other medication to help you with what the last one did. So I didn’t want that, just the same I didn’t want to stop my life, I thought I was being a coward if I stopped and try to get healthy. I didn’t want to take the easy way and I didn’t want to get behind with life.
Psychotherapy worked amazingly for me for the first month or so, and I reduced the amount of panic attacks and anxiety I had. So, I thought I don’t need it anymore and even tho the therapy was not over I stopped going. One month later I started going back to therapy and I was feeling lost, much worse than before and depressed. So the psychologist ask me to visit the doctor and the doctor pre scripted some medication- and since he knew I was against it he recommended a very chill pill (haha) that wasn’t as half as strong as the usual anxiety medication but that still causes a positive reaction. I kept going to therapy and taking my medication, so once again I was in control of myself. By last December things started getting difficult in my life and ever since life keeps testing me in the worst possible ways, and it’s been no good for my anxiety disorder. I have not been to therapy for so long, Im still taking pills occasionally but only as emergency exit, on extreme occasions. But after so many things going on, so much pressure and all in the last couple of months I’m again losing control and my sanity. Now my disorder is worse than it’s ever been, it’s hard for me to go to the mall because I start having panic attacks, running errands and doing the things I’ve always done such as going to College and work cause me panic attacks very often. I now get easily frustrated and very much irritated. So then I get depressed because I feel pathetic and I feel like a failure because now I have a very hard time to do stuff I used to do always.
Now I regret not taking a break from work and College since the very beginning, because in this moment I’m mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically drained and exhausted. And now I feel at my weakest point, not having enough strength to get up and fight. And it’s now more than ever that I need that strength and courage because it’s been these days the days that I’ve had to go through so many challenges and so many test life has put on my way.. You can’t imagine how horrible it’s to wake up and hate the life you are living, wake up thinking about all the thins you need to do during the day and thinking “will I be able to fulfill these tasks?” And then completing your checklist but painfully, ending the day tired, exhausted and unhappy, because you fought all day against anxiety just to be able to do simple things like buying groceries.
I need to get things in order in my life, and complete my therapy and medication the way it should have been done, I have to do it once and for all, so I don’t have to fall and fail again. I need to do it for my family who are the ones who run and save me everytime I’m feeling at my weakest, the ones who suffer because they want to see me happy. And I have to do it for me- because I am one young lady with a promising future and I deserve a healthy stress/anxiety free life. I need to be able to enjoy the little things that right now are stressing me and giving me anxiety. I need to be able to fight for what I want, to do what I need to do to succeed in life and not having a disorder holding me back from my dreams in life. I need to do it, I need to believe I can be the girl I was before this hit me, and not only be that girl but be the best version of me that I ever was, because I deserve it, because the world needs it.
Hasta la vista,
Here are some links so you can read where I got some of the information from. It’s very accurate and very well explained. So if you are interested about knowing more, please don’t hesitate to ask me questions and click the links below.
*Pictures belong to Google Images.
*Terms provided are taken from the links above- NIMH,WEBMD AND WIKIPEDIA.