Panic Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety
The most common anxiety disorders are explained below
We can all experience a small period of anxiety at some point in our lives, worrying about certain things in today’s world is only natural. The real problem occurs when we constantly worry and stress over a prolonged period of time. This can bring on constant feelings of anxiety and have a real effect on our mental health.
An anxiety disorder may lead to social isolation. It may impair a person’s ability to work and do routine activities. It can also cause people to have trouble sleeping and create feelings of constant fatigue. There are also many emotional problems to cope with: depression, constant worry, a racing mind and feelings of unreality and detachment. It is at this point that most people reach breaking point and seek help. If not properly treated, the sufferer can get caught in a cycle that can then last for years.
Below are three of the most common forms of anxiety: social anxiety, panic disorder and general anxiety disorder. These are just TITLES and no matter which form you may suffer from, don’t be discouraged, you can recover from then all.
People who suffer from panic disorders can suffer severe attacks of fear for no real reason. Sufferers say they feel like they are having a heart attack and have a sense that they are in real danger and that everything is closing in. The need to run away or escape from the situation they are in is very strong. Symptoms can include a racing heart, sweating, trembling, feelings of dread, a fear of dying, fear of losing control and feelings of unreality.
Panic disorder can often lead to people being afraid of having a panic attack in a place from which escape would be difficult, so they end up avoiding these places. In some cases, this can lead to a fear of leaving the home altogether, constantly cancelling on people and making excuses not to go out.
Over the years I have studied panic attacks, which I prefer to call energy surges, as that is truly what they are and do cover the subject in depth in my book.
I myself suffered mild panic attacks that disrupted my life, but not really to the point where I felt I had to run away from situations or places, it was more avoidance issues of certain places and situations that I thought may trigger some fear reaction. Although when I was going through recovery, I did have my first full-blown panic attack. As I had more knowledge at that time, I knew how to cope with this situation if it ever occurred.
The full account of that day is in my book, but I had learned to stay relaxed in my attitude and to tell myself that nothing bad was going to happen to me and that the feeling I was experiencing was just adrenaline, a surge of energy that ultimately could do me no harm.
I understood that I had created this energy myself due to months of over worrying and stressing and it was just looking to be released. I also realised that the outside was not the real cause of my fears, it was just the trigger to release this excess energy that I had created within me. Like when a volcano creates and stores up too much energy, it needs to release it, once it releases this energy, it then goes back to calm.
In saying this my overriding feeling that day was to run away. This was only natural and an automatc reaction as it is how we are built to react to fear. But I just allowed the feeling of panic/energy to be there and did not try and control or stop this surge in any way, realising that, although it felt uncomfortable, nothing bad could happen to me. This fight or flight system is within everyone, so it could never lead to anything more than feeling uncomfortable.
So, I knew ultimately I would be fine and that there was no reason to run away or escape anything, the outside was not to blame here. On the other hand, if I had given in to the feelings to run away that day, I would have spent the rest of my days fearing another attack, avoiding more places and watching my life become more and more restricted.
I had added no more fear to the situation. By letting it be there and by not trying to control or stop it, I had shown it that I was not at the mercy of these feelings and to be free of this energy, I had to allow myself to feel it. I realised there was no quick fix, no magic pill, to be free of fear I had to go through it.
Two deeper insights truly helped me that day.
One was that there was no real danger where I was; it was a false alarm and I had to treat it as such. I likened it to when I was at school and the alarm would sound. The teacher would say ‘Don’t worry children, it’s just a false alarm’. I realised that the outside was just triggering what needed to be released and wasn’t the reason for me feeling this surge. So I realised that avoiding places was pointless and would just bring its own problems. Also by doing this, I would teach my mind I was fine and did not need its protection and the language the mind understands always comes through your actions. When you stop avoiding, it soon learns that you no longer need its overbearing protection.
I then clearly understood that we all have this built-in fear response and that whoever or whatever you believe created us, this response is normal and natural and serves a very healthy purpose, which is to keep us safe from real danger. So, if this response is normal, then even though it felt scary (which is what it’s supposed to feel like) it had to be harmless. Our creator would not be so cruel as to make it otherwise.
This helped me to be able to stay where I was and see any energy surge through, and when I did, on the other side of panic there was nothing, just peace. Nothing ever happened, I did not go mad or crazy or end up with a heart attack. There truly was nothing to fear only fear itself.
When I realised the above I did not fear another surge coming and this is the very thing panic feeds on – FEAR. If you really think about it, it is not the place you fear, it is the fear of how you will feel in that place that you are scared of. If it was the place then we would all get the same reaction.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t comfortable but I no longer feared the feeling of fear and so it no longer restricted my life, it didn’t make choices on what I did and did not do. It did not matter where I found myself, I had coped with myself and not the place and that’s why I was able to not enter the cycle of ‘fear/panic/fear/panic’ that many people find themselves in.
I took the fear out of fear by no longer caring if I felt it or not and this is ultimately allowed me to release it as I no longer spent my life trying to escape it, I had finally allowed myself to feel this energy and in turn release it.
Like I say, in my case, I had only one full-blown attack, a fear that totally overwhelmed me. I really believe if I had not known what I did that day I would have fallen into a cycle of fearing another attack and watching my body for the first signs of another one coming. I would also have avoided any trigger and hence all this energy that needed releasing would of stayed within.
I have met and spoken to many people whose lives were dominated by panic attacks but through understanding, they have now fully recovered. It is sometimes not easy to break a cycle but trust me with understanding and a little courage you can recover. Click here for more help with Panic attacks
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD can occur through excessive worry and stress over a long period of time without a break. The worry that created the constant feelings of anxiety may focus on external issues such as health, family, marriage, money, career or any of the other worries the modern world can present us with. In addition to chronic worry, GAD symptoms may include trembling, muscular aches, insomnia, depression, feelings of unreality and irritability.
Generalized anxiety usually does not cause people to avoid situations to the extent that people who suffer from panic disorders do. The real problem occurs when anxiety and all its symptoms become the new problem to worry and obsess about. It’s the constant thinking and dwelling on oneself day in day out, and the inability to shut the mind off that so incapacitates the person. The sufferer can feel utterly lost and can spend all day in their head trying to find a solution to the way they feel. They then may feel like they have no energy and become irritable and feel utterly lost and exhausted.
This is exactly the cycle most fall into and one I did also. My initial symptoms came from worrying constantly about things in my life and then I stayed in the cycle of anxiety by then worrying about my anxiety whilst constantly trying to find a way out. I was basically worrying every day about the way I felt until I just felt dreadful all the time, it really was a vicious cycle.
I realise now that I could have saved myself from all this suffering far earlier if I just had an understanding of why I first felt like I did and understood the reason I was in a cycle. I am always saying to people, “don’t keep treating the symptoms of anxiety, you will just spend a lifetime doing this, you need to cut out the root of what’s causing it, this, in turn, will then stop the cycle and so recovery can begin”.
So to give you an example; My initial anxiety was created by too much stress and worry, I then constantly worried about my anxiety, the racing mind, my feelings of detachment and so the cycle continued. I would then try and treat the symptoms of the anxiety (that I actually creating) with pills, meditation, counsellors, techniques etc and got nowhere. Until I realised that the true answer was to cut out the root and allow myself to feel the way I did, this would stop me from constantly worrying about how I felt, it would stop the constant trying to fix it, going over and over it, the very things that were keeping me in the cycle of suffering. Yes, to allow myself to feel the way I did would be uncomfortable for a while, but the cycle would be broken and my mind and body would heal itself.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
(SAD) Social anxiety is a fear of interacting with other people and can be very debilitating to those who suffer from it.
It is usually created through a fear of what other people may think; a fear of being judged. Sufferers find it hard to cope in social situations and can become easily embarrassed, going beyond just shyness. They have little confidence and can be highly sensitive to what others think about them. This form of anxiety may lead to social isolation and avoidance behaviour. The physical symptoms related to this form of anxiety can include a racing heart, faintness, blushing and excessive sweating.
This form of anxiety can be very upsetting and rule a lot of people’s lives. I myself felt terrible in social situations and constantly worried about my own performance and what others were thinking about me, as I always felt disengaged from the world and others around me. I would avoid talking to people as much as possible, which just made the problem worse.
What I did, I mainly taught myself.
I just told myself not to care how I came across in front of others. If I came across as strange, then so be it. If my mind went frantic in the presence of others then fine. I truly understood that people were not the problem, my mind’s reaction was.
This is what I had to change, the answer was not to be found in constantly avoiding others, thinking they were the problem; I had to teach my mind this obvious fact by no longer running away. Avoidance just taught it that its current reaction was correct and needed. It felt strange at first accepting feeling fearful and odd in front of people and going against the pull to escape, but once I did this, then the reaction calmed and in time social interaction came far easier.
I was teaching my mind that there was no danger here, that I was fine and that it could turn off its protection system. I also stopped feeling like two people, one trying to hold a conversation and the other watching myself and my reactions. This, in turn, allowed me to feel more involved in the conversation.
This is a very good example of changing a habit. A lot of anxiety is habit, habits that need to be reversed. I had avoided situations for so long that this avoidance had become me. I reversed this by ignoring what my mind was telling me to do and just went forward anyway. In time, this then became my new habit. It became less strange and easier to put myself in social situations and with a better understanding, I was able to overcome my social anxiety.
I had gone through my fears, faced the bogeyman head on and finally achieved something. This realisation helped me with so many other aspects of my anxiety. I realised that I did have some power over the way I felt and I could take some control. Visit here for more help with social anxiety.
If you are reading this page on behalf of someone you know that suffers from anxiety, here you can find out more about supporting a partner or family member with anxiety.
‘At Last a Life’
Read my life of recovery.