Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that goes beyond normal levels of fear and anxiety that occur in everyday lives. This disorder is very serious and strikes without warning. Around 2 million American adults suffer from it. The condition usually begins during late adolescence or early adulthood. Compared to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from this condition.
Panic disorder can accompany other serious conditions, like depression and alcoholism. This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks. The attacks usually last around ten minutes, but can be shorter (one to five minutes long) or longer (20 minutes long or more). The attacks may wax and wane for a few hours with the intensity of each attack varying. A panic attack is characterized by the following symptoms: dizziness, perspiration, shaking, nausea, numbness of fingers and toes, choking sensation, fear, hyperventilation, and more. The outward appearance of an attack can cause embarrassment. With time, a person with panic disorder develops a constant fear of having future panic attacks, or anticipatory attacks. This fear causes a person to withdraw from social and professional scenarios. Besides a panic attack, a person with panic disorder may have limited symptom attacks, which have fewer symptoms.
The exact cause of panic disorder is not fully known. However, according to studies, a combination of factors, including biological and environmental ones, are involved. These factors include genetics, brain abnormalities, substance abuse, and major stress. Genetics and family history are critical, as panic disorder tends to run in families. It seems to be a trait that can be passed on from parent to child. Problems in parts of the brain can also cause this condition. Further, the excessive use of drugs and alcohol plays a critical role, as does the presence of major life stress in a person’s life. A death of a close family member, for instance, can promote the development of panic disorder.
Individuals with panic disorder must seek treatment. Without it, the condition can bring forth serious consequences that can interfere with quality of life. These complications include avoidance, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and anticipatory anxiety. Avoidance refers to the tendency of individuals with panic disorder to refrain from engaging in certain activities or situations. Agoraphobia refers to the fear of certain places. Because of the fear of having a spontaneous panic attack, many people with this type of anxiety disorder refrain from leaving their homes. About a third of people with panic disorder have agoraphobia. Claustrophobia refers to the fear of enclosed places.
Treatment usually includes a combination of therapies including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and medication. The counseling nature of psychotherapy helps alleviate the emotional aspect of mental illness. Talking through things really helps. It also helps to recognize patterns and behaviors through cognitive behavioral therapy. Anti-depressants and some heart medications can also help alleviate symptoms, as do relaxation techniques.
Even though the disorder cannot be prevented, there are some steps an individual can take decrease symptoms. These include reducing or stopping caffeine intake, refraining from taking over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies that may contain anxiety-inducing ingredients, exercising, and eating healthy and balanced meals.
Separation anxiety may be a normal when it comes to young kids who are afraid of leaving the company of their parents. However, when this fear occurs in children over six years of age, is serious, and lasts longer than a month, the child may be experiencing separation anxiety disorder. This condition occurs when a child becomes very nervous and afraid when he or she is away from home or being separated from a parent or other close person. Besides the emotional symptoms that a child may experience, he or she may also develop physical symptoms. The fear of separation is very intense and may intrude on the child’s everyday activities, like attending school.
The condition affects about 4 to 5 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 7 to 11. It occurs in teenagers, as well, though less commonly. It affect about 1.3 percent of teens in the US. The following symptoms can warn a parent if his or her child has separation anxiety disorder. The child may experience:
A persistent worry that something will happen to the parent or caregiver. A persistent worry that something will happen to the child. Fear of isolation. Separation nightmares. Physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches. Temper tantrums or begging. Refusal to go to school.
Refusal to sleep without the presence of the parent or caregiver.
Separation anxiety usually develops after a big and stressful change in the child’s life. This may include moving away, changing schools, or dealing with the death of a loved one.
Children with over-protective parents may be more susceptible to this condition. It may not always be the child’s disease, but the parent may feed the child’s anxiety, too. Children with separation anxiety usually have family members that suffer from mental disorders including other types of anxiety. Therefore, separation anxiety may be inherited from a parent.
When it comes to diagnosis, signs and symptoms are important. If a doctor sees that symptoms are present, he or she will perform a complete evaluation with physical exams and medical history. Even though there are no lab tests that diagnose this condition specifically, the doctor may order a variety of tests like blood tests and X-rays to rule out other kinds of illness. If no physical illness seems to be present, the doctor may refer the child to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These professionals will interview and evaluate the child for mental illness. Mild cases of separation anxiety disorder usually do not need medical attention. Treatment may be needed in severe cases, like if the child does not go to school. The treatment aims to reduce anxiety levels of the child, help create a sense of security, and educate the child and family about normal separations. Treatment may include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or family therapy. Further, medication may help treat serious cases of separation anxiety. Chances of recovery are better if treatment is started early and if it involves the family, as well as the child.
Are you frequently anxious about your health? You’re not alone. There are thousands of people who suffer from health anxiety. The anxiety can be so debilitating for some that it renders them powerless to function normally in society. Just like alcholics must first admit that alcohol has taken control over them, hypochondriacs must admit that worry about their health has dominated their lives.
Here are some self-help tips if you suffer from health anxiety.
1. STOP SURFING THE INTERNET! The Internet may be a lovely invention for most people, but it’s the devil incarnate for hypochondriacs. Don’t surf every muscle pain and headache you have. If needbe, cancel your internet subscription for a few months. Whatever you do, don’t look up your symptoms. Just say no!
2. When you visit a doctor about your symptoms, accept their opinion. Remember, you don’t have a medical degree and you haven’t spent years seeing patients. Put trust into your doctor. Remember, they’re so paranoid about malpractice suits that they’re going to do their very best to make sure you are ok!
3. Before you visit the doctor, outline all the questions you want to ask. Get everything out of your system when you visit the doctor. Don’t hold some belief in and let it fester before the next appointment.
4. Keep busy. Health anxiety is common among people with ‘type A’ personalities who are bored. Don’t let your mind wander. Keep busy with work. If work isn’t enough, find a hobby you enjoy.
5. Accept that we can’t know everything. There’s no miracle machine that will give you the 100% all clear and tell you every microscopic thing wrong with you. Accept the doctor’s opinion and accept that is the best thing you can get.
6. Accept that death is inevitable, and life is worth living. There’s no point in worrying about your health; the only thing you can do is enjoy life while you have it. Finding a spiritual guide and a belief in God is often very helpful.
Anxiety about one’s health is a very common form of anxiety that often goes undetected. Often referred to as hypochondria, health anxiety is particularly difficult because it is sometimes hard to tell if the sufferer is simply being precautious about his or her health or if the sufferer is being irrational.
A good way to differentiate someone who suffers from health anxiety from simply being precautious is that a normal person will feel reassured if the doctor tells them nothing is in fact wrong with him, whereas a sufferer of health anxiety will continue to try to figure out all of the possible maladies and illnesses he or she could possibly have.
It is very important for someone who repeatedly suffers from health anxiety to not surf the Internet too much about diseases. While a site like webmd.com may be helpful for most people, someone with health anxiety will worry incessently about all of the possible diseases he or she could have. The person will worry to the point where he or she cannot become funcitonal in day to day life.
Health anxiety can be difficult to treat. Doctors often prescribe anti-depressants, which help with the situation. The patient may eventually become ‘convinced’ that nothing is in fact wrong with them.