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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Anxiety

Here's a whistle-stop tour of anxiety from my point of view, that view being the driving seat (as opposed to the passenger seat or back seat - i.e. doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists etc.).

Anxiety can be defined as an overwhelming feeling of worry, fear, paranoia and stress. Everyone will experience some anxiety at some point in their lives, but the anxiety I refer to is much more serious than just getting stressed every now and then. I will describe the actual feeling of an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms


Mental:

  • constant worry and fear for no obvious reason
  • trouble concentrating - making it through a normal length television show is even a challenge
  •  feeling on edge, tense and alert, like you need to be ready because something bad is about to happen
  • irritable - everything can get on your nerves: people, things not going the way you want to, etc.
  • restless - you can't sit still and often will have a nervous tremor. I find I have the shakes a lot or I tap my foot incessantly without realising
  • nightmares
  • a feeling of being trapped
  • mind blanks - my mind goes blank mid-sentence and I completely forget what I was saying. I also experience some memory loss, for example I can struggle to remember what happened yesterday or last week.
  • need for constant reassurance and being dependant on others - it's easy to become to reliant on friends because you can't deal with things on your own. I find that I latch onto someone very easily and change my dependence to other people very easily, like a child would when looking for parental figures.
  • obsession with trivial things, such as feelings and emotions
  • hypochondria - feeling that your symptoms mean you have a serious health problem
  • feeling that people do not like you or want you around
  • guilt for feeling the way you do, leading to crazy arguments with yourself for a) having a problem b) feeling guilty about said problem and c) telling yourself off for blaming yourself for the problem
  • easily startled or surprised because you are always on edge so the smallest thing can send you into shock and a panic attack

Physical:

  • increased heart rate - my chest feels tight and I am constantly aware of my pulse rate. I worry that it's too fast, which makes me more nervous and exacerbates the problem
  • faster breathing because you feel like you can't breathe
  • slow immune system - because your body is in 'fight or flight' mode, your immune system does not have priority meaning you get ill much more easily
  • slow digestive system - the same as above. I have irritable bowel syndrome, which is most likely because my body has it's focus elsewhere
  • tensed muscles - blood flow to major muscle groups is increased making them tense because your body thinks it needs to be prepared
  • frequent headaches because of increased blood pressure and excess adrenaline
  • recurrent nausea, again because of the body's response to your anxiety
  • pallor - skin goes pale which makes me look ill and generally unhealthy all the time. This is at it's worst when I have a panic attack.
  • trembling or shaking because of high blood pressure and adrenaline. This makes simple tasks like writing very challenging.
  • sweating because the body is preparing to deal with a threat
  • fatigue from not sleeping/sleeping too much/never sleeping deeply - the feeling of exhaustion is horrific, because you  desperately want to rest but you can't.
  • mydriasis - pupil dilation, which makes you feel dizzy and like you can't see properly


I have described the feeling of true anxiety as best I can here and I cannot stress enough how awful it really feels. I will usually be experiencing a lot of these symptoms at one time and when things are really bad, it is likely that I will experience all of them.
I find it interesting that anxiety can be so physical, as it is a mental illness. There is a lot of preconception and misjudgement of mental illnesses and I hope by describing mine in detail here that you will begin to truly understand what it is like from the point of view of us, the people who suffer from such things, and not from the medical or psychological side.

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