Learning About Anxiety
To overcome anxiety, you must learn what it is and learn that it is not harmful. Most anxiety disorders develop because you begin to fear the feelings and thoughts associated with anxiety. Basically, a fear of fear. This can result in a perpetual cycle of panic attack after panic attack, or days full of unease and unhappiness.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body's reaction to stress that is created either internally or externally, real or imagined.
As you've probably read, anxiety is a purposeful, normal part of life. You can tell when anxiety is normal. In an odd way it can feel good. The nervous excitement of going up a hill on a rollercoaster, the pounding in your chest before a first kiss, or the adrenaline rush before a big race. These are examples of anxiety and stress. These feelings can be completely unpleasant, but at the same time, in a way, they make you feel very alive.
When anxiety isn't normal anymore is when it seems to come from nowhere and consume your life. Instead of it making you feel alive, it will leave you feeling crippled and stuck in a reality that is inside your head.
When a person has panic disorder, several symptoms can come on suddenly, in a terrifying burst of intense physical discomfort and pyschological fear. A person may feel as if they will die or go crazy during a panic attack. Panic attacks are often said to come out of the blue, but when most sufferers are asked to monitor their thoughts in the previous hours before an attack, they will agree that worrying and negative thinking preceded the panic. Often after an attack, exhaustion and fatigue are experienced due to the massive mental and physical stress of panic.
Panic disorder often develops because of a fear of physical symptoms. I have known people who have had panic attacks but never developed panic disorder because they did not obsessively fear more attacks. While they were scared over the initial symptoms, and even had a few more attacks, they did not become preoccupied with fearing the attacks.
On the other hand, a panic attack can be so scary and occur so often, that fearing the symptoms of an attack can be consuming. It is then that a few attacks become a disorder because the person spends almost every waking moment in fear of their emotions and physical symptoms. Since fear brings on panic attacks, an endless cycle of fear, panic attack, and more fear can occur. Once a person can get past the fear of experiencing a panic attack, they are less sever and occur less often.
After this cycle is broken, a person with panic disorder will need to work on their thought and worry patterns, since these two things are usually what brought the inital attack on in the first place.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety is different from panic attacks because it seems to be always present. Generalized anxiety sufferers can experience the same symptoms as a sufferer with panic attacks, but usually there are less symptoms at a time and the feelings do not come on suddenly but rather seem like they are always there. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule, as generalized anxiety sufferers may have a plethora of symptoms at one time and rather than having a single distinct timeframe in which symptoms culminate, they may experience waves of increasing and decreasing distress.
Usually the scariest symptom that a person with generalized anxiety experiences is a feeling of "unreality". This feeling can be described as being "out of it", "floating", or "like watching yourself in a movie". Some psychologists say that this state is the body's way of protecting the mind from a sort of stress overload, and it is not suspected to be harmful. People with panic disorder can feel this symptoms as well.
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