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Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, or worry. There are many types of anxiety disorders and people will often have symptoms of more than one.
Most people feel anxious from time-to-time. Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations. In some cases it can improve performance. For some people, however, Anxiety becomes severe or prolonged and interferes with everyday life. This is called an Anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders. Nearly one in 10 people will experience some type of anxiety disorder in any one year. Common Anxiety disorders are:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD can cause a person to be in a constant state of high Anxiety. The Anxiety is not triggered by anything specific. Those with this condition feel on edge all the time for no particular reason. GAD is often accompanied by depression. GAD is sometimes called 'free-floating' anxiety condition.
When a person has a phobia, they feel very fearful about particular objects or situations. People often have more than one phobia. Phobias are not uncommon, are twice as likely to occur in women than men and can start at any age.
Common phobias include:
• Social phobia - fear of social situations such as parties and meetings
• Agoraphobia - fear of open spaces such as parks and big shopping centres
• Claustrophobia - fear of small spaces such as lifts, aeroplanes and crowded rooms
• Zoophobia - fear of animals
• Acrophobia - fear of heights
• Mysophobia - fear of dirt and germs in places such as toilets and kitchens.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
In these cases, unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears (often called obsessions) cause anxiety. A person may feel the need to carry out certain rituals in order to feel less anxious and these are known as compulsions.
A person with OCD will feel less anxious once the compulsion is carried out. It is possible to experience obsessive thoughts only and not have the desire to carry out a compulsion. Examples of compulsions are excessive cleaning, counting, checking, measuring, and repeating tasks or actions. Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) may also be classified as an OCD. Examples of obsessions are worrying excessively about death or germs, having undesirable sexual thoughts or fearing causing harm to others.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD involves bursts of anxiety that happen after a person experiences a major emotional shock following a stressful event. PTSD can be brought on by being involved in or witnessing distressing situations such as: a major accident, natural disaster, violence and sexual, physical, emotional or verbal abuse, trauma associated with having a chronic illness (e.g. being isolated in hospital for long periods, experiencing unpleasant medical procedures) etc.
The symptoms of PTSD include:
• Flashbacks e.g. upsetting intrusive thoughts about a distressing event
• Difficulty sleeping
• Loss of interest in activities the person used to find enjoyable
• Feeling on edge/irritable
• Being very alert and easily startled
• Difficulty concentrating
• Finding it hard to remember parts of the traumatic event.
This Anxiety disorder causes a person to live in "fear of fear". This causes panic attacks - a sudden sense of anxiety that occurs without warning and with no apparent trigger. The symptoms of the Anxiety can be very severe and may feel like a wave of panic. Panic attacks usually last five to 10 minutes but they can last longer.
Panic attacks produce very real physical symptoms from a rapid increase in heartbeat to a churning stomach sensation. These physical symptoms are naturally unpleasant and the accompanying psychological thoughts of terror can make a panic attack a very scary experience.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Anxiety can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms include; abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, tightness or pain in chest, shortness of breath, dizziness, frequent urination, difficulty swallowing and shaking.
Psychological symptoms can include; insomnia, feeling worried or uneasy all the time, feeling tired, being irritable or quick to anger, an inability to concentrate, a fear that you are going "mad", feeling unreal and not in control of your actions (depersonalisation), or detached from your surroundings (derealisation).
Severe Anxiety disorders can cause considerable suffering. Consult your Doctor, who may refer you to a specialist such as a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, Behavioural Therapist or Counsellor. Some approaches to relieving Anxiety include:
• Counselling. Counselling and behaviour therapy can help people understand the reasons behind the Anxiety and develop techniques to manage it.
• Medication. Medications should not be considered a cure on their own, but are used to relieve anxiety so that the person can concentrate on counselling and behaviour therapy.
• Decrease caffeine intake. Have no more than 3-4 caffeinated drinks per day. Try water, fruit juice and herbal or decaffeinated tea and coffee instead.
• Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1-2 standard drinks per day.
• Eat plenty of foods high in B vitamins. These include, eggs, brewers' yeast, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and wheat germ.
These supplements may only be beneficial if the dietary intake is inadequate. Consult your Doctor before commencing supplements, as many have adverse interactions with other medications.
• Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) may be beneficial in treating stress and anxiety.
• St. John's Wort may be of benefit in treating Anxiety associated with mild to moderate depression. If you are taking any medication for depression or anxiety, consult your Pharmacist before taking St. John's Wort.
• Valerian is a strong nerve relaxer and can be especially helpful for insomnia caused by anxiety.
• Chamomile may be beneficial in as it is a good nerve relaxer.
Certain essential oils are suggested for the relief of Anxiety. The most specific oils are shown in capitals. These include
Basil, BERGAMOT, BLUE CHAMOMILE, CEDARWOOD, CHAMOMILE, CLARY SAGE, FRANKINCENSE, Geranium, LAVENDER, MELISSA, NEROLI, Orange, Rose, Rosewood, and YLANG YLANG.
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Your Pharmacist can help if you have queries about any medication you are taking.
2. Addiction to smoking is related to an increase in anxiety levels in a significant number of people. Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice about quitting smoking.
3. Stress management programs may help. Ask your Pharmacist for a recommendation.
4. Caffeine may interact with some anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Check with your Pharmacist.
5. Follow the Diet Hints and consider some nutritional supplements if the diet is inadequate.