When does an everyday anxiety or stress becomes anxiety disorder?
Symptoms of anxiety are more prevalent than the common cold. Every one has experienced a knot in the stomach, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, worrying, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, a dry mouth, difficulty sleeping or restlessness at some point in their life. Living in metropolitan city, we live wired in high stress situations and often find ourselves strung up or easily fatigued. How many of us find bodily aches and pains, sleepless nights a common phenomenon and run to the chemist or a spa to distress ourselves? These feelings and symptoms are ubiquitous. But, how does one know when these symptoms are an anticipated, reasonable reaction to endless gridlock, long commutes and the pervasive work holism that is endemic to the greater metropolitan area? Or, how does one know when they are indicative of a more significant problem? Is this temporary patch work kind of a phenomenon enough? One has to determine whether this is temporary or a regular phenomenon and then look into treatment options.
Everyone experiences anxiety. In small amounts it can be useful. That is, it can serve as a warning signal that something isn't quite right.
Take a classic example, undoubtedly familiar to anyone who has been a student. You're in college, the term is nearing its end. Finals are on the horizon. You're behind in your reading and you're behind in your studying. Your heart starts to palpitate. You experience feelings of impending doom. You imagine what it would be like to fail your courses. You become worried. And, you are compelled to take action. You hit the books and you study. You pass your finals with flying colors. In this case, your anxiety served a productive, advisory role. In a sense your anxiety was adaptive. It signaled to you that trouble was imminent and it prompted you to take effective action. It helped you to function and to meet the demands of your every day life. A little bit of anxiety can be motivating. It can help us to go to work when we'd rather play, to clean when we'd rather relax and to carry out the responsibilities of our every day lives. But, how do we know when we have crossed the fine line between everyday anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder?
When Everyday Anxiety becomes "Disorder"
This is an important question, many people worry that they may be depressed but anxiety is actually a far more prevalent psychological concern. Anxiety, unchecked, can lead to significant health and mental health difficulties. It is important to know when everyday anxiety crosses the threshold and becomes "anxiety disorder". The good news: it is also the most treatable. We should become concerned when anxiety begins to persistently interfere with our capacity to function effectively in our everyday lives.
For example, Lets take an example of an executive in a MNC who gets anxious before his presentation. He gets so worried that he has sleepless nights imagining what if he fumbles. Even when he does sleep his sleep isn’t rested and wakes up feeling tired. He doesn’t seem to arrive at any conclusion but keeps replaying the possible scenarios over and over again. His body hurts and he finds himself getting extremely irritated on small issues. There is a general sense that one more thing and that he will snap. This seems to be a recurrent phenomenon, not restricted to performances anymore. He finds himself unable to pay attention at the meetings and seems disoriented, forgetting things generally. While this type of experience is fairly common, if it is recurrent, it is evidence of maladaptive anxiety. That is, the anxiety is getting in the way of the individual's ability to function effectively in the workplace. Similarly, we should become concerned when anxiety interferes with our establishing and maintaining the kinds of personal relationships that we seek.
For example, let's take the woman who would like to date and marry but finds rather than enjoying dating -- she worries throughout the entire dating experience. Will he call? Won't he call? What does it mean that he doesn't call? What does it mean that he asks her out at the "last minute"? Why has he not invited her home? Will it last? Won't it last? She calls her friends, seeking advice, but doesn’t find it reassuring. If they agree with her, she wants to disconnect. If they recheck on the basis of her worries she gets irritated. Instead of relaxing and having fun, she finds that she can't enjoy herself. Anxiety that interferes with our ability to have gratifying professional or personal lives warrants evaluation.
Evaluation and Treatment
How does one go about seeking evaluation and treatment and what sorts of treatments are effective? Research has demonstrated that many types of treatment are effective in alleviating anxiety disorders. How one goes about seeking treatment reflects ones personal goals. Some approaches focus primarily on helping the individual to achieve symptom relief. For example, psychiatric medication can be helpful in helping the individual to calm down and not be so reactive to the stressors in her life. Psychodynamic approaches work by helping the individual to deepen their understanding of what is making them so anxious. Individuals are encouraged to talk freely about themselves and their lives with the idea that they may come to understand and overcome their inner conflicts.
For example, the woman who is anxious about dating may be very frightened for many reasons. She could be frightened of intimacy. A psychodynamic psychotherapy will help her to learn more about why she is so frightened of intimacy with the hope that as she deepens her self-understanding, she will become less frightened and more open to entering into a loving relationship. The idea is that if the anxiety can be fully understood and resolved, it is less likely to return.
Research shows that both of these approaches, and combination of them, can be extremely helpful in treating anxiety disorder. One works to give immediate relief and the latter to ensure that the problem or similar such issues are effectively dealt with permanently by the individual. The key is to seek early evaluation with a qualified mental health professional.
Does your anxiety require a professional evaluation?
Answer true or false to the following questions and find out.
For at least the last couple of weeks:
1. I have been excessively worried. I worry excessively about things.
2. I have difficulty settling down and working on a task.
3. I have difficulty concentrating.
4. Most nights, I have difficulty falling asleep or my sleep is fitful and restless. I wake up feeling tired and unrested.
5. My hands are sweaty and damp and often have palpitations.
6. I am irritable, often.
7. I am easily fatigued.
8. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to do my job as well as I should.
9. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to have the kind of relationships that I seek.
10. I experience a lot of muscle tension and body aches and pains.
If you have any of these symptoms persistently, you should seriously consider a psychological help.