Some people think anxiety is a casual word and so they can use it anytime in their sentences. I remember the day I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. It felt weird to know I had a disorder that people thought was normal.
It was a Friday afternoon, my mom picked me up at school because I needed to see the doctor. To be sincere, I didn’t know why I was going to see the Doctor, because I felt I was normal, physically. The journey to the clinic was filled with silence and nonverbal communication between my mom and me. She would look at me, and smile in a way that passes “you are going to be just fine“. Then she will stare at me and look sad and it read “I am so scared, I don’t want to lose you“. My part of nonverbal communication only returned the same energy.
Before the first appointment with the Doctor, I had always had panic attacks when I met a total stranger or when I am in a large gathering. It was so serious to the extent that I tend to avoid going out, meeting people and attending social gatherings except for Church and School because I had to. However, I will avoid any conversation with anyone in those settings. I was usually in a world of my own in class and at church. I was only cool with close families and friends. I wouldn’t look my neighbours or distant relatives in the eye. I will always pretend to sleep anytime a visitor was around, most crazy one is, that I will intentionally write my tests to get average scores because I didn’t want to be noticed. You can figure out I am pretty smart.
One time, I had to go home from school alone. My heart was racing as I approached the bus stop; I couldn’t stand the crowd at the bus stop alone. I was trembling and my palms were becoming sweaty, I was tearing up and I just wanted to avoid the crowd. It was a crazy one that day. I remember I had to run back to school which was quite a distance from the bus stop. I couldn’t stand it. This is one of the moments I remember vividly because I intentionally repress my feelings.
On getting to the clinic, I figured out I was referred to a psychiatrist by my mom’s friend, she is a nurse. The clinic was calm and I wasn’t the only one on appointment that day. It was meant for children and adolescents and I remember seeing children looking physically alright, at the reception. I almost had an attack at the clinic when my mom was asked to register and I was left alone to sit with strangers. I was restless and sweaty my heart was racing and I passed out.
Suddenly, I heard my mom’s voice and I opened my eyes, and I found myself lying on a bed in a room that looks like a side room for patients. A Psychiatrist, a nurse, and my mom were sitting right in front of me when I opened my eyes. At that time I knew something was wrong with me. The psychiatrist interviewed me and my mom and I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are classified as minor mental illnesses that are characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and they involve excessive fear or anxiety.
- Anxiety disorders occur when it interferes with your ability to function and when you most times overreact when something triggers your emotions or when you can’t regulate your responses to situations or crises.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events – Anxiety and Depression Association of America ( ADAA).
Anxiety disorders are mainly caused by several factors which include:
- Genetics- can be hereditary.
- Biological factors; drug misuse or drug withdrawal, brain chemistry imbalance.
- Environmental factors – low socioeconomic status, child abuse or neglect
- Emotional factors may come as traumatic events like a failure in exams or at work projects, terminal illnesses, or the loss of a loved one.
- Mal adjustment to stressful life situations – assuming a new role at a workplace, disruption in school activities, caregiving roles.
According to ADAA, Women are twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder partly due to estrogen and progesterone hormones.
The signs and symptoms a person with an anxiety disorder may have include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Not being able to stay calm
- Low self-esteem
- Interpersonal difficulties e.g dependency
- Tense muscles
- Inability to concentrate
- Intentionally avoiding feared objects or places.
Some people with an anxiety disorder also have a co-occurring disorder or physical illness, which can make their symptoms worse and recovery more difficult – ADAA
There are several classifications of anxiety disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
The Classifications include:
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Selective Mutism.
- Specific Phobia.
- Social anxiety disorder.
- Panic disorder.
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Substance / Medication-induced anxiety disorder.
- Anxiety disorder due to other medical conditions.
One good thing about anxiety disorders is that they are treatable and can be managed. The treatment regimen varies based on the individual and type of anxiety disorder.
If you know anyone that exhibits the symptoms of anxiety disorder, be nice and advise such person to visit a doctor.
It can be challenging living with an anxiety disorder as fear, panic, and worrying are unavoidable. Hence, it is good to seek support, avoid dwelling on negative thoughts, stick to a treatment plan that works for you, be positive-minded and take out time to talk about your fears and worries.
- Psychotherapy – individual and group psychotherapy.
- Medications- antidepressants, anxiolytics, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors ( SSRIs).
- Supportive therapy.
- Lifestyle modification – healthy eating habits and avoiding taking alcohol and other caffeine products, meditations etc.
As a survivor of anxiety disorder, the best treatment plan I had was psychotherapy and support from my family. I am not ashamed to talk about mental illness because mental illnesses are like every other illness and they can be treated.
#SafeBodaJames #PositiveMentalHealth #MyAnxietyStory😎