Anxiety disorder is a condition that puts a person in a constant state of alertness and fear. Anxiety is otherwise a normal reaction to stress that people commonly experience at various points in their lives. Generally speaking, anxiety helps people to cope with difficult situations until they are resolved (tense situations at work, harder studying for an exam, focusing on an important speech…).
However, for about one in every twelve people anxiety is so persistent and severe that it creates serious problems. Anxious feelings may be so uncomfortable that result in avoiding everyday activities and can escalate into anxiety and panic disorders such as panic attacks.
Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear or anxiety that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. They are far more intense than just having a feeling of being stressed out which most people experience. Panic attack happens suddenly and can be particularly debilitating because they can occur at any time, even during sleep. Many people (about one-third) who suffer from panic disorder often become agoraphobic.
Agoraphobia is the abnormal fear of being in a situation where one might experience anxiety or panic attack. People suffering from agoraphobia may experience severe panic attacks in situations where they feel trapped, out of control, or too far from their personal comfort zone or an area where they have control of their environment. Agoraphobia is a debilitating condition that can bring fear, shame and isolation to those who suffer from it.
Symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks?
Anxiety panic attacks are characterized by development of several symptoms which may include:
- pounding heart, increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- chest pain (you feel like having a heart attack)
- sweating, chills, or hot flushes
- shaking and trembling
- stomach cramps
- muscle aches and pains
- dizziness (feel lightheaded and unstable)
- fear of losing control, paranoia
- fear of dying
- a sense of suffocation
- derealisation (distorted sense of reality)
- depersonalisation (feeling disconnected from your body, like you are in a dream)
Beyond these symptoms, a key symptom is also the persistent fear of having future panic attacks.
Panic attacks are usually brief, lasting less than ten minutes. Although the exact causes of these disorders are not fully known, studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved. In many people, the symptoms develop in association with major life changes (like getting married, having a child, starting a new job, etc.) and major lifestyle stressors.
Why so many people today suffer from anxiety and panic attacks is also partially due to our high-stress modern society.