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Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks


            Of all of the common mental health disorders that exist, the anxiety disorder can be one of the more difficult to pin down.  Most people who have panic attacks or anxiety attacks don’t understand what is happening, or they don’t even realize that what they are experiencing is a symptom of this disorder.  This stems from the fact that there are over 100 different symptoms of anxiety.  Also, the range of an actual anxiety/panic attack is also extensive.  While I cannot go into every detail of every symptom, I will go through some of the ones which people are less familiar with as symptoms of anxiety.

            Since there are so many symptoms for this disorder it is easily misdiagnosed as depression, bi-polar, PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, hypochondria, borderline personality disorder, ADD, ADHD, alcohol withdrawal, and the list goes on.  This is because an anxiety disorder will often share many of the symptoms of these other disorders.

            Simple anxiety is easy to diagnose, there is a feeling of dread, underlying anxiety, or pounding heart.  While the first two are easy to recognize as anxiety the heart aspect has a wide range of manifestations.  Not only could your heart pound, but your chest can feel tight, and/or your heart might race.  In someone who has never experienced anxiety before, this is often mistaken for a heart attack.  We have seen this type of anxiety/panic attack appearing more often on film in the past decade.

            Beyond the heart and chest symptoms there are emotional symptoms which make this disorder difficult to diagnose.  There can be increased fear of almost everything for no reason.  I myself have had this symptom often.  I will be sitting on my couch watching television and suddenly be terrified and I don’t know why or of what.  For me this tends to trigger the heart and chest symptoms.  It becomes so difficult for me to breathe that I once had a boyfriend who thought that I really had asthma and not anxiety.

            There are also the more disturbing emotional aspects which include mood swings, irritability and even impulse aggression.  Since these are symptoms of both depression and bi-polar disorder many people are misdiagnosed with these disorders instead of anxiety.  And the emotional/brain symptoms don’t stop there.  There is giddiness, numbness, tingling, stabbing pains, disassociation, difficulty concentrating, depersonalization, short-term memory loss, brain fog, feeling ‘spaced out’, and even Déjà vu.  With this many odd symptoms no wonder it is difficult to tell what is really going on.  It is no fun to be anxious and giddy and then forget what just happened.  In fact it is down right scary.

            In addition there is dizziness, nausea, metallic taste in your mouth, insomnia, feelings trapped in your mind, obsessive thoughts, and hearing problems.  With all these symptoms how do we tell if it is something we need to get checked out or medicated for or what to do at all. 

            There are many causes for many of these symptoms.  However, if you have experienced more than one of these you may have a mild anxiety disorder.  If it is rare, then just being aware of the cause can help you move past it.  Deep breaths help in some cases, doing a few jumping jacks or some sort of simple cardio can also help.  There are a ton of simple easy ways to deal with a mild anxiety disorder.  However, if you experience these symptoms often, you might want to seek a professional to talk more in depth about what you are experiencing. 

            I have the unfortunate luck to experience all of these symptoms, and many which I have not mentioned.  I know the difficulty of dealing with these feelings on an everyday basis, and not being able to understand or explain what is happening.  My advice is to find your triggers.  What causes you stress?  It can be something trivial, and in this case it is often the most difficult to deal with.  Trying to explain why attempting a simple task can sometimes become more impossible than climbing Mount Everest.  I promise in this you are not alone.  When this happens, stop. Explain that you are anxious, and that while it doesn’t make sense to those around you, you need help with this simple task.  It can be as easy as plugging the DVD player into the TV or getting the newest version of windows to open a document. 

            While those around you may not understand at first, if you explain the situation, hopefully they will come around, if they don’t tell them to read this.  I also encourage you to do your own research into this subject on your own.  If you feel like you might have an anxiety disorder, but I did not list any of your particular symptoms there are several great websites out there which list more of these symptoms.  I am including links to these pages to make your search easier. 

Good Luck, and remember you are not alone.  In fact anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, and over 40 million adults in the United States suffer from it.

Statistics:   http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Symptoms:  http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms.shtml

Types of Anxiety:  http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types

Misdiagnosis:  http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/a/anxiety_disorders/misdiag.htm#diseases_misdiagnosed

Medical Reference:  http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/medical-reference-index


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