Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and it serves as useful protective function. For example, our heart rate goes up when we meet a robber on the streets. Our muscles tense up, and we breathe harder and perspire more. This is the body’s way of preparing us for fight or flight. Anxiety disorder occurs when a person’s reaction to stress is disproportionate to the threat on hand, and prolongs even when the stress factor has been neutralised. This results in significant distress that impairs how a person handles social interactions; leading them to become a recluse and avoid society.
There are different kinds of anxiety disorders. Here are some of them:
- Panic Attacks: Sudden onset of severe fear or discomfort in which the patient feels his / her heart racing and pounding, starts sweating and even fainting.
- Specific phobias such as fear of heights or flying on a plane may trigger panic attacks in some people. Some fears may lead to panic attacks more than others, such as a nomophobia (fear of being without a mobile phone) as compared to agoraphobia (fear of enclosed or open spaces).
- Generalised anxiety happens when a person displays excessive and difficulties in controlling anxieties, and worry over many things happening in their lives.
What are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?
- Dizziness / light headedness
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heart beat
- Choking sensation
- Chest discomfort
- Vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Excessive and unnecessary worries
- Sleep disorders (eg. insomnia)
- Feeling irritable
- Sexual dysfunction
- Poor concentration, tiredness or restlessness
What can we do if we encounter a person who displays severe anxiety symptoms?
- Persuade him / her to sit down.
- Stand or sit in front of the person and ask him / her to look into your eyes.
- Ask the person in a calm voice to concentrate on his / her breathing. Demonstrate how this is done by taking a deep breath and holding it for a short while before breathing out. Ask them to follow after you.
- Repeat the above three steps until they have successfully calmed down.
- Advise them to see their family doctor for further management of their anxieties
This is one condition that can be managed by family practitioners. Your doctors can be the frontline assessors to adult patients, and also help manage this condition with either medicine or counselling therapy, or a combination of both. Doctors may refer them to a specialist when they are unable to manage their condition.
What are the symptoms of depression?
- Sleep and / or appetite changes: dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care.
- Mood changes: rapid changes in one’s mood (eg. a happy person suddenly feels sad / apathetic without notice).
- Withdrawal: person seems to not want to mix socially. Prefers to be alone, and stops all his / her favourite hobbies and pastimes.
- Drop in performance at work, school or sports (below par from their usual standards).
- Poor concentration or memory loss.
- Increased sensitivity: feels agitated, restless or sometimes displays violent tendencies.
- Loss of self-worth: feelings of guilt. Harshly criticising oneself for matters not caused by themselves.
- Feeling helpless and hopelessness: thoughts that nothing will get better and can be done to improve a situation.
- Suicidal thoughts.
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(Source: Raffles Medical Group – Health News)