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Dealing With Anxiety Disorder

Stress

Dealing With Anxiety Disorder

And How Therapy Helped Me Overcome It?
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This morning I was all smiles when I reached office. I could not wait to meet my colleague. When I finally made it to my workstation, I plopped my bag on the chair, turned towards my colleague, hugged her and said “Thank you so much for sharing this article, it helped me for the better.”

3 days ago…

I had been restless and angry for no apparent reason. I sighed after every 5 minutes and then would burst out crying. People were trying to calm me down, but it only made me angrier.

No, I did not need someone to tame me like the shrew nor did I need any advice. I just needed to remain quiet; I just needed someone to understand me.

If you’re wondering what I am talking about, I would like to confess that I have had anxiety disorder for quite some time.

Below I describe how I have learned to deal with my anxiety and overcome it.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

It is a medical condition that arises out of growing stress, tension, worry and panic. It can include panic attack, social anxiety disorder to specific phobias (such as fear from heights or flying), etc.

What triggered it?

When I think back now, I can relate my present condition to my childhood. My anxiousness as a child was minimal, but as I grew up and as my family kept pressurizing me to be the best in everything, my anxiety grew within me.

The worst scenario for me until I was 11, was being bullied in school [1] every day for 6 years in a row. No one listened – neither my parents nor teachers.

I recall having terrible mood swings when I was 12 years old. One minute I was exhilarated and the other minute I would be in tears. Sometimes I was graceful and generous and after a while, I would become a selfish, jealous girl who would throw a tantrum to get her way. My parents thought I was a spoilt brat being the youngest in the family.

My parents punished me for my behavior very often and I remember no one asked me why I would act in such a manner. I was always worried about exams and feared of people judging me. Being too shy, I never made any friends. And I hated crowds.

I never knew about my condition. I actually never knew that children could have anxiety attacks too!

What anxiety did to me?

We all experience different levels of anxiousness. Some of us might experience it normally, which happens because of what we normally do every day. Others, like me, experience it at a much severe level. It is also possible that one person can have more than one anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorder which I have been going through, is termed as the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).[2] The other types under this umbrella are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Specific Phobias, and Social Anxiety Disorder.
18% of Americans are struggling with overwhelming anxiety and panic![3]. While I was dealing with my problem, I also realized that we could eliminate these two (anxiety and panic) if we know EXACTLY what to do about them and this is what I’ll be talking about later in this article.

But first, what we all must understand is that our anxiety is nothing but a behavioral problem and that we can easily correct it with the right strategy.

It is not a mental illness! (though it can grow into one)

As someone with anxiety disorder, I mostly went through depression, addiction, failed relationships, eating disorders, obsessive disorders, process addictions, personality issues, low functionality, and concentration issues. I always reinforced the feeling that I was worthless especially when my disorder impaired me.

And the reason why my disorder impaired me is, because I never realized that I had it.

It was only until a year back that I did.

This ignorance towards my abnormal behavior also brought up a number of health issues for me.

What happened in my case was that out of anxiety I made up a few health issues in my mind like physical pain and cough, when I was not actually ill. Hence, doctors could never find any cause of my ailments. However, I was adamant on my belief that I was sick.

I read it somewhere about the power of human mind that if you make-believe yourself in a certain condition, it can manifest in your life for real too.

Anxiety attacks came and went. It didn’t take very long when they started affecting my health for real. I developed breathing problem like bronchitis. After a while I also developed ear, nose, and throat allergies, and my memory started failing me. I lost weight as fast as I had gained it and chest pains became frequent.

Like many others, I lived most years of my life, oblivious of the fact that I suffered from anxiety. But it is always best to acknowledge the fact that you are anxious if you have had any of the symptoms I had since my early years as I mentioned above.

Anxiety might not be a mental illness at first but if left unacknowledged for long, it can lead to severe conditions such as schizophrenia.[4]

How I dealt with anxiety

Where I stand today, a year later, I have learned to deal with my disorder. Dealing with anxiety is never an easy task; however, it also is not impossible.

There were times in the past when I had a gut wrenching, nauseous, feeling which would hit me all of a sudden. The best way to cope with it was to sleep. However, sleep did not come easy either and I started taking anti- depressants. They gave me momentary peace but once the effect wore out, I was the same again. Therefore, I doubled my dose.

Boy was I in a soup then! The meds kicked in so hard once that I slept for two days straight and when I woke, I had lost memory of everything I had done one day before the meds. Worst-case scenario – I could have died!

I realized then that medicines were not the answer and never will be. So how did I deal with it? I ditched pills forever and adopted simple day-to-day strategies:

Do what you love

What is it that you love? Do you love to dance? Do you have a passion for art but have not tried your hand in a while? Do you love fishing? Do whatever you love to – just not when the anxiety sets in. Do it on a regular basis.

First, this will bring you joy, and second, it will divert your mind from anything negative every day.

Work it out

Exercise, Yoga or meditation – it is your call what you want. For me, I preferred joining swimming classes. Water in itself is a very soothing element and it helps me relax my muscles and concentrate deeper into my inner self. I just make sure not to over workout and stress myself.

Read: No Stress Reliever Like Yoga – Interview With Stephanie Mansour

Write a journal and seek a therapist

Journaling is a good way of keeping track of one’s thoughts. I was always fond of writing and have always kept a diary. However, this time, when I met my therapist she made it an interesting experience for me. My therapist from BetterHelp advised me to write down all my worries and problems on a sheet of paper and to feel any emotions I had when I did so. After I had done that, she then asked me to tear off the paper and throw it in the dustbin.

To my utter disbelief, it felt good. I felt a burden lift off my chest.

Watch what you eat

Keep a watch on the foods that you eat.[5] Being anxious somehow gives us the license to go ahead and consume alcohol or become a chain smoker. It happened with me too. I did find some relief but it lasted only a few moments.

Are you aware that the coffee, tea and other aerated drinks you take for easing stress can actually heighten the aftereffects of anxiety instead of relaxing it? These drinks contain neuro stimulators and theobromine which increases stress and causes insomnia.

I would also say the same is true for junk foods too as they contain high protein, fats and carbohydrate levels. A balanced diet with the right amount of these components is healthy and also keeps our minds focused.

Take a break

A calm environment always creates a calm person. No fun, however, creates a dull mind.

Our stressful behaviour can heighten due to the amount of pressure we face each day. So what do we need to calm ourselves? We need a break. Most of us refuse to go out and be with friends because we are too tired. Sometimes it’s okay to relax in the serenity of your home. However, being in the company of your friends will always cheer you up.

So, put on whatever gear you have, dazzle up for the night, drive towards the horizon – Do anything. Just take a break, darling!

Dealing with children

According to Dr. Tracy Thomas, Ph. D, Licensed Psychologist/Certified Coach, San Francisco, dealing with children suffering from childhood anxiety disorder involves a lot of understanding.

“Children need adults to help them not scare themselves. They need adults to help them from the fear they are in at that moment. Adults should not judge or react negatively towards children when they have the attacks. The biggest step is to look at our own anxiety level and use all techniques on ourselves.

Our child is anxious typically because of the anxiety in the atmosphere. I always makes sure to work with the family primarily if ever I come across an anxious child.”

~ Dr.Tracy Thomas

If a child is stammering, staggering, or even recoiling [6] into a corner when there is a crowd around him, it might be a sign of anxiousness budding in the young mind. This is the stage where it needs to be nipped before the matter becomes serious and follows your child to his later years.

I am anxious and I want you to deal me right!

Don’t ask me to calm down – I wish I could

Most of the times when I get anxious I have people around me and they, out their love and care for me, ask me to relax, breathe deeply, or sit.

Do you know what that does to us anxious people?

No disrespect but it triggers our nerves. When someone tells me to calm down it has the opposite effect.

An article on Huffington Postsuggests that a better way to deal with people going through anxiety attacks is to ask them what is it that is making them feel that way. People with anxiety can be made to feel much better when they are allowed to voice out their source of anxiety.

I need you to respect my fears

As children we all have had a fear which has accompanied us till we became adults. I have a fear of balloons and anything that can create a banging sound. For my friends it is fun to tease me whenever a birthday comes up. But believe me, it is not.

I need you to understand that my fears are not irrelevant, and if I need to get over it I will do so in my own time. You forcing me to do so only feeds my anxiousness. You are only making things worse for me.

Please do not judge me

Whenever I have had an anxiety attack and tried to talk to people, all I have received is judgements like “Why can’t you be strong?,” “Don’t you trust yourself?,” “Stop being selfish and think about your loved ones.”

Well I would like you to know that I wish I could think at that moment. But I can’t. That is why I need you to listen and not stop me in the midst of a conversation. The biggest favor you could do to me or any other anxious person would be to not offer to listen if you do not have the patience to.

I am anxious, not crazy

There have been instances where I have seen people go through severe anxiety attacks than me. People never understand, they never do and at the end we are called names like psychos, crazy-heads, insensitive, etc etc.

Here I would like to tell you all “normal” bunch of people that this feeling is not our choice. We did not ask for it and we would like you to respect our emotions. Calling us names pushes us farther into the dark where we do not belong.

Closing thoughts

We are all part of the humdrum that life offers us everyday. Just because we are not one of the anxious people out there today who need help, it does not give us the right to ignore them. People who suffer from anxiety need a lot of love and understanding, more than we know.

Please do not feel scared to hold our hands and walk with us. We are scared. We need you to help us release our fears. We want to live and feel free too. Help us make this world an anxiety free place. Begin by understanding us.

More on Stress and Anxiety

  1.  Why Organizations Should Invest In Yoga For Employees [Infographic]
  2. Choose Peace – Facts On Mental Health
  3. Restorative Yoga -The Yoga Of Relaxation

References

[1] Craig, W. (1998). The relationship among bullying, victimization, depression, anxiety, and aggression in elementary school children Personality and Individual Differences, 24 (1), 123-130 DOI: 10.1016/S0191-8869(97)00145-1. ^Back to Top^
[2] Gliatto MF (2000). Generalized anxiety disorder. American family physician, 62 (7) PMID: 11037076. ^Back to Top^
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Facts and statistics. ^Back to Top^
[4] Weller, M., & Wright, S. (1996). Anxiety and schizophrenia Schizophrenia Research, 18 (2-3), 123-124 DOI: 10.1016/0920-9964(96)85418-1. ^Back to Top^
[5] Smith, W., Powell, E., & Ross, S. (1955). MANIFEST ANXIETY AND FOOD AVERSIONS. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 50 (1), 101-104 DOI: 10.1037/h0049253. ^Back to Top^
[6] Craig, A. (2006). Fear of speaking: chronic anxiety and stammering Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 12 (1), 63-68 DOI: 10.1192/apt.12.1.63. ^Back to Top^

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