What’s going to happen? What if something bad happens? What if it doesn’t work out? These are questions that are constantly brewing in someone’s head who is affected by anxiety. Anxiety is the most common type of mental disorder (Duyne 54). Signs of anxiety have been exposed since the beginning of time and have been interrupting lives ever since. Not only is it a mental disease, It can also cause various physical sensations to your body that can make life very difficult.
Without proper treatment, an individual affected by anxiety will continuously experience suffering and pain throughout their entire lifetime.
Anxiety disorders were discovered by the Greeks as early as the fifth century B.C. They believed that the mental disease could be described by the laws of science. Explanations based on science are called naturalistic. During this time, some religious and supernatural explanations were created to describe these mental conditions. Supernatural explanations proved that people affected by mental illnesses were possessed by evil spirits, demons, or witchcraft (Duyne 73).
One Greek physician who gave a theory on these mental illnesses was Hippocrates. Hippocrates was born in Kos, Greece and lived from 460-377 B.C. He was named the father of medicine. He believed that the body contained four fluids: black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm (Duyne 83). He thought that mental disorders were caused by an imbalance of these fluids in the body. Due to this theory, the disease was cured by draining the excessive fluid from the body.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for example, was thought to be a type of depression. During this time, depression was said to be caused by too much black bile in the body. All types of depression were treated with laxatives because of this. This treatment was used until about the 1700s. In the following centuries, it was discovered and seen that mental illnesses are caused by an imbalance in the brain and the nervous system. Psychotherapy, the process of a patient and doctor talking to each other, was introduced in the 1800s. Another influential person in the study of mental disorders is Sigmund Freud. He is a Viennese psychiatrist who lived from 1856 to 1939. He took over research of mental illness in the twentieth century. He stated that the illnesses were caused by unresolved conflicts deep in the mind (Duyne 75).
Everyone will experience some form of anxiety during their lifetime. It affects everyone differently. About seven percent of the population is affected by some form of anxiety disorder (Hyman and Pedrick 13). Some forms of anxiety can positively affect someone. These forms can cause a person to become more aware of their surroundings and more prepared for the situation before them. When an organism feels danger, its senses send signals to two different parts of the brain. One signal goes to the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain. Before the cerebral cortex can translate the signal, the other one is sent to a group of cells in the brain called the amygdala. This part of the brain produces the fear response. Before your body deals with the situation, the body preforms a process called the fight or flight response. This process causes hormones to be released into the body. One of these hormones is adrenaline which rushes from the adrenal glands and gives us energy. This adrenaline rush causes the heart to pump faster and the lungs to work harder. This entire process validates us being prepares to fight or flee.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders that someone could be affected by. People of different ages, races, and genders can all obtain an anxiety disorder. The main contributing factors of having a disorder are genetics and stress. Having a stressful life experience can also leave a person with anxiety for the rest of their life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) causes the person affected to relive past terrors and to feel emotionally numb and on edge. The most common type of anxiety disorder is Social Phobia. It is developed by 13 percent of people in their lifetime. This disorder is most common during teenage years. People with this disorder are terrified of being embarrassed in social situations. They fear that their peers will find them stupid or crazy. Another common anxiety disorder is Panic Disorder. It is a rather common issue and it affects about one out of twenty people (Hyman and Pedrick 18). Panic disorder is composed by two factors. The first factor is an intense sensation of fear which is the actual panic attack.
Panic attacks cause many different physical symptoms which are different for everyone. Some of these symptoms include: heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and nausea. Panic attacks cause a person to feel as if they are going crazy or dying. The second factor that panic disorder is composed of is an ongoing fear of having another panic attack. A person may be diagnosed with panic disorder if they have several panic attacks and have a significant change in behavior after the panic attack. Panic attacks are common among all anxiety disorders but what sets panic disorder apart is that panic attacks are unexpected and occur ‘out of the blue’ without an obvious trigger (American Psychiatric Association). Most people experience their first panic attack in their twenties. Few occur before age 16 or after age 45. The number of women who are affected by panic disorder outnumbers men by the ratio 2 to 1. Some people are affected by specific phobias. They have an excessive fear of one particular object or situation. Some common phobias include fears of: snakes, dogs, cats, blood, heights, and needles. About 11 percent of people have a phobia. Along with other anxiety disorders, specific phobias appear to run in families. A young child can develop a phobia by observing a parent with the same fear. Phobias can also be developed following an accident, illness, or disaster.
There are many different treatment options available for those with mental disorders. The first step in receiving a diagnosis is seeing a medical specialist. People with anxiety disorders have an imbalance of chemicals in their brain and this can be corrected by the use of medications (Ogbonmwan,). Antidepressants, which are a group of medications used to treat depression, have been found to be very effective with treating anxiety as well. In particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIS) are the most common antidepressants used to treat anxiety. Some common SSRIS include escitalopram and paroxetine. Some other drugs used to treat anxiety include: Buspirone, Benzodiazepines, and Beta Blockers. There are other anxiety treatments that do not involve drug usage. Meditation and yoga are both mind and body practices used clear your mind and calm your body. Sometimes anxiety is unavoidable but most likely there are precautions that can be taken to avoid obtaining a disorder. Getting daily exercise is a very important and effective strategy to deal with anxiety and prevent it. Exercise has been shown to decrease stress hormones that bring on anxiety and to overall result in a better mood. Exercise can also help to distract the mind from worry and stress and focus on the task at hand. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of anxiety. Foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and walnuts are specifically used to reduce anxiety. It is very important to avoid very greasy, sugary, high fat and processed foods. In addition, avoiding caffeine and alcohol has been shown to prevent anxiety. Not getting a good night’s sleep can also trigger anxiety symptoms. An important step in the treatment of anxiety is awareness. Knowing the signs of anxious thoughts and symptoms can help to quickly reduce and treat them.
Anxiety affects so many people around the world. The study of anxiety and other mental disorders has grown immensely since these illnesses were discovered by the ancient Greeks. It is very important that these disorders are not just glanced over. Without treatment, severe anxiety can turn into bigger issues. Anxiety can even put people at a higher risk for developing physical conditions such as: obesity, heart disease and diabetes (Michopoulos). Fortunately, there is hope for all of those suffering with anxiety. In recent years, doctors have been doing more research than ever trying to discover what these conditions are caused by and how they can be treated. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experiences behind him.” This quote shows that anything is possible and that any fear can be conquered. When giving up seems like the only option available take a deep breath and do the thing you fear anyways.