Anxiety and worrying are normal every day parts of being an emotive, fully-functioning human being. Anxiety has developed as part of our fight or flight response. That phenomenon which enables us to act quickly in the face of danger. In today’s modern world, that danger may be exam stress, or a new job, rather than the arrival of a predator near your cave, but the principle is just the same. It’s normal, it’s appropriate, it’s transient.
Therefore, telling the difference between what is considered “normal” anxiety compared to a clinical Anxiety Disorder can seem complicated to the lay person, especially if you are in fact struggling with anxiety symptoms yourself. However, it is possible to start investigating whether it is normal, regular anxiety or something more, through exploring your answers to these questions:
Is Your Anxiety in Direct Response to a ‘Stressor’?
Is there an obvious reason – a new job, a house move, an exam – or is your anxiety not clearly in response to a particular trigger? Or is it triggered multiple times a day by a variety of events or situations?
Is Your Anxiety Fleeting - Lasting Hours Or Days, Or Ongoing - Lasting Weeks Or Months?
The intensity and length of time your anxiety lasts is important in distinguishing between regular anxiety and a clinical disorder. Anxiety Disorders produce an intense and excessive emotional response, disproportionate to the situation.
Do You Have Other Symptoms?
Feeling worried, or simply anxious, is not a pleasant emotion. However, in the case of anxiety disorders, a sufferer is likely to have additional symptoms: do you feel accompanying dizziness or a light-headed sensation? Do you sweat excessively at the same time? Is your anxiety accompanied by a trembling or a pounding heart, headaches or nausea? Do you suffer from panic attacks? Sometimes these symptoms may be accompanied by the additional feeling of being detached and disconnected from reality and what is happening in the here and now, causing difficulty in thinking straight and concentrating.
What Level of Impairment Does Your Anxiety Create?
Are you able to get on with your everyday life or do you feel like the anxiety affects your entire life? Do you find it debilitating and avoid situations which make the anxiety worse but that seem straightforward for other people, or were for you in the past? Does your anxiety significantly interfere with your work or social activities? Do you feel that your level of worrying is out of control?
To simplify it, normal anxiety is appropriate, responsive and transient. You may be suffering from an Anxiety Disorder if your anxiety is persistent, intrusive and extreme, becoming constant and of a chronic nature.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
There are six clinical Anxiety Disorders – they are all treatable by trained expert therapists here at Spectrum Health:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Characterised by excessive constant worrying about everyday issues.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Characterised by excessive avoidance of common social situations that cause extreme feelings of embarrassment/self-consciousness.
- Panic Disorder: Characterised by distressing attacks of terror and excessive fear.
- Specific Phobias: Characterised by an intense fear response to an object, place or situation
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Characterised by persistent recurrent thoughts that manifest in repetitive behaviours or rituals.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Characterised by anxiety responses after a distressing event persisting for a prolonged time, often accompanied by flashbacks, nightmares and reliving the event, combined with detachment, avoidance and difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety Disorders can happen to anyone – they are not a sign of weakness. They are real and serious, but most importantly, treatable. Spectrum Health Counselling offer Psychological Services across Ireland to enable you to recover from an Anxiety Disorder and regain a sense of peace and well-being in your life. The future needn’t be plagued with the fears of today. We have a proven track record of successfully enabling a vast number of individuals to overcome Anxiety in whatever form it presents itself, through psychological therapy tailored to you.