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The Many Faces of Anxiety

The condition known as anxiety can illicit a number of reactions from people. Many view it as a sign of weakness, treating the person experiencing it as a fear-controlled weakling, incapable of properly dealing with the world around him. Others view it as a character flaw that can be overcome, usually by having them continually face situations which cause them anxiety. Others still find that it is a mental problem, one that is easily confused with any number of similar, but not quite the same, psychological conditions. However, outside of the medical profession, most people don't recognize that anxiety can be likened to an umbrella term, with a few other conditions falling under its jurisdiction. Panic disorder, which the general public may or may not view as a more extreme form of anxiety, actually falls under the jurisdiction of the latter term's definition.

The two are characterized by the same general set of symptoms. These include extreme dread and fear, though no truly discernible, specific cause can be found. Both conditions have also been known to cause a number of physical side effects, usually the same ones associated with the body's natural fear response mechanism. The primary difference between the two often lies solely on the intensity of the symptoms, with panic typically causing more noticeable problems than anxiety. Interestingly, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has also sometimes been categorized as being a sub-form of anxiety.

OCD is a psychological conditions that makes a person put an undue level of focus on a given activity or thing, then compels them to perform actions related to said activity or thing. Jack Nicholson is known for having portrayed a character with OCD, with the focus being on cleanliness, in the film “As Good As It Gets.” The anxiety in this situation stems from instances where the patient fights the “compulsive” part of the disorder. Not doing what the mind believes should be done has been known to cause great discomfort to moments of fear and anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has also been cited as being linked to anxiety. This is particularly true of the PTSD patient who recalls traumatic experiences that are triggered by specific objects, sounds, or locations. This can include anything from being placed in or near the location where the trauma originally occurred. Exposure, or the mere threat of exposure can cause extreme anxiety and reactions in a person, with the effect noticeably becoming more intense as the prospect becomes more real. The anxiety can also reach the point where the patient will actively attempt to avoid being exposed to anything that might trigger a relapse of the traumatic memories. Phobias are often considered to be specialized forms of the general anxiety problem.

Unlike panic and the regular form of the condition, a person with a phobia associated feelings of fear and dread with a specific trigger. While PTSD may be associated with a phobia, the two do not always intermingle. In many cases, the fear is completely unfounded, but may be rooted deep in childhood experiences or specific situations.


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