Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mental Disorder Series - Anxiety

I see I got a lot of views already today, so I made finishing this blog post a priority! I'm so pleased to see all the support so far on these issues I and other people deal with. This is day three out of five in my mental health series, where I discuss mental health issues that I currently have and I explain what they're like.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

"Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." ~Arthur Somers Roche

Every person experiences some anxieties in their life. They can be big ones or small ones. Some people call anxieties: worries, fears, trepidations, or nervousness. Some anxieties don't fall under this category though. Some are unfocused uneasiness or a kind of rumination.

When anxiety becomes chronic and begins to effect one's life, that's when it falls into the disorder category.

There are many kinds of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobias. Just like in the Focus Disorders post, this anxiety post is going to deal with the general aspects of all of these, but mostly focus on generalized anxiety.

So, anxiety disorders are basically uncontrollable, chronic uneasiness, fears, and worries. Yet it often feels physical, too. People with anxiety disorders have moments of quickened heart rhythms and trouble breathing. They feel tension most of the time, even when there is nothing wrong.

Sometimes there are triggers. Sometimes there aren't. Sometimes just thinking about the day can trigger anxiety. And if anxiety gets to be too much? Anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks are these moments of extreme anxiety where your heart beats fast, your brain is filled with frenzied thoughts, your breathing is fast and shallow. You become almost numb. It's not fun.

Anxiety attacks are slightly different from panic attacks, which is what people with Panic Disorder get. Those almost never have a trigger, but they can have one. The DSM-5 states that both expected and unexpected panic attacks are part of panic disorder. Panic attacks involve sudden intense fear and, well, panic. They involve the fast heart beat as well as the feeling of lack of control. It's pretty paralyzing.

What not to say to somebody struggling with anxiety.

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." ~Albert Camus
  • You're faking it.
    • Nope! Sorry to get in the way of your ignorance, but people with anxiety disorders have a real problem.
  • "Woman/Man Up"
    • I told you all I'd bring this up today! Imagine going through a day at work with frequent periods of dizziness from not being able to breathe correctly combined with quickened heart rate and racing thoughts. Within an hour or so you also get this feeling of dread. It's not a healthy way to work. We will either snap, run away, or start bawling out of nowhere eventually. Why? Because we CAN'T HANDLE IT. Literally can't. And telling us to woman/man up is only going to make things worse. You may not be able to see our mental wall, but it's there.
  • You need to just cut out the stress in your life.
    • That's actually hilarious. If we suddenly could live without going to work, school, or hanging out with friends, we'd still have anxiety! Hermits can have anxiety. Monks can have anxiety. Yoga instructors can have anxiety. Zen masters can have anxiety. Reducing stress helps us cope, but it won't get rid of the anxiety we feel.
  • It's just your imagination.
    • Actually, many anxiety disorders have roots in brain chemistry. So it's actually how our body makes us react. 
    • Not all anxiety has a trigger, which makes the disorder really scary actually. We can be having a great time, dancing at a concert, and suddenly start breathing really fast, all wide eyed, and just want to curl up in the fetal position. That happened to me before, actually. I ended up just standing there for a couple songs.
  • I get anxiety too.
    • EVERYONE gets anxiety some times. It's a normal part of living. Everyone DOESN'T get chronic, debilitating anxiety. Or anxiety attacks. Or panic attacks. According to NIMH, about 40 million people are affected by an anxiety disorder each year. 
  • Have a beer/smoke/drugs.
    • While these things will temporarily help, people with anxiety are highly likely to develop addictions to them, which is not okay. Also, some forms of alcohol and drugs can have adverse effects, making things worse.

How is anxiety treated?

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety." -Aesop

Anxiety is treated through a variety of methods, mostly through therapy but also through medication. Medication for anxiety is usually benzodiazepines. These are highly addictive and have terrible withdrawal symptoms, so they are usually only prescribed short term.

There is also a medication called buspirone (an anxiolytic) that is not as widely used, but is approved for treatment of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder.)

Life style changes can also help, such as avoiding triggers, decreasing stresses, and developing ways to cope.

How you can help someone with anxiety.

"All too frequently, anxiety crushes not only your spirit and your potential, but your ability to take care of your mind and body." ~Jonathan Davidson and Henry Dreher, The Anxiety Book: Developing Strength in the Face of Fear
  1. Don't overreact when they're having an anxiety attack. In fact, don't do anything without asking them first. Some people hate being touched when they have an attack, other people need it. Ask and let them know you're here. Oftentimes they just need your presence and familiarity.
  2. Actually, don't overreact in general if you can help it. Nothing like anxiety and freaking out to trigger... well anxiety and freaking out.
  3. Suggest they seek help. Therapy is amazing for people with anxiety. It can honestly change their lives.
  4. Don't throw them out of their comfort zone. If they tell you something is not okay, it's not okay.
  5. Help them get over their anxieties. Are they afraid of taking the bus to meet you because they get anxiety over putting change in the coin thing? Help them get a prepaid card and show them how to use it. Or go with them on bus rides and put money in for them, offering every once in a while that they try. (And if they decide to, stand there with them while they do it, don't just wander off to your seat.) It is mostly through gentle suggestion that they will overcome their issues.
  6. Don't belittle them. They'll avoid you. (Avoidance is a large complication of anxiety. That and belittling people is a jerk move and nobody wants to be friends with a jerk.)
  7. Check on them. Much like depression, anxiety can effect someone's ability to complete normal daily tasks such as taking a shower, brushing their teeth, or even feeding themselves. It's good to be sure they are taking care of themselves.
  8. Give them tea. Or other relaxing gifts. Foot soaks, hot chocolate, scented candles, bubble bath. Anything that can be used to help calm them down will be an immense help. We also accept chocolate.
  9. Support their goals. Guess what? These champs already think through a ton of issues with what they're doing. If you're going to play Devil's Advocate, please make sure we know you're supporting us first. Otherwise we might get an anxiety attack and scrap the whole idea altogether because damnit nobody thinks we can do it anyways.

My struggle with anxiety.

"I try not to worry about the future, so I take each day just one anxiety attack at a time." -Tom Wilson

My anxiety exists with my every day, in everything I do. It goes up and down, fluctuating constantly. I didn't know what it even was for a very long time. In eighth grade I was told I needed to relax constantly by a friend of mine. Hint: Didn't know how.

Before I knew what I was dealing with, I just constantly felt tension and worry. It was more of a physical feeling than anything most of the time. It would cause me to not turn in homework, act sick to get out school, actually end up sick from the stress, and then just plain avoid things and people altogether. In short, my anxiety was terrible for any hope I had of success.

I often couldn't take care of myself properly.

In 11th grade I took PSEO (post-secondary enrollment options) online. I would forget an assignment due to my focus disorder and then I would avoid the class until I had things done. That semester did not end well at all. It showcased the anxiety-avoidance paradigm. I ended up doing terribly in most of the classes due to this problem.

My anxiety got so bad due to the school issues and issues with my peers that I ended up switching schools my senior year. I don't know what I was thinking, but I took PSEO again. I still did terribly because I still hadn't gotten a handle on my anxiety and avoidance. At least this time I had a campus to go to, right? Nope. It was better for keeping me accountable, but terrible because instead of just avoiding emails, I was avoiding classes. I ended up skipping a couple times because my anxiety was that bad.

Also, the school I switched to was a charter school that did things a bit differently. Charter schools are great. This school was especially great for people who were self-motivated and had the ability to focus. It was project based learning and it was pretty much you creating your own projects and learning at your own pace. Sounds great, right? Yes, except for my anxiety, avoidance, and focus disorder. This cruel combination made me lucky to even graduate on time.

Fast forward a year and I end up in a college where I was studying massage therapy. My anxiety is not just general. I also have a sort of social anxiety. Massage therapy is probably not a good thing to get into if you have social anxiety. Especially not if your goal is to make your own business out of it. I ended up realizing this after not feeling any less anxiety at my third hands-on class as my first. Needless to say I dropped out with about half the credits I needed already completed. I had even gotten a scholarship for the school. But I couldn't handle it, and a future in massage therapy was not for me.

Then comes dealing with work and work related things. I have a lot of retail experience in different places. I worked at a hardware store, at a fast food restaurant, at a hat/costume shop (at a festival), and even as a hostess at a restaurant. Each time things went the same. I was awesome at my job, often getting complimented for my work, but would get bad anxiety. It was either customers, me not learning fast enough, not being fast enough, having too much responsibility being thrust at me, and/or having to handle money. Eventually I would start getting anxiety attacks before and sometimes even during work.

As I started to get more anxiety attacks, my anticipation of working would sometimes cause me to call in sick. Of course, I wasn't always lying. Literally sometimes my anxiety made me sick. I would feel pretty miserable that day. But it would start to become frequent enough that I knew I had to quit because otherwise I was doing the company (and my coworkers who had to cover for me) a disservice.

I ended up just not working or going to school altogether because I couldn't handle it. I tried making my own business. Too much anxiety. Tried writing my own book. Too much anxiety until I moved and somehow managed to get out An Addictive Personality. I tried freelancing and until I moved, I couldn't handle that either.

Obviously moving has helped out my anxiety a lot. I am away from a lot of pressures and stresses. I have a place to live, food to eat, and an amazing fiance who I live with that helps me out a lot. But I still suffer anxiety and get anxiety attacks. In fact, I recently had a severe upsurge of anxiety. I'm not back to my moderate levels yet, but I am getting there. It's a constant struggle and soon I will seek out care for my various disorders.

See tomorrow for my next mental disorder spotlight!

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! :)

New Car Downpayment

Want to donate some Shinies?
Who is this rad giver?
Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, I finally have a registered domain specific to my website! And a business email with that domain! Huzzah! Lookit:

I obviously still need to update things on it, but this is a step in the right direction.

I'll try to post my next blog earlier tomorrow, especially since I'm going to have to queue up this weekend's posts before I leave for Easter. Hopefully the schedule thing works. Oh look, anxiety.

As always, Charmed