get tense when they lecture, accountants become anxious before and audit,
students' worry before exams, and hostesses get jittery before a party.
Moderate "preparation anxiety" such as this is normal and
helps us get energized to deliver our best effort.
The emotional tension that we commonly refer to as anxiety also functions
as a signal of potential danger. But when the danger is exaggerated
or based more on internal fears than external fact, anxiety hinders
daily functioning; it becomes an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders include
Consuming fears of hurting others; excessive concerns about dirt or
contamination; doubt and worry about things not being in exactly the
These unexpected, intense, anxiety states are characterized by thoughts
of impending doom coupled with physiological symptoms. The heart begins
to race and breathing quickens, as the victim of a panic attack gasps
for air. Sweating, weakness, nausea, numbness, dizziness and feelings
of unreality are also common. Victims fear they're going to die, go
crazy, or lose all control.
Phobias are excessive, disabling fears of a specific object or situation.
They can stem from: anxiety attacks in which panicky feelings become
associated with the places or situations in which they occur; specific
experiences, such as a dog bite received in childhood; or social learning
as when a child comes to associate fear with large bodies of water because
a parent fears the water.
Phobias are divided into three broad categories
· SIMPLE PHOBIAS are triggered by specific objects, animals or
situations such as fear of heights, of enclosed spaces or of spiders.
· SOCIAL PHOBIAS are brought on by the presence of others. Victims
of this phobia are afraid of being humiliated or embarrassed by showing
their fear in front of others. Victims of this phobia are afraid of
being humiliated or embarrassed by showing their fear in front of others.
They may fear speaking before an audience or eating in restaurants.
· AGORAPHOBIA is the fear of open spaces. This may be being outside
alone, standing in a crowd waiting in a line, or traveling by bus, train
or car. It's also termed fear of fear, since it often develops from
a sudden panic attack that occurs away from home. The fear of future
attacks escalates into fearing leaving the house at all.
Eric Berne, M.D., often said that there were only three innate feelings;
sadness, joy and anger. He believed that all other feelings were learned
from the example of parents and others around us as children. If you
had overly anxious parents, you may have unconsciously learned to imitate
their anxiety, thinking it the appropriate response to various situations.
Learned responses can be unlearned.
teach their clients this 3-step approach to control anxiety and panic
· Stop the physical symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety usually constricts
the chest muscles, causing breathing to become rapid and shallow and
reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. The first step
in alleviating anxiety is to focus on breathing deeply and slowly.
· Change your thinking. In a panic state, most people think disaster.
Changing "oh my gosh! What am I going to do?" to "So
what? It's only an anxiety attack - it won't kill me" puts you
back in control.
· Change your catastrophic predictions about what's going to
happen when you're anxious. Most people fear that they will faint when
they have a panic attack or otherwise embarrass themselves in public.
You can change this "movie in your head" to a more peaceful
and pleasant one by recalling a time when you felt self-confident and
EFFECTS OF ANXIETY
Anxiety is hard on your body. 50% of people with anxiety disorders have
seen a physician within the past 6 months for physical symptoms of anxiety.
· Neurologists for dizziness
· Cardiologists for chest pains, tachycardia and irregular heartbeats
· Gastroenterologists for digestive disorders
· Respiratory specialists for shortness of breath.
Although victims of anxiety disorders often seek help for their symptoms,
only ¼ of them ever receive appropriate treatment. This significantly
increases their chances for alcohol and substance abuse, depression,
suicide, and sexual disorders. Heart disease, high blood pressure and
other circulatory problems occur twice as often in people with high
PROS & CONS
Tranquilizers and antidepressants are often helpful in treating anxiety.
They're especially useful for gaining immediate control over symptoms
in crisis situations such as suicide attempts or when panic attacks
prevent a person from going to work. However, they can cause high blood
pressure, drowsiness, and withdrawal symptoms and/or seizures when usage
Since drugs treat only the symptoms of anxiety and not the ailment itself,
the most successful approaches also include psychotherapy to help the
victim deal with anxiety each time a feared situation arises. Relaxation
techniques, deep breathing, self-hypnosis and biofeedback techniques
have all proven effective in combating anxiety.
THINGS THAT SCARE US
Simple phobias aren't daily terrors and don't cause as much subjective
distress as other anxiety disorders, but they're the most common and
can be traumatic.
The most common are:
· Claustrophobia: fear of closed spaces
· Topophobia: stage fright
· Electrophobia: fear of electricity
· Tropophobia: fear of moving or making changes
· Triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13
· Gephyrophobia: fear of snakes
· Batrachophobia: fear of reptiles
· Pyrophobia: fear of fire
· Spermophobia: fear of germs
· Pnigerophobia: fear of smothering
· Cynophobia: fear of dogs
WHO'S MORE ANXIOUS?
Women are more than twice as likely as men to experience anxiety disorders,
especially between the ages of 18 and 44. Studies at the University
of Tulsa show that men and women also get anxious for different reasons.
· 100% of the women in the study said they felt shy in the presence
of authority figures, compared to 57% of the men.
· Women also felt more self-conscious around strangers (99% compared
to 59% of men).
· The most anxious situation for men was asking for a date.
· 22% of the men (versus 10% of the women) were more anxious
about "body-exposure" situations, such as undressing in a
locker room or wearing a bathing suit.
ARE YOU ANXIOUS?
To assess your level of anxiety, ask yourself whether you ever
1) have difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, dizziness, lightheadedness
or a racing heartbeat?
2) visit a doctor more than twice in six months because you think you're
having a heart attack, only to be told upon examination that there is
no physical problem?
3) Suddenly fear something terrible will happen?
4) Avoid long car rides, travel on buses, subways, or airplanes?
5) Fear leaving home without being accompanied by someone you know well?
6) Avoid crowds or open spaces, such as shopping malls, parks, airports,
or train stations?
7) Feel tense and unable to relax most of the time?
8) Spend excessive time worrying that bad things will happen?
9) Get extremely anxious when you are the center of attention?
10) Drink or take tranquilizers in order to cope with social occasions?
11) Turn everyday tasks such as washing your hands, checking the alarm
clock or locking the front door into obsessive rituals that you are
unable to stop repeating?
12) Have an inability to stop thoughts that don't make any sense?
answer to any of these questions indicates significant anxiety; visit
a physician, or mental health professional that can help you identify
the source of your anxieties and gain relief.
Everyone is afraid of something. If you look closely, you'll see that
the root of your fears is a lack of trust in your ability to handle
whatever comes your way. Fear can be overcome if you accept it and keep
going rather than letting it be a barrier to your success:
Stop waiting for circumstances to be just right or until you're sure
you know what to de before you act. Fear doesn't go away unless you
take risks to make your dreams come true. With each accomplishment comes
new strength and improved self-esteem.
Keep a diary where you can write about the things that scare you. Notice
where they occur, how anxious you feel and what you do to deal with
the situation. Over time, you'll be able to see what works best for
you and also see how you've improved.
Avoid excessive use of alcohol or caffeine. They will actually add to
your anxiety rather than reduce it.
Acknowledge the positive things in your life. Anxious people tend to
overlook their own strengths. When you're scared, make a conscious effort
to remember some past positive experiences instead of focusing on your
Avoid catastrophic thinking. Ask yourself what the worst possible outcome
of the situation could be. You'll usually find that it's something you
could survive, even though you wouldn't enjoy it. Having faced the worst
possibility makes it easier to deal with what does come.
Acknowledge your fears. Many people try to mask their anxieties with
activities such as exercising, reading, watching TV, or shopping. These
may distract you from anxiety for a while, but when they become avoidance
techniques, anxiety eventually increases.
Stay focused. Much anxiety is the result of projecting yourself into
future situations. Stay in the present - here and now - since that's
all you can control anyway.
Take it one step at a time. If you are over-whelmed at the thought of
confronting an anxiety-triggering situation, tackle one piece of it
at a time. Give yourself permission to repeat steps as many times as
necessary for you to be completely comfortable.
WHERE DOES IT BEGIN?
42% of agoraphobic patients report fears of separation in childhood.
This supports traditional theories that anxiety comes from psychological
factors; but recent research suggests it's also a result of biological
· Identical twins, (with exactly the same genetic makeup), are
more likely to suffer from panic attacks than are fraternal twins, who
share the same environment but only half the same genes.
· #When both parents have panic disorders, 40 - 50% of their
children will also experience panic attacks.
· Vulnerability to panic attacks appears to be part of an inherited
temperament that also contributes to shyness.