Get the Facts on Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Anxiety and panic disorder is triggered by stress from a situation or event that a person cannot control.  It is a legitimate emotional disorder with physical side effects, and may require professional treatment.

Anxiety is a normal coping mechanism for people in situations such as studying for an exam, auditioning for a performance, or other situations that may cause stress and increased tension. A healthy level of anxiety is useful and even necessary in understanding how to confront stressful life situations.

However, experiencing what seems like constant anxiety, even over relatively minor or even imagined situations, may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.  If left unaddressed, generalized anxiety disorder can gradually develop into depression.  It may trigger a host of different of physical complaints, including high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, headaches, digestive issues, muscle aches and pains, and more.  These issues are rarely related to a medical issue, but an individual with generalized anxiety disorder may believe that they are legitimately ill, causing him or her to become even more anxious.

Panic disorder is a separate issue from anxiety disorder.  This is when elevated levels of anxiety cause an individual to suffer from what’s known as a panic attack.  During a panic attack, a person may experience chest pains and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of a heart attack.  The sensation of a panic attack has been described by sufferers as “like dying” or feeling as though they’re “falling apart.” Millions of people each year seek emergency treatment for panic attacks, even though there is no physical cause for them.

Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder should be treated by a mental health professional.  Many sufferers believe that because the issue is “all in their head” that there is little a doctor or therapist can do for them, but many courses of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have been proven very successful.  Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people with generalized anxiety and/or panic disorder learn to recognize the thought patterns and situations that can trigger an episode, so that they can either avoid them or learn to process them in a healthier fashion.

Anti-depressants or mild sedatives such as Xanax may also be prescribed, though Xanax is not recommended for long-term use.  As anxiety and panic disorders become more prevalent, it’s important for everyone to learn now how much stress is too much, and how to combat it before it takes over your life.

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