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Anxiety: to what extent is it acceptable?

Not a few people report feeling anxious before a job interview, a new job, or even a meeting with a special person or a trip.

Celia Lima, an expert in holistic psychotherapy at Personare, comments that it is absolutely normal to be anxious in certain situations. “Fear, expectation and doubt are feelings that trigger anxiety. It appears at moments or even a few days before important events.”

“A person can be anxious waiting for the results of a test, of health exams, before a romantic or professional encounter, in line for the roller coaster, waiting for the start of a concert by their favorite band, when walking down a dark street and many other facts of life that she deems important or threatening. That is, anxiety can be present in the face of facts that promote excitement”, exemplifies Celia.

But, as the specialist points out, there are other types of anxiety that end up compromising the individual’s life, making a healthy social and family life unfeasible, and making his life a marathon of emotional ups and downs, which cause constant suffering.

According to clinical psychologist Cristiane Maluhy Gebara, anxiety disorders affect around 25% of the population, with the highest incidence in women.

Symptoms that virtually every anxious person experiences

Clinical psychologist Cristiane reinforces that feeling anxiety or fear when faced with a stressful situation is normal. However, anxiety becomes pathological when it brings some typical emotional and physical symptoms, causing damage in different areas of life.

Among the symptoms most commonly found in anxiety disorders, professionals Celia and Cristiane highlight:

The main emotional symptoms:

  • Excessive worry;
  • nervousness;
  • Insecurity;
  • irritability;
  • Lack of concentration;
  • Insomnia;
  • fears;
  • anxieties;
  • Isolation.

The main physical symptoms:

  • Dizziness;
  • Tachycardia;
  • Sweating;
  • Shortness of breathe;
  • tremor;
  • Muscle tension;
  • Headaches;
  • Body pain;
  • gases;
  • Intestinal cramps.

Some questions you can ask yourself, to assess whether, in fact, anxiety impairs your quality of life, in one way or another, are:

  • Are you constantly tense and worried about something(s)?
  • Has your anxiety ever gotten in the way of something you were responsible for? How, for example, to present a work at school or college?
  • Are you constantly plagued by fears that most people explain to you are irrational?
  • Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things are not done in a certain way?
  • Do you avoid certain everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
  • Do you feel that dangerous and catastrophic situations are around every corner and/or can happen at any time?
  • Do you often find it difficult to fall asleep because you find yourself thinking about everything you have to do the next day?
  • Do you have trouble focusing on a single activity?
  • Do you rush into situations? For example, when you’re going to have a serious conversation with someone, are you already thinking about what you’re going to say and what he’s probably going to answer?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. But, of course, this is not a reason to despair, after all, only a professional will be able to evaluate your case and, if necessary, indicate the best treatment.

The types of anxiety and how they differ

Below you understand a little more about the different types/frames of anxiety:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Celia explains that the person cannot maintain control over their mood, is constantly worried and apprehensive and starts to present symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, tiredness, muscle tension, irritability, restless and broken sleep. “Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, nausea, chest tightness, bowel disorders, headaches, excessive sweating, change in blood pressure and tachycardia. We call this Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which affects people of all ages, including children,” she says.

“It is natural for us to have doubts in certain life situations about our performance in certain tasks, just as it is normal to be worried when we lose our job. Sometimes we can lose sleep because we are apprehensive awaiting the arrival of a clubbing child or because we need to wake up early and we are afraid of losing time. There are countless everyday events that can trigger anxiety, but they cease when the issue is resolved. But when the concern is disproportionate to the event, when we start to fantasize about catastrophes, accidents or irreversible situations and these feelings last for more than six months without ceasing, it can be said that the TAG is installed and it is time to seek professional help” , highlights the expert.

“It is essential that a clinical evaluation is carried out, since some symptoms alone do not necessarily point to an anxiety disorder”, emphasizes Celia.

But what are the conditions for the emergence of this type of disorder? “In addition to physical/hormonal disorders such as the onset of menopause, thyroid problems or heart problems, traumatic psychological issues can trigger GAD. Having witnessed or even been a victim of violent events or being dependent on substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs in general can lead the individual to develop the disease”, explains the specialist.

It is not uncommon, according to Celia, for GAD to be present along with other problems, such as phobias, panic, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder or social phobia, and many others.

Social phobia

It can be summarized as an overwhelming preoccupation with everyday social situations, when the person feels that he or she may be observed/analyzed by others. She then feels insecure, worried about what they might think of her.

“We can talk about the fear of public speaking that characterizes an anxiety about one’s own performance. If it is natural for everyone to feel a little anxious when they need to give an explanation or give a lecture, in social phobics this occurs with an uncontrollable intensity, causing suffering. The fear of being judged is very paralyzing and, as a consequence, disabling”, highlights Celia.

“Likewise, excessive shyness, which causes the person to withdraw, not wanting to participate in common social activities, not having friends and not having an affective relationship. These are cases that call for investigation and treatment, as well as other types of phobia”, adds the specialist.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia can be summarized as the fear of crowded places. The person may also feel fear of walking on the streets, difficulty leaving the house alone, going to certain places (such as markets or the cinema), as they inexplicably feel the need to have someone by their side to give them security.

Some of the most common fears are: being away from home or safe people; riding a car, bus or plane alone; situations in which the exit is difficult such as traffic jams, stadiums; elevators etc.

specific phobias

These are those related to intense fears of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, insects, heights, planes, thunder, etc. The detail is that the level of this fear is generally inadequate and can lead the person to avoid everyday situations, interfering with their quality of life.

Celia points out that the causes of phobias can be related to traumatic events, but there is not always an apparent cause. “Which makes you think that there may be genetic factors that lead to intense and persistent fear without rational reason,” she says.

panic disorder

It is a type of anxiety disorder in which there are unexpected bouts of despair and an intense fear that something bad will happen (even if there is no reason/danger signs).

It can be accompanied, for example, by agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in places where help would be difficult in case of a panic attack.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

According to Celia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by the belief that if you don’t do something a certain way, something terrible can happen. “And until the ritual of checking (checking several times that the door is locked, for example), hygiene (washing your hands every time you touch something), symmetry (taking care of the exact position of certain objects) fulfilled, the state of anxiety does not cease”, he says.

“Although perfectionism is often confused with OCD, it is associated with a neurotic disorder rather than an anxiety disorder. The perfectionist does not tolerate mistakes, neither his own (introspective perfectionism) nor those of others (extrospective perfectionism). He does and remakes a job because he seeks perfection, unlike the person with OCD who governs his behavior according to a belief”, highlights the specialist.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“It is characterized by a series of symptoms that appear after days, months or even years after experiencing an event that has involved violence or any episode that has endangered the life of the victim or other people, as in a natural disaster” , highlights Celia.

“Flashbacks of the situation, nightmares and memories can arise so intense that the person relives the situation as if they were going through it all over again at that moment, causing all the physical and emotional symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating and dizziness. Over time, the person may want to avoid social situations that can relive the trauma,” explains the expert.

Insecurity

Insecurity also generates anxiety, as Celia explains. “Not knowing what to do in most circumstances, relying excessively on the opinion of others to make a decision, constantly doubting one’s ability to solve problems, being afraid of disappointing people, being afraid of being disappointed, are some of the factors that promote the isolation of the person.”

“Often, as a defense mechanism against insecurity, one can develop controlling or aggressive behavior. The overly insecure person has doubts about whether or not they are doing the right thing and, as they never get a satisfactory answer, they end up paralyzing or acting on impulse just to get rid of the anguish generated by anxiety”, highlights the specialist.

How is anxiety diagnosed?

Cristiane highlights that an anxiety disorder is diagnosed by a psychiatrist and is done clinically. There is no laboratory test to diagnose the problem.

Celia explains that it’s important to remember that everyone experiences normal, healthy episodes of fear, anxiety, and apprehension. “And we are all subject to, from time to time, having a bad night’s sleep. Feeling afraid makes us protect ourselves from day-to-day dangers, anxiety in the face of some facts is natural, such as…

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