Anxiety disorders: When it’s more than just in the mind

“What if I fall off the stage?”; “What if I say something stupid?”; “What if I fail the maths test?”

The “what if” questions we encounter on a day to day basis is the fuel to our anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human emotion in the anticipation of future threat.

We may feel anxious before an examination, presentation, or social event. It is a natural response that helps us stay alert, focused and ready to do our best.

But anxiety can become overwhelming, and even interfere with our life when in excess.

Intensive, unreasonable anxiety is an indicator of an anxiety disorder. People with an anxiety disorder struggle with intense emotion identified by recurring intrusive thoughts and concern paired with physical changes like rapid heartbeat and increase blood pressure.

Someone with an anxiety disorder may avoid being in certain situations out of intense concern or worry – which may not be real.

Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders can be classified into six main types.

These include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

GAD is the most common in which the patient struggles with excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations.

Anxiety may intensify in the form of an acute attack. An anxiety attack feels similar to a heart attack.

It occurs suddenly with symptoms that usually last for a few minutes, or rarely, up to several hours. It tends to peak for 10 minutes and will reduce steadily. One may feel tired after an anxiety attack.

Having constant anxiety can also take a toll on our body which not many are aware of. This involves changes in our digestive systems, risk of infection, changes in cardiovascular, urinary and even respiratory systems.

Treatment for anxiety disorders

An anxiety disorder, like any other disorder, is something that one may learn to manage and overcome with proper help and support.

“As how we always take care of other people that matter to us, our own self has right over us,” clinical psychologist, Aina Nur Azmi pointed out.

“Hence, give yourself the help that it needs, talk to someone about it and get professional help.

“Life will never be free from challenges but we can always learn to manage, adapt and adopt a thinking pattern that is more helpful and positive,” she added.

Despite the gloomy outlook of life that patients may feel, anxiety is manageable through all the treatment options available.

One viable treatment for an anxiety disorder is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

This treatment helps patients reframe negative thoughts, challenging their core beliefs via individual therapy sessions. Support groups are also available as well as self-help reading materials.

Although severe symptoms may require medication, meditation and deep breathing/relaxation exercises can also work wonders to help one cope with the symptoms.

This article was written in collaboration with Naluri and appeared in It was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.