Anxiety disorder is a
NOT random, unknown, or uncontrollable disease. It is
quite the opposite, even though it can feel
like an unpredictable wild animal.
In fact, anxiety by itself is NOT a disease or
illness, but turns into a disorder when a person becomes physically,
psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually symptomatic, fearful,
or distraught because of it.
When this occurs, normal anxiety becomes an anxiety
disorder: a medical condition that involves a disturbance to
the normal functioning of the mind or body.
The good news is, anxiety
IS controllable, and is best
treated naturally (without medication) if long-term results
are desired. Medication can help to diminish the negative
impact of symptoms, but medication should never be considered
a cure or necessary for healthy living.
As we mentioned in the Anxiety section, anxiety
disorders appear for specific reasons and have definite underlying
reasons why they persist. When the underlying factors are properly
addressed, anxiety disorders can be eliminated–and for
Anxiety disorders persist only because the underlying
factors aren’t properly addressed. That’s why those
who take medication as their only form of treatment generally
remain on medication long term, or find themselves going on and
coming off over and over again. Unless the underlying factors
are properly addressed, anxiety will almost always persist or
Working with an experienced anxiety professional
(an anxiety coach or counselor, or psychologist who has personally
successfully beaten anxiety in his or her own life) produces
the most effective results.
Note: It’s our experience that anxiety
professionals who are currently taking anxiety medication themselves,
and psychiatrists, usually don’t produce the desired results.
We’ve found that those who work with someone who has successfully
beaten anxiety in his or her own life, and has remained anxiety
condition-free for an extended period of time—more than
ten years--produces the best results. It will be their personal
experience with anxiety, and their successful recovery, that
can make a profound difference in your recovery.
We realize that this statement may irritate some
anxiety professionals. But our experience has shown that this
is generally true. Many of our clients have previously tried
these options only to find that their condition remained, or
for some, grew worse.
Anxiety conditions, for the most part, can be divided
into two main categories:
- Circumstantial anxiety – this
type of anxiety condition is characterized by symptoms that
appear because of an acute stressful event(s), circumstance(s)
or emotion(s). Examples include a relationship difficulty
(fighting within or the break-up of an important relationship),
career challenge (job loss or important job promotion), illness
or death of a loved one, or educational stress (intense workload).
Because stress often is the precursor
to an anxiety condition, most early stress conditions fall
within this category. Once the event, circumstance
or emotion has passed, with sufficient self-help materials,
rest and time, most anxiety conditions in this category
will resolve on their own.
- Chronic anxiety – this
type of anxiety condition is characterized by symptoms that
come and go over an extended period of time (from a few months
to a year, or from a few months to many years). Examples
include an individual who has symptoms come and go at different
stages of their life (as early as 4 years of age), remain
as an ongoing backdrop to their life, or have been on and
off of medication throughout their life.
Chronic anxiety also has a deep-seated
fear component. Many feel that they live in fear
whenever their “episodes of illness” appear.
Others may have it as a constant companion as they journey
through life. Episodes can last a few weeks to many years.
Some can remain constant throughout their life. Conditions
that last for an extended period of time can also be referred
to as “entrenched” anxiety.
Within these categories, there are four types of
anxiety or panic – anxiety or panic
that occurs regardless of where a person
- Situational or Phobic anxiety or panic – anxiety
or panic that occurs because of a particular situation or
- Anticipatory anxiety or panic – anxiety
or panic that occurs because of a thought that something “might” happen
or a situation that “might” occur.
- Involuntary anxiety or panic – anxiety
or panic that occurs involuntarily, by itself, or “out
of the blue” that hasn’t been preceded by spontaneous,
situational, or anticipatory anxiety.
There are also degrees of anxiety conditions. They
can be categorized as:
- Early-stage or onset anxiety – symptoms
have just started to appear, and while they may be annoying
and mildly distressing, they aren’t a reason for over
concern. Often one trip to the doctor is reassuring enough
that nothing more serious is going on.
This is the best stage to address stress or
anxiety, since the more entrenched the condition becomes,
the more complex it becomes and the longer it will take to
resolve. However, properly addressing an anxiety condition
at any stage can bring about full recovery. Bibliotherapy
(reading self-help materials) is most often sufficient for
- Mild severity – symptoms
may be intermittent or persistent. However, their negative
impact on an individual’s lifestyle is minimal. While
the symptoms may be annoying and mildly distressing, they
aren’t too restricting. Individuals at this stage may
start to become fearful of their condition or their condition’s
implications. The individual may make a few trips to the
doctor in hopes of finding a solution.
Addressing a condition at this stage also produces
expedient results. Bibliotherapy is most often sufficient
for full recovery.
- Moderate severity – symptoms
may be more complex, and may be more severe and impacting. Often
they will be more persistent, more concerning and worrisome.
There is moderate lifestyle impairment. While the individual
may be able to force themselves to do mandatory tasks, many
activities are restricted. Fear of their condition is becoming
more predominant. There may be repeated trips to the doctor
in hopes of finding a resolution.
Doctors often prescribe medications at this
stage to help reduce symptoms and the negative impact they
have on the individual’s lifestyle. Unfortunately,
medication alone at this stage often only masks the underlying
condition. This masking effect often enables the condition
and its effects to continue to resurface time after time
unless the underlying condition is properly addressed. Fortunately,
more and more doctors are now recognizing the value of a
comprehensive approach such as personal coaching, counseling,
cognitive therapy and bibliotherapy. While bibliotherapy
can produce positive results, working with a personal anxiety
coach (someone with extensive experience, and preferably,
someone who has experienced anxiety themselves) can produce
significantly more effective and lasting results.
- High anxiety – symptoms
are dramatic, persistent and entrenched. Lifestyle is significantly
impaired. Repeated trips to the doctor prove fruitless. Many
at this stage are already on medication, yet their symptoms
persist to varying degrees. They have a high level of fear
about their condition and where it might lead. Many feel
their condition is out of control.
Recommended treatment at this stage should
involve personal coaching in conjunction with good self-help
materials. Self-help materials alone will most likely not
produce full recovery or lasting healing.
As mentioned earlier, recovery can be attained
at any stage, however, the road to recovery may be longer and
more complex the longer a condition remains entrenched. Nevertheless,
successful and lasting results make the recovery journey more
- Very high anxiety – intense
and entrenched symptoms. Dramatic to full lifestyle impairment.
This level of severity is more complex and often more difficult
to address. It is highly recommend that the help of a personal
anxiety coach, counselor, or mental health professional be
involved at this stage. While self-help materials will play
an important role in the recovery process, one-on-one assistance
is most often required before normal and lasting health can
be attained when severity has reached this level.
Anxiety disorders are classified into the
following categories and descriptions:
Further, we highly recommend that you work
with someone who has personally experienced anxiety at this
degree of severity in their own life. Their personal experience
and insight will be of great value and comfort to you during
your recovery process.
There are several categories associated with
anxiety disorder, each having their own specific causes and
characteristics. While some of the symptoms associated with
each category may be unique, the majority of symptoms are
common to all types.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists
the six main categories of anxiety disorder as:
Panic disorder is described as a sudden attack of terror, intense
fear, or feelings of impending doom that strike without warning
and for no apparent reason. This can be immediately followed
by a number of symptoms including pounding heart, rapid heart
rate, nausea, hot or cold flashes, chest pain, hands and
feet may feel numb, you may be lightheaded or woozy, irrational
thoughts, fear of losing control and a number of other symptoms.
The peak of an attack can range anywhere between 5 to 30
minutes, but the symptoms can last much longer.
While many people have at least
one panic attack in the course of their lifetime, panic disorder
affects approximately 3% of the population. Panic disorder
often begins in adolescence or early adulthood, and as is reportedly
more likely to develop in women than in men. However, the statistics
may be misleading because men are more reluctant to seek professional
If diagnosed early, panic disorder can be treated
successfully. But if left untreated, it can develop into a
more complex and lengthy condition. However, with today’s
treatments the success rate can be very high. Treatments include
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Behavior Therapy (BT), and
Panic disorder often co-occurs with other disorders
such as depression and GAD.
Most people experience anxiety on and off throughout the course
of their life, but those who suffer with GAD do so on a day
to day basis. Their anxiety becomes chronic and fills their
life with exaggerated worry and tension, even though the subject
they are worrying about doesn’t warrant it. Individuals
with this disorder are always anticipating doom, disaster,
and ‘the worst’. They often worry about their health,
money, family, work, and the world in general. Often their
reason for worry is hard to pinpoint. Even the thought of getting
through another day can bring on anxiety.
Individuals with GAD feel that they can’t
stop worrying, even though they know the subject they are worrying
about isn’t that serious. They can also experience accompanying
symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, aches
and pains, difficulty swallowing or as having something stuck
in their throat, trembling, twitching, irritability, hot and
cold flashes, profuse sweating for no reason, and often feel
lightheaded or ‘dizzy’. They may also feel nauseated
or that they have to go to the washroom frequently.
Individuals with GAD feel that they can’t
relax and startle more easily than others. They may also have
difficulty in concentrating or that they feel joyless and frustrated.
Often their sleep patterns are disrupted with their inability
to sleep becoming yet another reason to worry or be anxious.
People with GAD often appear just fine and can go about their
day seemingly normal. However, it’s their thought and
internal life that undergoes the turmoil.
GAD affects about 6% of the population and affects
twice as many women as it does men. The disorder usually comes
on gradually and can begin at any age, though it is more frequent
between childhood and middle age. Those who experience incessant
worry for six months or more are typically diagnosed as having
GAD often co-occurs with other disorders such
as depression, or substance abuse.
OCD involves anxious thoughts or rituals the individual feels
they must do or can’t control. Individuals with OCD may
be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or
by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals like repeatedly
washing their hands, repeatedly checking things, counting things,
organizing things, and so on.
They may have relentless thoughts of violence
or a fear that they may hurt someone they love or are close
to. They may have a continual desire to touch things, to symmetrically
organize things, repeated thoughts of sexual acts that are
repugnant to them, or maybe troubled by thoughts that are against
their religious beliefs.
These disturbing thoughts or images are called
obsessions, and the rituals that are performed to try to get
rid of them are called compulsions. There is no pleasure in
doing the rituals, but only temporary relief from the anxiety
that builds when they don’t perform them.
A lot of healthy people can identify with some
OCD symptoms, such as checking to make sure the door is locked
when going to bed or leaving home, or double and often triple
checking to make sure the iron is off. However, individuals
with OCD spend hours doing this, and are very distressed because
it interferes with their daily life.
Most individuals with this condition recognize
that what they are doing is senseless, but they feel they can’t
stop themselves. However, some people don’t recognize
that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
OCD affects approximately 4% of the population
and it equally affects both men and women. One third of adults
with OCD report having experienced their first symptoms as
children. OCD can come and go over time, as well as it can
ease or grow worse with age.
Depression and other anxiety disorders most often
co-occur with OCD. Like other anxiety disorders, OCD can be
Social phobia (or
social anxiety disorders)
Social phobia, also called Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), is
a condition whereby the individual feels overwhelming anxiety
and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
In a sense, the individual becomes extremely self-conscious
in social environments. People with SAD have a persistent,
intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others
and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. This
fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school,
or any other ordinary activities.
While many people with SAD recognize that their
fear of being around people is unusually excessive, they are
unable to overcome it. And often, they worry for days or weeks
prior to a social situation.
SAD can be a limited to one type of situation,
like speaking in public, or it can be as severe as to encompass
many or all social situations.
Symptoms can include any of the symptoms associated
with anxiety disorder, and can often contribute to the anxiety
of a social situation because of the fear associated with the
symptoms coming at an ‘inopportune time’ or visible
enough for others to notice.
SAD affects approximately 7% of the population
and equally affects women and men. This disorder usually begins
in childhood or early adolescence. SAD often co-occurs with
other anxiety disorders such as depression, substance abuse
and panic disorder.
SAD can be successfully treated.
A specific phobia is an intense fear of something that poses
little or no actual danger. Examples include closed in spaces,
heights, escalators, elevators, tunnels, driving, flying, spiders,
snakes, and so on. In addition, these phobias aren’t
just extreme fears but include irrational fears such as being
able to skydive but can’t use an elevator. While the
individual understands that these fears are irrational, they
can’t do anything to change how they feel, and often
just the thought of facing their feared object is enough to
bring on intense anxiety and even panic attacks.
It is estimated that 6% of the population is
affected by specific phobias while it is twice as common in
women as it is in men. These phobias generally first appear
during childhood or early adolescence.
If the object of their fear is easy to avoid,
most often the individual won’t seek treatment. Unfortunately,
this usually influences the individual when making important
life decisions such as not taking an important career advancement
because of having to use an elevator.
Specific phobias can be successfully treated.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can
develop following a terrifying event. Often, individuals with
PTSD have persistent thoughts and memories of this event and
feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once
close to. PTSD can result from a number of traumatic incidents
such as violent attacks, mugging, rape, torture, terrorism,
being held captive, child abuse, serious accidents and natural
disasters. The trigger event can be something that threatened
the person’s life or the life of someone very close to
them, or it could be something they had witnessed, such as
a death and destruction from a plane crash, bombing or building
Some individuals with PTSD repeatedly relive
their trauma through dreams, nightmares and disturbing memories
throughout the day. They may also experience sleep problems,
feel alienated from reality, or easily startled. Other behaviors
they may experience include the inability to show affection,
have difficulty maintaining an interest in things they used
to enjoy, they may feel irritable, more aggressive, and even
Memories of the trauma can be very distressing
for them, and can lead them to avoid certain places or situations
that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the event
are often difficult as well.
PTSD affects approximately 6% of the population, and women
are more likely than men to develop this condition. It can
occur at anytime, including childhood.
PTSD often co-occurs with depression, substance
abuse and panic disorder.
PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms last for
more than a month. For those who develop PTSD, symptoms usually
begin within three months of the event, and the course of illness
varies from individual to individual. Occasionally, this condition
doesn’t show up until years after the event.
PTSD can be successfully treated.
With today’s proliferation and promotion
of new ‘designer’ and ‘social’ drugs,
it’s vital that you be fully engaged in managing your
personal health. Seek the best professional help, then, work
closely with them to help address your anxiety disorder.