Anxiety definition and what is anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It can be beneficial in some situations as it can make us more focused and help us prepare for a situation better.
For example, anxiety and stress can sharpen our focus and assist us to perform better during a presentation.
Anxiety disorder is very different from normal feelings of nervousness, as it involves an excessive amount of fear.
In general, anxiety disorder symptoms include a heightened level of fear and anxiety that is :
- out of proportion relative to the situation &
- a hinderance to his or her ability in daily function.
It is the most common of mental disorders and affects nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
Two common types of anxiety disorders and symptoms
It is a persistent and excessive worry about every thing in life resulting in the disruption of daily activities.
This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms:
- feeling on edge
- easily fatigued
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle tension (often on the neck and shoulder)
- problems sleeping
Often the worries encompasses everyday issues such as job responsibilities, family, health or minor matters such as chores or appointments.
For example, “I may worry about missing the bus and be late for work the next day. This lateness might cause my boss to be unhappy. This worry disturbs my sleep and I become so concerned that I will resort to taking medical leave to avoid going to work altogether”.
Panic disorder consists of recurrent and unexpected episodes of panic attacks.
A panic attack is an episode where there is an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress : which sometimes cause patients to feel “ impending doom “ or “imminent death”. A key feature of panic attacks is the fear of losing control and an inability to escape the situation.
During an attack, several panic attack symptoms occur in combination, and may include (and not limited to):
- palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate
- trembling or shaking
- feeling of shortness of breath or hyperventilating
- chest pain
- feeling dizzy or light headedness
- sensation of choking
- numbness or tingling of face or hands
- nausea or abdominal pains
- fear of losing control
- fear of dying
Symptoms may be so severe that many people believe that they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illnesses and may rush to the emergency department.
The mean age for onset of panic disorder is 22-23 years.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)
This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.