I remember when my son, Matt, was around nine years old and I asked him to clean his bathroom mirror. I gave him a bottle of Windex and some paper towels. He gave me somewhat of an anxious look, but proceeded in silence toward his bathroom.
After he finished his task, he asked me an odd question. “If this stuff gets on my skin, am I going to get sick?” I said, “Of course not! It’s not going to seep into your pours and start burning your skin off, if that’s what you’re asking me.” He then quickly proceeded to the kitchen sink where he thoroughly washed his hands like a surgeon prepping for surgery.
This was odd, I thought. This type of behavior was seen in him up until he entered high school and then he appeared to be over his anxiety of cleaning agents.
It is said that one in four of us have anxiety attacks. These types of attacks can be paralyzing for some people. I can’t say for certainty if I have ever had an anxiety attack, so I had to do a little research to find out what the most common attacks are so I can make an educated decision on whether I required immediate medical care or just a valium to shut up my inner, angst ridden child.
I guess anxiety causes both psychological and physical symptoms. Some people have heart palpitations, they excessively sweat (maybe that was my problem in Rome), or they tremble uncontrollably like a dog does when you take him to the vet. Some people actually get sick to their stomachs and become dizzy, while others may have chest pain, headaches, feel weak in their arms or legs, or just the opposite; muscle tension.
So, when I look at these common symptoms, I think I did have one anxiety attack. This was when I was going through a divorce. After a screaming match with my ex-husband, I was driving in my car. To where, I had no idea. I just had to get away from him. I noticed that my left arm felt numb and my heart raced uncontrollably. The possibility of having a heart attack had crossed my mind, but I really didn’t care at that particular point.
I didn’t break out in a rash, or felt like I was choking. These are less common physical symptoms, but I was craving a cigarette. At that time I smoked, so I immediately grabbed for a cigarette to help calm down my nerves or increase my chances of having a heart attack.
People who have anxiety problems are compulsive worriers. They have irrational fears like your ex-husband is going to hunt you down and kill you even after you change your name, have plastic surgery and move to Bangladesh. Some people can’t socialize because there are often visual stimulations that may trigger an anxiety attack. Have you ever been out to dinner with someone who suddenly had an anxiety attack? Did they start choking, or were huge sweat circles becoming evident under their armpits?
There are seven common categories of anxiety. They are listed below:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Phobia
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
So, what exactly does each of these mean? This is where I had to dig deeper into my research so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot. I’m not going to into all of them. However, there are a few that are noteworthy.
GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. It affects millions of people throughout the world. People who have GAD are in an ongoing state of nervousness. They feel like they are constantly on edge, worried about nothing, and stressed out about what to have for dinner at night. Think about the movie, Stripes and the character, Francis Soyer (aka Psycho). That’s a guy who was constantly on edge. Do you know anyone like that? Just being around them would make me sweat under my armpits.
Experts say it’s really pretty normal to have anxious feelings from time to time, but if you are constantly on edge, wringing your hands over absolutely nothing, and stressing over little things, you may want to get that checked out. One of the most common problems with GAD is tense muscles, especially on the back, neck and shoulders. Well, that’s it. I have GAD. I guess I need to quit typing on the computer. Feeling mentally drained is also another problem associated with GAD. You know what made me feel mentally drained? I recall having to talk my mother out of having her in-home health care workers dress up like maids.
Really? I thought to myself. This is my reality right now, and I just want to go to bed. Have the maid turn the sheets over for me.
The next one is called Social Phobia. This is an irrational fear of social situations. When fear overcomes your life and you just want to stay within the confines of your own home; the intense shyness people have and the mere suggestion of going out with friends causes you to get sweaty, itchy palms, then you may be suffering from Social Phobia.
I don’t think I have Social Phobia. Maybe I did when I first was getting used to my cochlear devices. But, I now just avoid really loud situations, or put a limit on my time spent in really loud situations, otherwise I’ll start having balance issues and a possible vertigo attack.
Social Phobia people live in fear of being judged, talked about behind their backs, or just avoided altogether. It can be painfully distressing. Sometimes they feel like they are being watched. No—not by the NSA, but by someone who really isn’t watching them, but they think they are. They may become anxious about going to a restaurant even before they actually even leave their home. Analysis Paralysis.
We now address panic attacks. It is an overwhelming feeling of doom. Only two things characterize panic attacks: Panic attacks and fear of getting panic attacks.
Sounds simple, huh?
Triggered by stress, anxiety or absolutely nothing at all, people who have panic attacks start getting heart palpitations, excessive sweating or the sensation of feeling cold (side note: If you are pre-menopausal or menopausal, then you’re really screwed in figuring this symptom out because hot flashes happen regularly), tingling sensations, trouble breathing and chest pain just to name a few.
These psychological symptoms are also in play along with what I’ve mentioned above: People feel like they are going to die. I mean, like, seriously. Going. To. Die. Or, they have a feeling of helplessness. Having a feeling of helplessness can happen to a lot of people in everyday circumstances. I mean, I could see a man dangling from a window washing scaffold from forty stories up, but there is nothing I can do about it other than to calling 9-1-1.
Lastly, the one that really is disturbing is those people that live in constant fear of having a panic attack. I would imagine that’s a not so good feeling, my friends.
Let’s move on to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, life throws you a risky curve ball putting your life in danger. Physically or emotionally it can cause an anxiety problem called PTSD. This type of disorder affects people for years after a life-altering event has occurred, and they often have to be treated for this disorder for the rest of their lives.
People with PTSD often relive the trauma in their heads, they respond to triggers that cause stress or fear of the event. Take for example people in the military. Loud noises can trigger reliving a stressful event, or having a paralyzing fear if someone is behind you, and you were attacked from behind at one point in your life. Most PTSD people have emotional trouble. They experience issues with their emotional thinking and often become emotionally numb, or that they are destined to die.
The “What if” scenario is common. Everywhere they go; impending disaster is just around the corner ready to swallow them up. Of course, this feeling would only happen to you; only you. Startled, frightened and unable to sleep, PTSD is a serious mental disorder.
There is also OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This is what I thought my son had when he was thoroughly washing his hands after he was absolutely certain that Windex was going to burn through skin and cause cancer. Thankfully, he grew out of that phase.
There are plenty of disorders out there. If you recognize yourself in one of these scenarios, get yourself checked out by a doctor. There is also a book which was just released called, “The Big Uneasy,” by Scott Stossel, which goes into the painful mysteries of anxiety. It may be a good read, but I’m not going to read it. I’m still reading the huge book, “Duty,” by Robert Gates. Perhaps after I’m done with Gate’s book, I’ll need to read about anxieties!