The person outside the operation theater (OT) with a close relative undergoing a major surgery inside, the husband outside the wife’s labour room, or the student outside the examination hall just before an examination – all these people experience anxiety. This state of their mind is quite natural. But what happens when someone feels severe anxiety without any apparent reason and that anxiety prevents him/her from carrying on with the daily activities properly? Yes, - that needs to be taken as a mental health condition known as Anxiety Disorder.
The prevailing corona pandemic conditions have driven millions into an anxiety disorder. Many of the victims get good care from people close to them in terms of psychiatric and psychological help making them progress towards recovery. But the vast majority suffers, often silently, in extreme distress, without help. Hence a better understanding of the problem among the common people becomes necessary to ensure better help for those unfortunate ones.
In anxiety disorder, the sufferer tends to worry disproportionately, without any justifiable reasons. This hampers his/her ability to carry out routine tasks of life. The worry could also manifest as unreasonable apprehensions of matters like adverse responses from important people like the superiors at the workplace or someone closely connected in the family. Another worrisome matter that may lead to anxiety disorder is that the sufferer gets repeated flashbacks of any traumatic events like financial losses, accidents, deaths, etc. Unreasonable feelings like‘everything is coming to an end’, ‘I have no escape from my situation’, ‘I am about to lose everything’ or ‘I may die any moment’ may haunt the person and result in anxiety attacks. The person could also be very obsessive about certain things, people, or activities which he/she finds difficult to let go. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol also could face severe anxiety at certain times and eventually fall prey to chronic anxiety disorder. Having to face certain unusual social situations also could lead to anxiety or panic attacks.
Physical manifestations of an anxiety disorder (or of panic attacks emanating from it) may include hard or heavy breathing, stressed up muscles, tightness of chest, sleeplessness, restlessness, repetitively doing something, etc. Common physical problems associated with an anxiety disorder also include hyperacidity, heartburn, Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease commonly known as GERD. Many times it is difficult to identify if it is anxiety triggering acidity or acidity is triggering anxiety. This necessitates consulting two doctors, - the psychiatrist and the gastroenterologist.
An anxiety disorder may run in the family which has people with similar issues. Other triggers could be traumatic events faced by the individual in the past, some chronic illnesses, stressful workplaces including frightening behavior of certain superiors or coworkers, prevailing mental health conditions in the person like depression and the individual’s unique personality traits.
To take care of a person suffering from anxiety disorder effectively needs a reasonably good understanding of the sufferer’s condition – mental, physical, and emotional. Mere advice-giving like ‘don’t take tension’, ‘don’t think too much’ etc. or blaming the person for the situation that he/she is in, etc. will be of no use. It even might add to the overall worries of the individual.
Some kind of anxiety once in a while is common for all. But if that starts affecting the sufferer’s normal day-to-day life adversely, that too for a relatively long period, anyone who is in a position to provide care to him /her should consider seeking professional help quickly. It includes approaching a psychiatrist (doctor) and ensuring regular medication and follow up including seeking guidance on any worrisome situation arising in between the treatment. It will be wise to approach a psychologist for counseling and psychotherapy, once the patient’s condition stabilizes.
Anxiety disorder and the panic attacks arising out of severe anxiety are mental health conditions that need to be handled well. Hence there is a need for close caregivers to acquire awareness on it and also on the way to handle it.