by Diana Barnum
A normal reaction to stress is to take action & cope or run away. However, if excessive fear, worry or nervousness creates anxiety, these daily reactions can be can be distorted. Danger can be perceived in a simple outing to the grocery store, immobilizing a person. How can you tell if your reactions are normal or excessive? Aaron T. Beck, Gary Emery and Ruth L. Greenberg share the following in their book Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective (New York: Basic Books, 1985):
"Anxiety is generally considered a normal reaction if it is roused by a realistic danger and if it dissipates when the danger is no longer present. If the degree of anxiety is greatly disproportionate to the risk and severity of possible danger, and if it continues even though no objective danger exists, then the reaction is considered abnormal."
What causes anxiety? Several factors can cause this; among them, genetic predisposition, negative self-talk, inner conflicts, early childhood learned/social environment, physical/medical symptoms - illness, new medications, etc, coping and social behaviors. To learn more, let's look at the symptoms and the different forms anxiety can take.
If you have at least 4 of the following physical symptoms more than once in a four-week period, you may be suffering anxiety attacks:
· Numbness in the hands & feet
· Racing heartbeat or palpitations
· Trembling hands
· Hot flashes or chills
· Upset stomach
· Profuse sweating
· Strong fears about dying
· Lose control or fear of going crazy
· Chest pain
· Feelings of unreality or being detached
The fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's "Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder" (also known as the DSM-IV) lists these major types of anxiety disorders with the following symptoms for each:
Panic Disorder - Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks (intense fear or discomfort that suddenly begins as if out of nowhere).
Phobias - An irrational, recurring fear of an object, activity or situation (for example fear of spiders, flying, or leaving your house).
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - An extreme fear or horror resulting from a traumatic experience (for example having flashbacks from past child abuse or war).
Acute Stress Disorder - Similar to Posttraumatic Stress, but this is not as long term in effect (for instance feeling extreme guilt for surviving after a loved one has died).
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Persistent thoughts or repetitive behaviors that you feel absolutely MUST be performed (for instance washing your hand 25 times every day).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Excessive worry on several events or activities that lasts at least 6 months (like obsessing over what to make for meals and how to keep the house immaculate while working 90 hours per week).
Anxiety Disorder resulting from another condition - Having excessive anxiety because of another type of medical il...