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It all started when I was a teenager for me. It took nothing to make me snap, I would just start shouting and getting angry for apparently no reason, and I would be awake all night worrying over nothing at all...I just couldn't switch off from life sometimes. When I went out, I would worry that I hadn't turned off the oven...and although many people have these simple thoughts, they will quickly dispense, but for me I would worry all day, or all week if I was going on holiday. Sometimes the shakes set in and when I got really stressed out I couldn't breath, it felt like the life was sucked out of me...I later realised these were panic attacks.
It took me until I was 22 to actually do something about my problems. I had gotten married 2 years earlier, and my marriage was very happy, but when we did have a little argument, I would spin it out of control, the amount of glasses and plates that had gone flying through the rooms in my house was ridiculous. It only took the birth of my daughter to give me the much needed kick up the backside to go and get myself some help.
Finding I was getting stressed out with a baby crying, I was shouting at her, even at a few weeks old if she was crying, and I was worrying that if I didn't get help, I might end up hurting her albeit by accident.
So off I went to my lovely Doctor, who listened to my symptoms and told me it sounded like I had stress and anxiety disorder- my mum has depression, and my dad used to be on pills for stress and anxiety himself, so it does "run in the family", and she prescribed me with a medication called Citalopram 20mg and sent me away for 6 weeks to try them, see how I dealt with them. I was anxious about taking pills, worried that I would become addicted to them and not be able to come off them, but as my doctor said, if I had diabetes, would I not take the much needed insulin incase I became addicted...anxiety and depression are illnesses just like diabetes, although not as physical as some illnesses, which makes many people disregard mental disorders, it IS an illness and so I was a little happier about taking the medication.
6 weeks passed, and though the medication had helped me, I still found I was just a tad worried still and still got stressed, though nowhere near as much, and my Doctor upped my dosage to 40mg...and finally I was happy.
I would not class myself as depressed, and the questionnaire which I was given by my Doctor also showed that I didn't have depressed tendancies, but the medication I was given is actually an anti depressant. My mood has really improved with the help of my medication, and although I of course still get stressed out and annoyed at things, it is much much more in control and a more "normal" stress level like the majority of people get when things happen to them which are stressful!
So what is anxiety then?
Anxiety is psychological, meaning that it is to do with the brain, the word anxiety basically means "to worry", and this is what anxiety does to a person, makes them worry unnecessaily whether there is a reason to or not. Anxiety can make a person feel worried and stressed. Anxiety in itself is a natural reaction to stresses in life, for example a worry of losing your house if you lose your job...and almost everybody in the world gets anxiety on a weekly if not daily basis.
But, when anxiety becomes excessive, a person is diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder can provoke panic attacks (hyperventillating), tension in a physical sense, symptoms such as sweating; raised blood pressure; feeling hot, and worry. Although this one phrase is used, there are lots of sub categories of anxiety disorders- panic attacks, phobias (such as agoraphobia) and other disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Each "type" of anxiety disorder will be treated differently. The type I am explaining in this "review" is a general anxiety disorder where the person gets stressed and general feelings of worry on an extreme basis- this is called "Generalized anxiety disorder" and "panic disorder" can also fall under this too, where a person allso experiences panic attacks with their anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are complex and can be confusing for somebody who is diagnosed, but you will usually be told which anxiety disorder you have whether it is a panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder etc.
What causes Anxiety Disorders?
If we are completely honest, Doctors are still not 100% sure exactly WHAT causes anxiety disorders, the brain is still relatively an unknown organ, which is why treating these types of disorders can sometimes be hit and miss and a case of trail and error.
In some cases, but by no means all (and certainly not in my case!) the anxiety disorder may be induced by drug or alcohol abuse, so if you are diagnosed with anxiety, you must tell your doctor if you use an excessive amount of drugs or alcohol- and these will be the first things to "cut out" to stop your anxiety before the use of drug intervention will be used.
Something called Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (or GABA for short!) a neurotransmitter which is there to reduce activity in the central nervous system of the body can be produced in low levels, meaning that there is too much activity going on in the central nervous system, this can contribute towards anxiety disorders.
There are parts of the brain, situated in the temporal lobes (in the middle of your brain!) called amygldala- this part of the brain is essential in stress and anxiety and processes it. In an anxiety disorder, the function of the amygldala may be the cause or caused by anxiety disorders, though it isn't sure which causes which, does the function of this part of the brain cause anxiety disorder or does the anxiety cause the reduced function of the amygldala.
Sorry if this is quite brief but the reasoning behind anxiety disorders is relatively unknown, we do not know if it is caused by a natural thing (i.e. something in the body and possibly genetic) or is it something to do with life (i.e. life stresses bring on extreme stress which bring on anxiety and then eventually a disorder!)- so for now, I cannot really give an exact reason behind anxiety disorders sadly.
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can be present from a very young age (though it is natural for children to have anxiety as everything is so new to them), or they can come about later in life when something triggers it (this may be a divorce, loss of job, death close to home etc).
As there are lots of physical symptoms to anxiety disorders, these can be used to diagnose these disorders: these include headaches, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, palpitations of the heart, high blood pressure and tiredness. But on top of this, a Doctor will listen to your own experiences, will ask you questions and will usually ask you to complete a questionnaire which will give you a "score" between 0 and 20 (as far as I know, all of these tests are different so yours may vary from this one, but they all have the same end result!), 0 means there are no signs of depression or anxiety, whilst 20 may indicate a serious mental disorder such as scizophrenia, a person with an anxiety disorder will usually get a score between 3 and 7 (unless there is a depressive tendancy too). Many people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and these will be treated simultaneously.
There are no "tests" to say "you have panic disorder", or "you have obsessive compulsive disorder", so the diagnosis of these illnesses can be difficult, and it all depends on your doctor- so when you call your doctor for an appointment, you may be best asking for a doctor who has specialised in mental health as these doctors will know more about the conditions and will be better qualified to diagnose your condition and treat it correctly.
Treating Anxiety Disorders
As I mentioned earlier, all anxiety disorders will be treated differently. With a Generalized anxiety disorder, your doctor may begin by trying to treat you with counselling-if you do not want this, you can request medical help rather than therapy- though you may want to try the two hand in hand.
A doctor will try starting off low- they don't want to over prescribe you with high medication which you may not need, so they will always start lower than you need- as most anti anxiety medication can take up to a month to start to work, you will be given usually 6 weeks worth of the medication and will be told to come back in a month to see if they are helping at all. If they are working you will be given a repeat prescription usually, and given a date for a medical review, usually 3 months or so down the line- at this review you will again be asked if they are working, and if not you will be put onto a higher dose, or a different medication. Like I have said before, it is a case of trail and error and sometimes it can take a couple of tries before you find a medication which works for you. There is no quick fix for anxiety disorders, and it can take even a year or so before you find something which helps you.
I was told that after 6 months of been on a medication which works for you, the doctors will try to get you "off the meds", and see if you have learned to cope with the feelings of anxiety with the help of the medication, if this hasn't worked, the medication will be continued to be used, but in some cases, the body learns to "cope" with the excess anxiety with the help of the medication. For some people, they will need the medication for longer than 6 months, and some may need it for life. Though this is usually rare.
There are hundreds of different drugs used to help treat anxiety disorders, and to go into these would take me years- but usually the treatment will be SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which are used to treat depression and these tend to be the first port of call. Also Beta Blockers may be used to treat panic attacks and heart palpitations and the raised blood pressure.
Living and Coping with anxiety disorders
It used to be (and I am talking not even a decade ago) that people with anxiety disorders and depression were seen as "weird", people wanted to stay away from them, they didn't want anything to do with them, and even in the medical profession, mental disorders were not considered a "real" illness. But in recent years more has come to light about these disorders, we understand them more, and we can treat them better. No more electo therapy for depression and disorders such as aggoraphobia! So I think I am actually lucky that I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorder in 2011 and not 1999...so much has changed in these recent years!
Living with an anxiety disorder without treatment is hard, very hard. For me I felt like I was always on a knifes edge, my husband was walking on eggshells incase I snapped and started shouting, and when my daughter was born I was more worried for her safety, the last thing I wanted was to snap when she was here, for one thing I don't want my little girl seeing her mummy screaming at daddy, throwing plates etc, but I also didn't want to end up smacking her, and taking out my stress on my little girl. Gladly I had support from my husband who said he thought I should see a doctor, and I finally took his advice.
Now living with my anxiety disorder is much easier, I just take one pill in the morning and I am fine, I haven't snapped, thrown anything...since I started taking the pills, and I am slowly learning to deal with daily stresses. I have a long way to go, I only got diagnosed a couple of months ago, so I am still early on in my treatment, and I still think I need something to help with the heart palpitations and blood pressure whcih I can sometimes still feel when there is stress around me even though I no longer get angry! It makes my life so much easier.
As for getting jobs etc, it is sadly still a requirement to tell your employers about which medications you take, and what they are for- and for this reason my husband has found it hard getting jobs (he has depression and has for a few years now), and though you may think "take them to court then!", it isn't that easy as they simply reply with "you were not suitable for the job nothing to do with your depression". It is apparantly coming into law soon that employers cannot ask about medical issues you may have unless of course it is going to affect your job (you couldn't work in a nightclub if you have light sensitive epilepsy for example...!). And I think when this is passed it will be much easier for people to get jobs who have these disorders, of course there are people who don't see anxiety disorders as an issue, and these people tend to be those who actually understand them and know it isn't anything bad!
Anxiety disorders are not something to be ashamed about, between 7 and 10% of people have these disorders, so they are not as uncommon as you may think- and these are only those who have been diagnosed. You may find yourself needing to change your lifestyle to get used to your disorder, sleep is very important- as lack of sleep can cause stress to get worse, and more stress makes anxiety disorders much worse. Try to take the stress out of your life- this isn't always possible, but if you have something very stressful happening at the moment, try to take yourself away from the situation if it is at all possible. Talk to someone, even if it is a friend or relative, you wouldn't believe how nice it feels to get things off your chest...open a blog if you have nobody to talk to and vent to the world! Keeping a pad next to your bed is good, if you get worries in the night write them on the pad, and just leave them til the morning, just remember there is nothing you can do at 3am about that bill which needs paying, or about that phone call which you forgot about, or about the letter which needs posting, so just write it down you don't forget tomorrow, and this may help you be able to get back to sleep and stop worrying about it.
Do not worry about getting medical help- I was concerned my daughter would be taken off me, a silly thought!!- nothing bad will happen, a doctor will happily help you, it is what they are there for at the end of the day. Your children won't be taken away, you are getting help before you can snap, and this is always a good thing.
Anxiety disorders are complex and confusing, even to those of us who have the disorders they are confusing. There are so many different disorders under the heading of anxiety disorders, so many different treatements and causes, but once you have the help you need, you are on the right track, and though it can be a long process to getting on the right track, it is well worth it when you start to feel better, I know I do. There were days when I felt I couldn't cope. I don't know how long my marriage would have lasted if I hadn't got help, but now me and my husband couldn't be happier!!!
I really hope I have helped shed some light on what anxiety disorders are and how they are treated etc. I know that when I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorders, all I wanted was some advice, what it meant, what the heck an anxiety disorder was and what it meant for me, was I mad? Was I sick? Did it make me weird! And sadly I didn't find much information to help me out or explain anything to me apart from medical jargon nonsense which just didn't mean anything to me so I do hope I have helped at least one person!!!
I have experienced anxiety to varying levels over the years but for this review I have decided to write superficially about my experience about agoraphobia.
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is deified by mind disorders encyclopaedia as "an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear related to being in situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing (i.e., being on a bus or train), or in which help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or panic symptoms. " It is now recognized that agoraphobia is part of panic disorders.
I found my agoraphobia firstly started growing in 1999 when for reasons unknown to me. I was struggling with coming to terms with a resident I had cared for who had died of a heart attack but didn't relate the two events. I found the whole experience to be very isolating. I lived on my own and so my social life became very limited and while I did continue to work my only social outlet was a website chat room that was based in America which meant I wasn't sleeping at night. My diet was all over the place as sometimes if I was unable to park next to the supermarket I would come home as it was too stressful trying to get from the car park to the shop. I however didn't realize how bad it was until I had all the wheels on my car stolen and I waited two weeks for new wheels I was a virtual prisoner in my house. I was referred to a psychologist through work and worked with her on baby steps at coping with more. It was as simple as parking three steps away from the post box and if the car park was too full I would go home but return later.
Unfortunately while this was working very slowly my mental health was detoiorating in many ways .I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in January 2000 and eventually transferred to a therapeutic community which was a unit that used various methods of therapy to help with issues. This is some ways was very helpful but in others it meant I didn't have to leave the building and would often stay in for weeks on end.
When I was finally discharged in February 2002 I found I was still not further forward with my agoraphobia. I moved in with my boyfriend who I had met in the therapeutic community and this was great company but meant I was still able to stay in the house. My Anxiety grew so big I would cry if my partner was out and it was raining as I had no way of getting the washing in and would feel extremely stressed about this. I was unable to take the rubbish out all these things made life almost impossible.
I once again saw a psychologist who helped with many issues and me up with a psychologist assistant who worked with me. She set up ten steps in terms of fear and we started with the easiest and built up to the hardest. This included going into small local shop and actually walking into a pub. This was quite rushed as I was in the process of completely moving areas. While I did get through this I found that it didn't really get to the bottom of the problem and the level of my fear of going out still fluctuated.
After a few years I set to deal with my agoraphobia again. This time rather than using a cognitive approach I set at looking at the whole issue of my anxiety. We did discuss whether I had evidence that walking down the street was dangerous and as I had been attacked twice in the street initially I felt that actually I had a justified reason for my agoraphobia and felt as it had happened twice I was actually sending signals that I was a good target. I thought everyone was staring at me and on one session my psychologist asked me to describe one person I had seen on the way to see him. I was unable to and he explained that this was due to everyone not actually been interested in other people everyone is busy with their own lives. He also explained that I was linking the anxiety to going outside as the brain tries to find a reason and as anxiety peaks and troughs as I come home the panic subsides so I associate the panic with been outside. We set up that I would go out and when a panic attack happened I would not return home until it happened. I found my panic attacks did increase and the severity at times I had to sit down as I was convinced I would pass out. This technique did actually work quite well but I did continue to get stressed about going out.
In September 2005 I decided to enroll in college on an interior design course which meant I had to be in another room with people but I certainly would not be the focus of the attention. When I started I would take Lorazepam but was still sick in the toilets a couple of times in the toiletdue to anxiety. I didn't go to break as that was too stressful and when a trip was planned to the ideal home exhibition I spoke to the tutor who was very supportive. I did however within that year manage to go and view a show home with the rest of the group which did feel like a huge achievement and as the year progressed I managed to start going to breaks. Another huge achievement I made that year was to swim the Aspire channel swim which meant I had ten weeks to swim the equivalent of the English Channel which meant I did have to start training. I had always loved swimming and the thought that I was helping someone with more problems than myself very motivating. I did find the high ceilings very daunting but also found the swimming relaxing which tended to counter balance the two.
My course finished and at the end of August I discovered I was pregnant. This for me was the motivation I needed to finally put the effort in and when it got too tough to keep going. I started walking to the local shop and then getting my husband to collect me when I had been shopping then would walk both ways. I started going for walks and would distract myself from my anxiety with thinking about my son. I started gardening and found this was something I really enjoyed.
As my anxiety decreased and my ability to get around increased I discovered my husband actually didn't like it. He did like the fact he could go where he wanted and I couldn't really object as I was unable to go out. If he went out for the day I would have a nice hot meal ready for him when he came home. I joined Aqua natal when I was about 18 weeks pregnant and after the class we would go and have a chat and I found this to be very liberating. All the people at aqua natal were interested in talking about pregnancy and this was my favourite topic. I found that I could do more but at the same time realised my husband had done nothing to encourage me to leave the house. Places I had wanted to visit we never visited it was always where he wanted to go.
I found that once my son was born actually taking him out was a joy. He loved been out in the fresh air and while I was out with him he was my focus and had less time for my head to be thinking about the possible consequences of going outside. I actually enjoyed filling my line with tiny baby's clothes: although the novelty of washing for him has worn off.
My son is now three and he loves been outside. I tend to look at rainy days when we are stuck inside with dread as my son will get fed up and has no way of running his access energy off.
What have I learnt along my road to recovery?
I have learnt that agoraphobia does not get cured sitting in the house it only reinforces that the world is an unsafe place.
I have learnt that I can only beat my fears by facing them
I did need to understand my anxiety to face it.
I discovered that not everyone I thought was supportive of me wanted me to get well and these people are no longer in my life.
But the biggest thing I learnt was that I had to find the motivation to face my fears.
Facing agoraphobia does take a lot of courage and I am thankful my son helped me find that courage because I didn't realise on how much I was missing out on until I conquered my agoraphobia.
I have suffered from anxiety for many years now, as this is the first review I thought I would tell you a little bit about the condition....
Anxiety is a psychological disorder, which can occur on its own or can be caused by medication or through another psychological disorder. Most individuals who suffer form anxiety will also suffer from panic attacks and stress. Each panic attack is unique, no panic attack is the same and affects individuals in different ways. To find out more about the condition visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anxiety/Pages/Introduction.aspx or if you feel you may have the condition seek advice from your GP.
I always knew I had something different about me, my earliest recollection of having a panic attack was around the age of 5. Of course at that age no one knew what I was saying and the only way I could explain what it was I was feeling was as a "funny feeling". I would get a cold sweat and could feel the blood rushing around my body. I wouldn't say I feel scared when I have them, maybe because I am so used to them but I get a sense of dejavu, it makes me feel dazed and confused.
When I was at school I would try to explain these feelings to the teachers and they would just brush it off and thought I was having them on, which obviously made the attacks worse and they started occurring regularly at school.
The condition went untreated and over time the attacks became more serious and violent, I started to have black outs and seizures and it wasn't until I was 14 and suffering form sever depression that I actually knew that these "funny feelings" were in fact panic attacks. After seeing a psychiatrist for a while and being put on medication the panic attacks subsided. I started to feel like a nutter being on medication so after a year or so I stopped. I then fell pregnant, I had a few panic attacks during my pregnancy and one seizure but after the birth I haven't had any.
I started doing yoga and started to push myself into doing things, during the worst periods I wouldn't even go to school let alone the corner shop I had become a prisoner in my home. I am now back in education and am on my way to uni this year. I left school with no GCSEs and very little education, as teachers dismissed me as a problem child.
I hope that anyone especially a child who is suffering form any kind of mental disorder will now get the help and support that they need. If such conditions go untreated then the situation only worsens, I rebelled against everything because I though I was being controlled by something and thought that if people thought I was naughty then that is exactly how I would behave.
Anxiety, depression etc are illnesses but they do not control you, they may change you temporarily but the real you is still inside and when strong enough you will fight it and break free from the horrible thoughts you once had and realise you are just as important as anyone else. Focus on the good days they are what get you through it.
Psychological disorders need to be talked about more frequently, over time I think they are being more socially accepted but feel there is still a long way to go before we get the full benefits others seem to get. I hope this as help other suffers and those who are just well... curious. Tinkers x