Anxiety Disorder

What is it?

Everyone experiences anxiety at some time. When people describe their anxiety, they may use terms such as anxious, stressed, wound up, nervous, on edge, worried, tense, or hassled. Although anxiety is an unpleasant state, it can be quite useful in helping a person to avoid dangerous situations and motivate the solving of everyday problems. Anxiety can vary in severity from mild uneasiness to a terrifying panic attack. Anxiety also can vary in how long it lasts, from a few minutes to many years. An anxiety disorder differs from normal anxiety in the following ways:

  • It is more severe
  • It is long lasting
  • It interferes with the person’s studies, other activities, and family and social relationships
Signs and Symptoms: 

Physical:

  • Pounding hear, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and blushing
  • Rapid, shallow breathing, and shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling, and numbness
  • Choking, dry mouth, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains (especially neck, shoulders, and back), restlessness, tremors, and shaking

Psychological:

  • Unrealistic or excessive fear and worry
  • Racking thoughts or mind going blank
  • Decreased concentration and memory
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Feeling on edge
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Vivid dreams

Behavioral:

  • Avoidance of situations
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  • Distress in social situations
  • Phobic behavior
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs

 

At home, young people may:

  • Complain about headaches and other physical problems to avoid going to school
  • Be tearful in the morning, saying they do not want to go to school
  • Spend more time doing homework or express unnecessary concerns that the work is not good enough
  • Demand constant reassurance from parents
  • Be touchy and irritable in interactions with family
  • Spend a long time getting ready for social occasions, worrying about their appearance or what they might do, or decide at the last minute not to attend social occasions

 

At school, young people may:

  • Be extremely well behaved and quiet, fearful of asking questions
  • Demand extra time from teachers, asking questions constantly and needing a great deal of reassurance
  • Not hand in assignments on time because the work is seen as less than perfect
  • Complain of sudden, unexplained physical illness, such as stomachache or headache, when exams or presentations have been scheduled

 

In a social setting, a young person may:

  • Avoid meeting new people or socializing with groups, spending time with only a few safe friends
  • Use alcohol or other drugs at parties to make it easier to talk to people
  • Leave social events early
  • Avoid speaking up for fear of embarrassment
Support Strategies: 
  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies
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