We have all had symptoms of anxiety at some point in our lives. In fact, anxiety is a normal reaction that is activated in the face of a threat or danger. The problem comes when it becomes an anxiety disorder, which happens when this reaction is frequently activated in situations that are not objectively threatening or dangerous and significantly affects daily life. We can say that a person has an anxiety disorder when he is persistently unable to do the things he usually likes.
Having experienced the emotion of anxiety is not necessarily negative, as it helps our body prepare for some tasks that are difficult for us or that we perceive as threats. Anxiety produces a psychophysiological reaction of intense activation of the central nervous system and the entire body that prepares us to be alert and respond appropriately to a situation that worries us and causes us to feel dangerous.
It is very common, for example, for students to have feelings of anxiety before an exam. But it is a feeling that disappears as soon as the test has been carried out, that is when the danger has passed. Understanding that anxiety is a normal emotion is an important aspect for those who have it since the goal should not be to eliminate it, but rather to learn to tolerate and manage it.
Anxiety disorders constitute one of the most frequent groups of mental disorders and it is considered that 20% of the population will suffer from them throughout their lives. The number of people affected varies depending on the disorder. The most common is caused by a specific phobia of something.
The reactions caused by anxiety have their origin in brain mechanisms. The brain of human beings very well integrates information from the past (memories) with information from the present (situation) to anticipate and foresee the future (consequences). When a present situation resembles some previous memory or experience, the same associated sensations and emotions are activated. If this situation resembles the memory of a situation that caused fear in the past, the person can easily evoke it in the present as well.
Typology of Disorders
The problem arises when normal anxiety in any human being becomes an anxiety disorder. This happens when the patient has intense fear or anxiety and excessive worry. These disorders generate significant discomfort and affect the daily functioning of the person, regardless of their age. They are related to various aspects of his life, such as family, work, or friends… There are many types of anxiety.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
It affects children. In this type of disorder, the minor has an intense fear of being separated from his parents or the people who care for him for fear that something will happen to them and he will not see them again.
It is when a person has an intense fear of an object or a specific situation. It is common in people who, for example, can’t stand injections, are afraid of heights, or can’t get on a plane. If the person has an intense fear of social situations (such as having a conversation, being watched, or speaking in public) it is called social phobia.
A panic attack is defined as a sudden and intense episode of anxiety that is accompanied by overwhelming physical sensations (palpitations, choking sensations, dizziness…) and thoughts that are usually catastrophic (fear of losing control, of dying, among others). ).
It occurs in people who are usually afraid of feeling feelings of anxiety such as the heart racing or they notice generalized sweating because they fear that if that happens they will not be able to ask for help and they will be left in a vulnerable situation. To avoid this, they choose not to mix with people and avoid being in places where there are many people. For example, they don’t use public transportation, they don’t go to restaurants and they are terrified to go to a concert.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This disorder appears when a person constantly worries about some day-to-day situation. It can be about very different situations, such as worrying about health issues, about the children’s school performance, or about work issues. These concerns affect the person’s sleep and ability to concentrate, and as a result, they feel very tense or fatigued and often have headaches or stomachaches.
It is very important to receive treatment to prevent it from becoming a chronic disease. Several studies show that people with anxiety disorders who do not receive treatment are likely to have a chronification of these and have a higher risk of developing other psychiatric problems such as depression or excessive consumption of toxic substances, such as alcohol or drugs. Chronically experiencing anxiety can affect the functioning of the rest of the body’s systems and increase the risk of other diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders or heart problems.