UNDERSTANDING ANXIETY: DIAGNOSIS AND VARIOUS CONDITIONS
Have you ever experienced trouble in sleeping because you’re unprepared for your exam tomorrow? Have you ever worried because you’re thinking your mom might slap you in the face if she discovers you’ve been hiding the fact that you’re in a relationship? How about crying because of the fear you won’t get a job? Have you ever felt scared of losing something or someone important to you? We all experience different forms of this feeling we call anxiety. It is described as an emotion which is usually characterized by the feelings of tension and worried thoughts. Also, there are times that it manifests physical changes in an individual like increased rate of blood pressure (APA, 2000).
It is normal from time to time to be anxious about something. However, if the feelings of anxiety have become recurring in irregular and intensified way that it already causes distress and dysfunction to the individual experiencing it, that may be the time that it could be translated into what we call “anxiety disorder”. So how do we know if we are already qualified with having this disorder? Do not worry. Even though doctors and psychologists are only legally allowed to diagnose such things, we will be giving you general information and tips that might help you in diagnosing anxiety disorder in this article.
However, before we move forward, there are a few things that need to be clarified. First, having anxiety is far different than having an anxiety disorder as it is mentioned earlier. You would know if the feeling of anxiety is normal when its occurrence is supported by a reasonable cause. Second, the diagnosis itself is not just gotten from somewhere else. Criteria and symptoms are based on the holy bible of the psychologists – the Diagnostic Statistical Manual which is a comprehensive book for mental illnesses created by the American Psychological Association. This book is a reliable source of information of mental health conditions around the world. Lastly, the term disorder is different than the word disease. A disease has something to do with the pathophysiological response to internal and external factors while disorder has something to do with the impairment of the regular bodily structure and function which causes disruptions in the normal lifestyle of an individual. Thus, we cannot call disorder a disease and vice versa.
Acute Stress Disorder (ACD
The first type of anxiety disorder is the Acute Stress Disorder (ACD). It starts when an individual elicits a natural response to a traumatic event such as serious injury or death. This kind of traumatic event causes an individual to be totally, extremely helpless and out of control. Within four weeks of the occurrence of the traumatic event, one or more of the symptoms must be seen with a minimum duration of two days and a maximum duration of two weeks. These symptoms include flashbacks (either in waking or sleeping hours) that are repeatedly and intensely remembered due to an interaction of the individual with several triggering stimuli. Because of this, the individual learns to be consciously or unconsciously avoidant with any stimuli that can be associated with the traumatic event. This is called the concept of generalization in psychology wherein an individual learns to elicit the same response to things similar to the primary trigger of the reaction. Another symptom is characterized by the term we call derealization–in which the individual’s perception of the world around him or her becomes unreal. There is also emotional numbness, detachment, trouble in sleeping, feelings of irritation, tiredness, and frustration to the simplest, unimportant things.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable anxiety that is due to external factors such as school, work, or home life. Anxiety is shown through physical effects such as irritability, tensions in the body, chest aches and headaches, edginess or impatience, trouble in sleeping and tiredness that lasts within the duration of six months (even if it’s not completely every day).
These symptoms should be causing dysfunctions in the daily routines and harmony of the individual before it is considered as GAD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The next type of anxiety disorder is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized mental health disorders in the world- the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many misuse the term OCD with work ethics or cleanliness but it is actually more than that. The truth is people with OCD have intense recurring, obsessive thoughts of worry; and what they have to do in order to calm themselves is to resort to repeated rituals that will divert their attention and get rid of horrible thoughts. These thoughts may be in the form of sexual, violent or religious (in nature) thoughts.
Panic Disorder is the type of anxiety that manifests through a panic attack. However, one should be knowledgeable that there is a huge difference between the two terms–panic attack and panic disorder. A panic attack is associated with the intense anxiety that involves fight or flight response with things that aren’t actually imposing any threat. Symptoms include rapid heart rate and breathing, sweating, shaking, flushing, chest pain and feelings of doom. A person is considered having a panic disorder if after experiencing several panic attacks, the individual becomes intensely afraid of experiencing it again even if he or she hasn’t experienced any further panic attacks.
Anxiety Disorder could also come in the form of phobias such as specific phobia which is a condition that indicates having intense fear with a particular object that causes disruptions in any aspect of an individual’s life. Say, for example, damages at work or at school functions.
All of the details above might be helpful to you. If you suspect yourself to be qualified for any of the conditions, do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Do not hide it. It is still advisable that you consult with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who can help you with proper medication. Health is still important than the pressures of stigma.