A Prescription for Healthy Living

A Prescription for Healthy Living


What’s the Difference Between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder?

posted by Ranya Elguendy

Imagine walking through the front door of your home and discovering that a burglar has ransacked your living room. Naturally such a dramatic event would leave a person wracked with feelings of anxiety and fear. The impact of such an event may trigger off several physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heartbeat and sweaty palms. Anxiety can spark an adrenaline rush so strong that you may feel like you have the strength of ten men. Anxiety can actually give you the energy to perform certain tasks. Sometimes, however, anxiety can become completely consuming and destroy a person’s quality of life. Often anxiety can fill a person with an overwhelming sense of fear and dread that seem unshakeable.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an ongoing type of anxiety that is unrelated to a particular situation, circumstance, or event. Additionally, anxiety can cause a person to grossly exaggerate whatever it is he or she may be worried about in the first place. For instance, a mother may worry to the nth degree about a child who is actually quite healthy.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are many symptoms associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Listed below are the most commonly reported symptoms. This is not an exhaustive list; therefore, if you experience an onset of any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms not mentioned herein, contact your family physician immediately.

-Muscle tension

-Trembling

-Shortness of breath

-Rapid heartbeat

-Dry mouth

-Dizziness

-Nausea

-Irritability

-Inability to concentrate

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is another type of anxiety that occurs when a person experiences repeated episodes of extreme panic. These episodes are also known as panic attacks. Some panic attacks can be so strong that they have the power to emotionally cripple a person. These attacks can last anywhere from seconds to minutes, and the aftershocks can be just as paralyzing.

As mentioned, panic attacks can come from out of nowhere and strike at any time. You could literally be doing something as benign as driving in your car when all of a sudden you feel a tightness in your chest. You may feel dizzy, your heart is sure to race, and you almost feel like running as far away from yourself as humanly possible.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

If you experience any of the following symptoms, or any other persistent or worsening symptoms associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder, contact your healthcare provider. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Choking sensation

– Feelings of chest pressure and/or pain

– Pounding heartbeat

– Rapid pulse

– Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

– Shortness of breath

– Tightness in the throat

– Sweating

– Trembling and/or shaking

– Nausea

– Tingling and/or numbness of the extremities

– Hot flashes and/or chills

– Feelings of unreality

– Fear of losing control, going “crazy,” and/or dying

Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks

Science and medicine have come a long way during this century in that we have so many medications available to help alleviate–even eradicate–these symptoms. There are other ways besides medication that can be used in order to get your feelings of anxiety under control.

Learn different ways to relax. The modality you choose is obviously unimportant–the only thing that matters is that it works for you. Muscle relaxation, yoga and deep breathing techniques are easy ways to help different parts of your body to relax. Muscle relaxation is very simple: Simply start with the muscles located in the feet and work your way up, isolating and squeezing and releasing each muscle.

Exercise on a regular basis. Many people who deal with anxiety and panic disorder quit exercising altogether, but exercise can actually improve your sense of well being and put you in a better frame of mind.

Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. You may think that alcohol and drugs will relax you, but they can actually worsen anxiety and even cause worse problems.

Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Stimulants and feelings of anxiety do not mix very well; therefore, it is best to switch to decaffeinated beverages, at least until your anxiety or panic disorder is under control.

Confront the things that made you anxious in the past. Begin by first confronting these things. The more often you role-play, the easier it will be when the time comes to face your fears.

When you begin to develop feelings of anxiety, practice a relaxation technique, or focus on a specific task, such as counting backward from 100 to 0.

Episodes of panic and anxiety can cause a person to become fearful, but you do not have to be a prisoner of this condition. Although these feelings are real, they cannot actually hurt you. The next time you feel an attack come on, rate your fear on a scale of 0 to 10. Keep track of your ratings and write down in a journal what was going on in your life when you experienced the attack.

Anti-anxiety medications. Many, many people have found relief from taking an anti-anxiety medication. Never feel ashamed if your doctor suggests putting you on a medication to help with your anxiety, as this may only be for a season in your life.

If you have had trouble finding a medication that works for you, take heart: there are many medications available on the market today to help get you through this time in your life.

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