Sunday, Oct 20, 2019 | Last Update : 09:53 PM IST

When fear takes over

THE ASIAN AGE. | KAVI BHANDARI
Published : Jan 17, 2019, 6:27 am IST
Updated : Jan 17, 2019, 6:27 am IST

Anxiety, at times, leads a person to mental issues like Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Image for representational purpose
 Image for representational purpose

In today’s world where mental health (along with physical health) is of utmost importance, doctors are suggesting psychotherapy for those suffering from GAD.

Anxiety in humans has grown over the years. We tend to feel scared, disoriented and anxious for a long period of time, at times. Anxiety even leads a person to other mental issues, which might be serious and need to be addressed with the help of an expert. A common problem is GAD.

“GAD stands for Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which, in layman’s terms, means Free Floating Anxiety. A person having GAD may have anxiety for no reason at all, as they just feel stressed out and worried all the time, or even take stress or get anxious about anything and everything that they think, see, hear or apprehend,” says Dr Akshay Kumar, senior psychologist and psychotherapist.

He adds, “In this fast-changing world where stressors are increasing, reaction time is decreasing and living standards are changing frequently, anxiety is a common phenomenon people face.”

Shedding light on this further, Dr Niru Kumar, senior psychologist and CEO of Ask Insights, says that GAD is the most common anxiety disorder. “Anxiety disorders are thought to be caused and maintained in part by a disturbance in information processing that leads to an overestimation of danger or perceived threat and an associated underestimation of personal ability to cope. Humans experience some amount of sensations of anxiety, but excessive or inappropriate anxiety becomes an illness.”

Many people are not even aware that they have GAD. Also, people are ashamed to say that they go to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist as they feel others will think that they are mentally ill.

“Anxiety is one of the most prevalent of all psychiatric disorders in the general population. Simple phobia is the most common anxiety disorder, with up to 49 per cent of people reporting an unreasonably strong fear and 25 per cent of those people meeting criteria for simple phobia. Social anxiety disorder is the next most common disorder of anxiety, with roughly 13 percent of people reporting symptoms that meet the DSM criteria,” says Dr Niru.

“The general symptoms of anxiety include worry, avoidance and muscle tension. These can be categorised as the three different responses that are verbal- subjective (worry), overt motor acts (avoidance) and somato-visceral activity (muscle tension) (Craske et al., 2009).  An individual may have four aspects of experiences such as mental apprehension, physical tension, physical symptoms and dissociative anxiety. Others include startle reaction, restlessness, hyperventilation, lack of coordination and tremors. The indicators of the physiological response include acceleration of heart rate, dilation of the pupil, elevated blood and salivary cortisol levels. The cognitive responses include impaired attention, poor concentration, forgetfulness, confusion, nightmares and errors in judgment. The affective responses are frustration, jitteriness, terror etc.,” says Dr Akshay Kumar.

“There are various ways one can treat GAD, but the first step is to acknowledge having it and being open to visiting a professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. Various therapies like cognitive behaviour therapy have proved to be most effective methods of overcoming anxiety. There are other tools like meditation, which prove to be extremely effective. Also, physical exercise or yoga has found to have an enhancing effect on serotonin, which reduces anxiety. Leading a grateful and positive life, by appreciating things one already has, is the best antidote to a stressful life,” feels Dr Niru Kumar.

Says Dr Mamta Shah, consultant clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, “Anxiety is a state where one feels something bad or wrong or uncontrollable is about to happen. It’s a feeling of uneasiness, worry, or nervousness which may occur with or without any foreseen danger or threat. Fear, on the other hand, is the body’s instinctive reaction to immediate situations of danger. Anxiety is also a state of mind where we are continuously thinking about ‘what’s going to happen’.”

She further elaborates: “Anxiety also acts as a signal in response to stress or tension. Hence it is not necessarily always a bad thing as it helps us to become alert and be prepared. There is a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. It is normal to feel anxious about common situations like the first day of school or college, giving speeches, preparing for exams, moving to a new place or job, etc. Although this anxiety makes us feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, it can eventually motivate us to work harder and do a better job. This anxiety comes and goes without really interfering in one’s growth.

“The way one experiences anxiety differs from person to person and the feelings one experiences can range from butterflies in your stomach to feeling like your heart is racing and about to explode. Other symptoms may include restlessness, sweating, panic attacks, irritability, fatigue, nightmares, insomnia, difficulty breathing, feeling dizzy, fidgeting, muscle tension, numbness, etc. All of this can be quite debilitating for the person suffering from it.

“One of the most common anxiety disorders is GAD. It’s characterised by severe, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about one’s life. This in turn will hinder one’s day-to-day functioning. The persons suffering from it worry about matters like work, relationships, health, money, death or life, even when there is no apparent reason for it. At times, just thinking about how one is going to get through the day causes anxiety. People suffering from GAD often feel on the edge, have difficulty concentrating and always expect the worst. They may even know that their thoughts are irrational. They can’t help but feel them, which can lead to physical symptoms and disrupt daily life. The best treatment for GAD is psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy can help identify and understand the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to this condition, making the person aware of their patterns and in turn lowering the extent of worry,” she signs off.

Tags: fear