We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I am presenting a series of articles covering a variety of issues on mental health subjects to increase our knowledge. These have so far covered:
- “What is Mental Health?”
- “The Impact of Mental Ill-Health”
- “When is a mental health problem a problem”
- “Balancing the Risks around Mental Ill Health”
Continuing with the illnesses coming under the banner of “mental ill health”, let’s now take a look at anxiety.
There have been times when understanding anxiety has been challenging. The thought that something we are “merely” anxious about can be to the extreme and become a disorder – as in an Anxiety Disorder and have a debilitating impact on a life may seem extreme. But, when we look at the types of anxiety disorder, it suddenly makes a lot of sense.
Anxiety Disorders include:
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – different types include locking and checking of windows and doors, hand-wringing, hand washing (to the point of rawness), counting windows or lines or light fittings, never stepping on a crack in the pavement, hoarding, etc
- Phobias – I have a list of 100 different phobias from arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) to zoophobia (a fear of animals)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder – anxiety about anything and everything
- Panic Disorder – also called panic attacks
- Acute Stress Disorder – the result of a traumatic event, usually fades or dissipates over a few weeks
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the trauma from an event is still being experienced more than two months after an event and often includes flash-backs
- Social Anxiety Disorder – also called social phobia, affects our ability to meet and talk to people, eat and drink in public, etc
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder – all or part of our visual appearance to the affected person is very stressful, others may not notice but the affected person dwells on it. For example, people may say we have a “normal” nose but we view it as utterly hideous and stress over it.
What is most notable is that the severity of the symptoms is greater and they last longer (than “normal”). I think it is worth noting that the response to the trigger issue is debilitating and impacts life. As an example a person with OCD may take an hour and a half to leave the house to go to work in the morning because they are repeatedly checking their home security such as door locks, window locks, water taps, gas taps, electrical switches, etc, are all securely turned off, and doing it many times over before feeling secure enough to actually leave the house and go to work. This is debilitating and may affect their work, home and social lives to the point of not wanting to make the enormous effort required to leave the house in the morning (which in itself may have another impact).
Whilst on the subject of OCD, I have heard people say (business managers in particular) that they are a little bit OCD by insisting they want something done in a particular way or to their standard. This is not OCD, it is not debilitating and ruining their day (at home, at work or socially). These are people with high standards and blaming apparent OCD for having high personal standards. Their high standards are what got them to the place they are in their job and they expect the same high standards from others. People impacted by OCD are so involved with their own issues that they are not able to look much beyond that. Don’t confuse OCD with having high standards or use OCD as an excuse for your own insecurities.
What are typical symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?
- Restlessness – physical restlessness, the “fidgets,”
- Worried – expressing worry about
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- A feeling of doom, unease or apprehension when not in imminent danger
- Muscle tension
*It must be stated that if a person has palpitations, has no idea what is happening and no previous history of heart disease that an ambulance should be called. I am sure anyone working in emergency services would rather check on someone having a panic attack for example than being called in late to attend a person having a heart attack because it was thought to be “only a panic attack.” If in doubt ask the person if they have had this before and what happened or what helped them then. If in doubt – call the emergency services.
Remember – the symptoms of an anxiety disorder last longer than normal, affecting many areas of life and can be quite disabling. There is an overlap of stress into the anxiety disorders.
The next article in this series will look at depression, both in general and in the workplace.