What is Anxiety?
It is normal to experience anxiety or worry before a big presentation, a major examination, or when trying something for the first time. Think about your first day at kindergarten, your first date, or trying something heart-racing like bungee jumping. We are uncertain about what to expect, although we hope that everything will go well.
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and concern towards a future-oriented event. While it is quite normal, some individuals experience it quite intensely, in a form that may be excessive, irrational, and quite persistent. They may be overwhelmed with excessive thoughts or worries about future danger, and this distress interferes with their daily functioning.
For example, an individual may refrain from driving or taking public transport because of excessive fear of getting into an accident. A mother may prevent her child from going out of the house because of her excessive fears that the child gets hurt. In both scenarios, anxiety has become quite debilitating for the individuals.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is an overwhelming sense of fear that strikes suddenly. It is often accompanied by a number of physiological reactions, such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling or shaking, sweating, nausea, and feeling light-headed. An individual also feels a sense of terror, and has fears of dying, going crazy or losing control.
Not all individuals with an anxiety disorder will experience panic attacks. Some individuals experience a single episode of panic attack without any recurrent episodes or further complications. Other individuals experience panic attacks as part of another anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or agoraphobia.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
01 | Panic Disorder
Individuals diagnosed with a panic disorder has experienced at least one panic attack, or recurrent episodes of panic attacks. They develop an intense fear and have excessive worries about having another panic attack, which leads them to behave differently in a way that disrupts their daily life.
For example, an individual may avoid places in which he or she had a previous panic attack. An individual may also start avoiding social situations in case he or she has a panic attack in front of his or her friends.
02 | Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Social anxiety disorder is a strong and persistent fear of social and performance situations whereby the individual is exposed to public scrutiny. These situations may range from having a conversation with others, eating or drinking in front of others, to giving a public speech.
An individual with social anxiety disorder may go out of his or her way to avoid these situations. For example, a person may avoid having lunch with his or her colleagues by disappearing during lunch time.
03 | Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive free-floating anxiety about a number of different things. An individual must have experienced this pervasive, uncontrollable anxiety for a period of at least 6 months. This excessive worry is also usually accompanied by other symptoms such as constantly feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.
04 | Specific Phobias
Specific phobia is a strong and persistent fear of a specific object or situation. When an individual encounters these objects or situations, he or she experiences a fear response that is similar to a panic attack.
The most common phobias are a fear of height, flying, animals, receiving an injection, and seeing blood.
Signs of Anxiety Disorder in Singapore: Symptoms to Look Out For
While the diagnosis for the different anxiety disorders differ slightly, all anxiety disorders share common symptoms:
- Excessive worry that is hard to control
- Sleep disturbances (e.g. difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep)
- Constantly feeling on edge
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Change in behaviour and disruption in daily life
Not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. However, if your anxiety issues are interfering with your daily life, or preventing you from achieving goals that are important to you, it is a good idea to seek counselling and psychotherapy help. A professional counsellor can work with you to break through your limiting beliefs to achieve success.
What are the Treatment Options for Anxiety?
01 | Anxiety Counselling and Psychotherapy in Singapore
Psychotherapy is usually the most effective option for anxiety. Through the process of therapy, individuals uncover the causes of their worries and fears and learn new skills for relaxation, coping and problem-solving. The most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT helps individuals explore and change the thoughts and emotions that are associated with their fears.
Another form of therapy is Exposure Therapy. Exposure therapy helps individuals confront their fears in a safe, controlled environment, which can be very useful for specific phobias.
02 | Medication
Anti-depressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants are commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines is a class of drugs that is frequently used for short-term management of anxiety.
Medication can be very useful in helping to relieve the symptoms of anxiety in severe cases. However, anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines may weaken in effect over time, hence requiring higher dosages over time.
Tips for Coping With Anxiety
01 | Learn about anxiety and fear
Individuals can benefit tremendously by learning more about anxiety and fear, such as the fundamental distinctions between the fear and anxiety response patterns, and what goes on in our central nervous system during a panic attack.
Learning to recognize physiological responses that are associated with anxiety can help with managing them in the long run.
02 | Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can have mood-altering effects, which may make the symptoms of anxiety worse. Avoid foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, and any type of alcohol. Also avoid medications or herbal remedies with stimulants such as diet pills and non-drowsy formulas.
03 | Get sufficient high-quality sleep
Sleep problems and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. Try to keep to a fixed sleeping schedule and create a sleep ritual that helps you power down for the night.
04 | Engage in physical activities
Engaging in physical activities help to release brain chemicals that lowers our stress level and improves our mood. This is very beneficial is relieving the symptoms of anxiety.
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