For this post, I was inspired by a recent post from the amazing Mona from Curls & Cakes, where she describes the course of mental illnesses, like anxiety disorder, as waves. Like Mona mentions “it’s okay to not feel okay”, I believe mental illnesses are not something to be ashamed of or stigmatized for. Its only by talking about the anxious, depressive, compulsive, etc. feelings, that we get to learn more about these kind of disorders. Therefore, I tried putting my own experience with anxiety disorder into words as well as providing some scientific information about it.
For me personally, anxiety mostly comes out of nowhere at random time points . These feelings of anxiety also vary in intensity every time, but are always overwhelming and even suffocating in such a way that, for those moments, I can’t properly carry on what I was doing.
Since mental illnesses are mostly an invisible burden, some people might underestimate them or still see such episodes of anxiety or panic attacks as an exaggeration of weak-minded people. But the truth is that mental illnesses actually have real physical characteristics and, thus, instead of underestimating or stigmatizing them, should be approached in the same way as physical disorders. Speaking from my own experiences, I can testify episodes of anxiety and panic have left me with palpitations (when you literally feel your heart abnormally pounding in your chest), extreme sweating without exertion, light headedness and dizziness, tingling sensations, shortness of breath and chest pain, even to the point I was thinking I was going to have a heart attack.
The term ‘anxiety disorder’ is actually the umbrella term for several more specified anxiety-related disorders, based on the causes or presented symptoms.
The classification is more or less as follows:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): chronic (>6 months) persistent and excessive worrying and anxiety.
- Panic disorder: recurrent attacks of discrete periods with sudden and intense apprehension, fear and terror.
- Agoraphobia: from the Greek words agora (marketplace) and phobia (fear) making ‘fear for a marketplace’ meaning an anxiety about and/or avoidance of places or situations where escape is difficult or embarrassing.
- Social phobia or social anxiety disorder: fear and avoidance of social or performance situations.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): an anxiety disorder caused by a traumatic experience in the past, re-experiencing that traumatic event.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): obsessions (distressing, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or images) that cause anxiety or distress, accompanied by compulsions, urges to repeatedly perform specific acts or rituals, to neutralize the anxiety.
Neuroscience has been studied widely the past decades, but the exact mechanisms of anxiety and related disorders still haven’t been solved. What we do already know, however, is that in anxiety disorders there is something wrong with the function of certain brain areas that control stress and anxiety hormones and these dysfunctions are caused by an interplay of many genes and environmental factors.
I hope this post gave you some understandable information about anxiety disorders and underlined that they should not be taken lightly. Besides my story, I highly recommend you to also read Mona’s and Katie’s story. Katie Joy Crawford is a talented young photographer, who captured with her beautiful self-portrait series “My Anxious Heart” the feelings of anxiety disorder and depression that words fail to describe.
I look forward to hearing your stories, questions or feedback!
x Miss Lipstick & Pipettes x
- Bear Mark F, Connors Barry W, Paradiso Michael A. Neuroscience: exploring the brain. 3rd Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2007.
- Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. 2013.