Your heart is racing; you feel disoriented, your breathing is heavy and you cannot understand why. You feel tightness in your chest and pains in your arm and neck. A moment ago, you were just fine going on about your life minding your business and then boom all of a sudden your mind and body feel out of control and you feel as if you may pass out. That sounds scary doesn’t it, trust me it is, what I just described was my first anxiety attack which I experienced at the age of 19 shortly after finishing my sophomore year in college. At the time, I had no idea what was happening to my body and sought my doctor’s care. After explaining my symptoms to my doctor, he asked me a few questions. Are you in school, did you just take finals, do you have a boyfriend, do you have a job, and my answers to all of those questions were yes. He looked at me and said what you experienced was an anxiety attack. The doctor explained, when you deal with high stress, even if its good stress (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) your body might cope and manage things without exhibiting extreme signs of stress while navigating various situations and stressful events. However, your mind and body may react to all of the stress that you endured, weeks, months, or even years after you experience stressful and traumatic times. I was shocked and relieved at the same time, shocked to find out how your body and mind are impacted by stress and relieved that I was not suffering from a physical illness. The doctor and I wrote it off as an occurrence due to the high levels of stress that I had just endured.
Fast forward 20 years, and I would discover that although I was not suffering from a physical illness, I did live with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) which can manifest as physical pains and result in anxiety attacks as well as affect your ability to manage day-to-day life and activities. According to https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ “people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work”.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:
· Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
· Being easily fatigued
· Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
· Being irritable
· Having muscle tension
· Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
· Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
We all experience some anxiety, but when anxiety dictates your life and leaves you unable to function as normal, it is time to seek help. If you live with or suspect that you live with anxiety, please do not ignore the signs. I repeat, please do not ignore the signs and seek the help you need to lead a healthy and productive life.
Want to learn more about GAD and how to manage its symptoms, check out the links below.
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