Anxiety:THE ROOTS AND TRIGGERS OF ANXIETY

INTRODUCTION

When anxiety hits, you can’t exactly express it to others. But yet, every voice in my head wants to be heard. My racing mind and having these sleepless nights can say a lot. Under the surface of a seemingly smiling face lies a weary soul, tired of every worry but unable to stop it. It’s like a weight strapped to the back. It keeps pressing and pressing.

Even when you’re tired and you just want to sleep,. And no one else can see it following you everywhere. You can’t escape the mind. You just try to make peace with it. When it gets worse, you feel a heavy chest; you feel as though someone is cutting off your air pipes as the air disappears. Your hands go numb as well as your body, but yet you’re aware of how fast your heart is beating. The mind races through the negatives, slowly drowning. Feeling like it is all coming true.

Phrases like “It can’t be that bad” and “Just calm down” only make things uneasy, other than making us feel lonely. Sometimes I long for times where I hear no artificial noises, only birds, breezes, and water moving against a shore. Peacefulness is hard to find, but still, it’s my longing to abide by myself in this tranquility, in a tuned, loud silence. I want to be able to close my eyes, forget all, and sit in the stillness and treasure it. I want the silence to overcome the mind as I sit in tranquility.

ANXIETY MEANING, ANXIETY DISORDER, CAUSES OF ANXIETY

Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”

Charles Spurgeon

Anxiety disorders affect 2.5 to 7 percent of the population worldwide. In 2020, an estimated 284 million people experienced an anxiety disorder, making it one of the most common mental health disorders. While there is limited research on anxiety in our country, some studies indicate a significant increase in anxiety disorders among young people. That’s why I’ll be discussing this important topic today.

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Feeling anxious before a test, job interview, or in a new environment doesn’t always mean you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear, anxiety, and related behaviors such as avoiding social gatherings, escaping anxiety-inducing situations, engaging in risky behaviors like excessive drinking and substance abuse, and becoming overly attached to a safety object or person.

For a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety or fear is either hindering his or her daily life. It is either out of proportion to the situation or is age-inappropriate. Many anxiety disorders develop in childhood and tend to persist if not treated. Most occur more frequently in females than in males (approximately a 2:1 ratio).

CAUSES OF ANXIETY

The causes of anxiety disorders are yet to be known, but the following are presumed to be the causes and triggers:

1.Genetics:

Family history and genes for anxiety or other mental health disorders can increase susceptibility. Imbalances in brain chemistry, particularly neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to anxiety.

2. Trauma and life experiences

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you’re very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Major life changes, such as divorce, moving, or job loss, can trigger anxiety. This is due to the stress associated with these events. Traumas and experiences that can trigger anxiety problems include things like:

  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse, e.g. rape or sexual assault
  • loss of a loved one and grief
  • Neglect
  • Being bullied and being socially excluded

3. Brain structure

Research suggests that certain areas of the brain, like the amygdala (responsible for processing emotions) and prefrontal cortex (involved in decision-making), play a role in anxiety.

4. Personality factors

People with perfectionistic tendencies or those who are highly sensitive may be more prone to developing anxiety disorders. Individuals with a history of shyness or segregation during childhood might be at a higher risk for social anxiety.

5. Chronic stress

Long-term exposure to stressors, such as work pressure or financial difficulties, can lead to chronic anxiety. It is important to note

6. Negative thinking patterns

Chronic negative thinking, catastrophizing, and excessive worry can feed into anxiety disorders. Cognitive biases, such as assuming the worst will happen, can trigger anxiety.

7. Substance use and withdrawal

Alcohol, drugs, or even withdrawal from substances such as caffeine can trigger anxiety symptoms or worsen existing disorders. Anxiety can also be caused as a side effect of taking certain strong medications, e.g.

  • some  psychiatric medication; anti depressants, analgesics or stimulants
  • some medications for physical health problems
  • Recreational drugs such as cannabis, cocaine or even heroin

8. Medical conditions

In most cases, other health problems can sometimes cause anxiety or make it worse. For example: mental health problems: it’s also common to develop anxiety while living with other mental problems. such as depression, ADHD physical health problems

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Tairus Mulei is a psychology student at the university of Nairobi

Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways. If your experiences meets certain criteria,

Your doctor might diagnose you with a specific anxiety disorder. Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This type of disorder is marked by persistent and excessive worry. This is mainly about various events or activities in their daily lives, such as school and work performance, in which it becomes hard for the individual to control the worry. The worry is often unrealistic and out of proportion to the situation.
  • Separation Anxiety: An individual suffering from this type of anxiety disorder is usually fearful or anxious about separating from home or attachment figures. It is persistent and can last up to at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and typically 6 months or more in adults. The fear or anxiety can be about harm falling upon attachment figures or events that could lead to the loss of or separation from attachment figures, thus making them unwilling to separate from them. Some individuals can also become homesick and uncomfortable to the point of misery when away from home.
  • Selective Mutism: Despite speaking in other situations, the individual suffering from this type of anxiety has a consistent failure to speak in a social situation in which there is an expectation to speak. It is most likely to appear in children rather than adolescents and adults. They do not fear negative evaluation in social situations where no speaking is required. It interferes with their academic or work achievement and social communication.
  • Specific Phobia: A phobia is a type of disorder defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation. We say a specific phobia exists when individuals are anxious about or avoid a specific object or situation. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is almost always immediately induced by the phobic situation, to a persistent degree and out of proportion to the actual risk posed. The phobia can include heights, animals, flying objects, seeing blood, and other situations. It is common for an individual to have multiple specific phobias.
  • Social anxiety (previously known as social phobia): people suffering from this anxiety are anxious about or avoid social interaction and situations that can involve the possibility of them being negatively evaluated, embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, or offended by others. It is persistent and can last up to 6 months or more. The social interactions include meeting unfamiliar people, eating or drinking in a place where they may be observed, and performing in front of other people, like giving a speech.
  • Panic disorder/panic attacks: People suffering from this type of anxiety disorder usually have unexpected recurrent panic attacks; thus, they are persistently worried about having more panic attacks, so they try to cope with it by developing poor patterns of behavior. These poor patterns of behavior are unhealthy and can result in non-productive outcomes with short-term relief.
  • Agoraphobia: Occurs in the following situations: being in open spaces; being in enclosed places; standing in line or being in a huge crowd; or being outside alone. The person is fearful or anxious about two or more of these situations. The person develops panic-like symptoms or other symptoms due to the thoughts of escaping might be difficult or help might not be available in the above situations.
  • Substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder: A person can feel anxious due to substance intoxication, side effects, withdrawal, or a medication treatment.

Is it fear or anxiety?

By Leonard Ochieng 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders defines fear as an emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is the anticipation of future threats. Often, fear and anxiety overlap and are quite similar, so one might confuse fear with having an anxiety disorder. This could lead to unnecessary treatments and medications in addition to unwanted stress for the person experiencing it and their loved ones if not properly identified. If you have worries about your mental health, seeing a professional is always the first and foremost important thing to do.

Fear, or distress, is usually caused by an immediate danger. Other times, it can be the thought or anticipation of something real happening in the nearer or distant future. The feeling fades after the threat isn’t present anymore.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a condition in which the brain thinks everything is a threat and functions accordingly by sending signals of alarm and panic even when it shouldn’t. It is an excessive or irrational amount of worry that tends to take control of one’s life in most cases. What makes it different is the fact that it usually does not have a direct source. It either emerges from one’s thoughts and imagination instead of an actual danger or is triggered spontaneously.

Anxiety doesn’t go away easily and significantly affects sleep, eating habits, work, and relationships. It causes functional impairment, making the person unable to work or sometimes speak while having an episode. This is because the excessive stress hormones focus one’s attention on whatever thought is making them anxious. They also differ in terms of management. Distress can be controlled or at least minimized by breathing techniques, internal or external reassurance, etc.

in the short term, and learning stress management, meditational, and time management skills in the long term. These methods can help ease the symptoms of anxiety. Think of them like the supplements you take besides your regular treatment. But the underlying condition still needs to be treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist since it is a disruption to mental health and daily life. So, if you can’t be sure if what you’re feeling is an anxiety disorder or stress, take time to closely study your feelings and be able to know which is which and what triggers them. In the meantime, take care of yourself by practicing meditation and self-care. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help since there are trained professionals waiting to help you and people struggling with their mental health.

In summary, it’s crucial to recognize that anxiety and panic attacks are not indicators of weakness but rather a testament to the remarkable resilience of our minds and bodies. They serve as a reminder of the deep connection between our thoughts and our physical reactions. Furthermore, they underscore the significance of tending to our mental and emotional well-being, just as we would attend to our physical health.

Keep in mind that if you or someone you know is facing challenges with anxiety or panic attacks, you are not alone. Assistance is accessible, and recovery is achievable. With the appropriate resources, techniques, and encouragement, the path to handling anxiety and regaining a life characterized by tranquility, equilibrium, and strength is attainable. I have faith in you, and I am confident that you can overcome this.

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