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ANXIETY DISORDERS

Anxiety disorders take many different forms. They can significantly disorganize both personal and professional lives. However, appropriate treatment will help fight the symptoms of anxiety effectively.

Many people who visit doctors or psychotherapists for a consultation report situations in which they experience anxiety. The intensity of their symptoms vary – from being slightly apprehensive and having “butterflies in one’s stomach” to debilitating attacks of panic and terror. Patients develop different understanding of these symptoms and their causes. Some remain utterly unaware and therefore feel helpless, stay at home and try to avoid situations in which they had experienced anxiety before. Others try to fight against their fear or shyness, despite the fact that the symptoms affect their performance and ability to find satisfaction in social or professional encounters.

The most frequent forms of anxiety disorders include:

Agoraphobia - refers to irrational fear associated with open space, leaving home or staying in places from which it is difficult to get out and where the possibility to receive help may be limited (e.g., public places like cinemas, theatres, supermarkets, churches). Agoraphobia is often accompanied by panic attacks.
Panic disorder - is characterised by recurring panic attacks which usually include somatic symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling muscles, breathing difficulty or panting, choking, painful sensation in one’s chest, dizziness, pressure or squeezing in a girdle-like pattern in one’s head, sensation of heat, numbness or tingling in different parts of the body. These symptoms are often accompanied by the fear of dying or losing consciousness. As the result of having a panic attack, some people develop anticipatory fear – they are afraid of being panic-stricken again and expect symptoms to reoccur. Read more about panic attacks.
Specific phobia - is a term for any kind of anxiety disorder associated with unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific situations, phenomena or objects (e.g., fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of crossing bridges). Subsequently, the affected person becomes very active in avoiding direct contact with stimuli that evoke fear. This usually affects social and professional functioning to a large extent. Because anxiety triggered by certain situations or objects seems irrational, the sufferers often try to hide their phobic symptoms from others.
Social phobia - refers to people who have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. In social encounters they feel highly stressed and ashamed. They are also afraid that others will notice and make a comment on their apprehension or other odd behaviour. Subsequently, they try to avoid social contact. Social phobia may thus impede establishing new relationships or pursuing a career.
Generalized anxiety disorder - is an anxiety disorder characterised by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday issues which is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. The sufferers may also fear that something bad will happen to them or their family. They are over concerned with everyday matters such as money, health issues, family problems, relationships at work, etc. Subsequently, they may develop problems with sleeping or concentration, general fatigue. To protect their relatives from the anticipated disasters, they may want to control others and avoid separation.

Therapy
It is reasonable to assess the intensity and duration of one’s symptoms before making a decision where to seek help and what type of treatment would be appropriate. If your symptoms have not impaired your daily functioning too much (e.g., going out of home, doing shopping, talking to a neighbour) you may start with natural methods of stress reduction (relaxation training, herbal remedies). You should learn how to take care of yourself and your needs, rest well, and become more natural and honest in expressing your feelings, emotions, and expectations.

If symptoms are more severe and disable normal functioning, it is recommended to have a diagnostic consultation with a specialist (psychiatrist or psychotherapist). It may turn out that your doctor recommends you psychotherapy, so that you can understand the dynamics of symptoms better (Why have they occurred? Why now? What is their function/purpose?). Anxiety symptoms often mask all kinds of internal conflicts and unexpressed emotions or needs.

If your symptoms are so severe that you cannot function well nor participate in a therapy, pharmacotherapy will probably be recommended to you. Tranquillizers may reduce your symptoms and enable taking part in psychotherapy. You cannot use them forever, though, because most of them are addictive. They are also not suitable for people who suffer from certain somatic diseases, for example, the ones connected with the respiratory system.Your common sense may lead you towards complementary medicine which offers all kinds of natural agents to restore mental harmony, including herbal teas, dietary supplements and other remedies. They are usually safe, have no side effects, and do not cause addiction. Many of these methods can be used together with pharmacotherapy.

Bach Flower Remedies for anxiety and stress
For panic attacks and acute stress, you may use the emergency formula called Rescue Remedy. It is a mixture of five flower essences recommended for stressful situations such as exams, a visit to a dentist, job interview etc. Those who worry a lot or imagine themselves having a panic attack should also consider White Chestnut for obsessive thoughts and Mimulus (for fear). Mimulus is also recommended for shy individuals, with a tendency to refrain and avoid challenges. Aspen is helpful when irrational fears occur and Red chestnut for those who are overprotective and worry about health and safety of their beloved ones. When someone lacks confidence and does not trust his or her skills and competence - Larch would be appropriate. It is also good to remember about Chicory which boosts self-reliance and independence, thus enabling people with panic attacks to go out alone, without carers.

In the process of therapy you will probably make interesting discoveries. Perhaps you will find out some hidden agendas behind your anxiety symptoms – for example, fear of leaving your “nest” and starting independent life, worries associated with entering the labour market and building your career, establishing family, adopting certain social roles etc. You may be surprised to find out hidden hostility and resentment masked by shyness or social phobia.

A good diagnosis and appropriate selection of essences (according to symptoms and features of character) is the key for getting the best results with Bach Flower Remedies. In most cases, consultation with a Bach Practitioner is highly recommended.