Anxiety Disorders such as panic disorder are far more common than most people think.
Researchers have found that anxiety disorders and chronic pain often occur together. In some patients, the stress associated with living with chronic pain may exacerbate conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression. Feelings of helplessness, loss of control and interference with daily activities from chronic pain can trigger mental health disorders in some pain patients. In some cases, the symptoms of an anxiety disorder may be similar to those of chronic pain and go undiagnosed. It is important to get a correct diagnosis since anxiety disorders are treatable.
The Most Common Anxiety Disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviour's or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.
Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety.
How to help someone who is having a Panic Attack
If you see a friend or loved one having a panic attack, there are things you should do -- and things you shouldn't do.
Things You Should Do
Stay calm. Don’t let the situation overrun you. Your calm behaviour will help your friend and let them know everything's OK.
Stick around. The best thing you can do to help with a panic attack is to stay and help your friend ride it out. Most panic attacks ease up in 10 to 30 minutes.
Do your best to be understanding, positive, and encouraging. Ask what the cause of your friend's panic is. That can let them take a step back and think about the situation more rationally.
You could ask:
How many times have you gone through this?
What did you think was going to happen?
What actually happened?
Questions like this will let friends or loved ones see for themselves their worst fears won't happen. It can also remind them of times they’ve come through panic attacks.
Encourage your friend or loved one to seek help. You can:
Search reputable online spots that offer support.
Recommend some self-help books.
If the panic attacks have a big impact on your friend's work or home life, it’s especially important that they get help from a professional
Options for treatment include:
Exposure therapy: Your friend will relive, or confront what makes them panic -- in a controlled environment. They'll learn -- slowly -- how to deal with those feelings.
Cognitive therapy (CBT): This teaches different ways of thinking, so the response to the fearful situation will change.
Things You Shouldn't Do
Don’t try to minimize it. Understand that the panic you see is real to your friend, even if the cause may not appear rational to you.
Don’t be judgmental or critical. Blaming someone for a panic attack doesn’t help. Don’t try to talk them out of it, either.
If you know what causes your friend's attacks, don’t help them avoid the situation. Escape now could be harmful later. It could make the anxiety worse and raise the odds for more attacks. They may also become reliant on you to shield them from their fears.