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Common Questions About Anxiety & Panic

  • I often feel nervous or anxious. Is this normal?
  • I can’t stop myself from worrying, no matter how hard I try.  Am I nuts?
  • I think I’m having panic attacks.  Does that mean I’m going crazy?

What the experts say: Anxiety and Panic

An anxiety disorder is a condition that can seriously disrupt one’s life and work, lead one to avoid certain situations, and keep individuals from enjoying life.

Some common anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized – constant worrying and expecting the worst for six months or more.
  • Agoraphobia – anxiety about being in places or situations from which it might be difficult to escape.
  • Specific Phobia – persistent fear of specific things or situations.
  • Social Phobia – persistent anxiety about social or performance situations due to fear of embarrassment.

A panic disorder is a time-limited event in which there is a sudden onset of intense apprehension, fearfulness or terror, often associated with feelings of impending doom. During these attacks, the sufferer can experience such symptoms as shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking or smothering sensations, and fears of “going crazy”, losing control, or having a heart attack.

What Else You Should Know About Anxiety

Temporarily feeling anxious is perfectly normal. It’s the way the body responds when it thinks it’s being threatened. Not only do we experience fear or emotional discomfort, we also experience an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, increased body temperature, nausea, etc. This is a healthy body’s way of putting itself on alert when there’s a threat. However, if you are anxious so often, or so intensely, that it affects your ability to feel happy or relaxed, then you may have an Anxiety Disorder.

When feeling overly anxious, most people try to ignore the feeling, control it, or avoid things that trigger it. This only makes the anxiety stronger. The key to reducing anxiety problems is to help people recognize that their anxiety is triggered by emotions they may not even be aware of. When one can identify these emotions, and develops tools to deal with them in a healthy manner, the individual’s anxiety is greatly diminished.

What Else You Should Know About Panic

Although they seem extremely unusual, panic attacks are actually a very common event, and most people will experience a panic attack in some form or another at least once in their life. Panic attacks occur when our brain mistakenly interprets our healthy response as an anxiety situation, suddenly sending improper impulses to the rest of our body to respond with fear. Once the individual understands that what they are experiencing is a panic attack, not a dangerous life threatening event, or that he or she is not “going crazy” or about to die, then the symptoms begin to subside.

For more information visit the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

Birmingham Maple Clinic | Michigan Mental Health