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Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks

Getting anxious is a normal human response to a stimulus such as stress. Triggers can be many, and include not just problems related to work, but health issues, anxiety regarding children and family related issues. While anxiety appears to be just a singular condition, it is in fact a serious condition that includes a number of different disorders such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorders, social phobias and obsessive compulsive disorders.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of nervousness or worry regarding events whose outcome is unknown.

In this article, we shall briefly touch upon what an anxiety disorder is, what anxiety attacks are and what symptoms the patient suffering from anxiety attacks can experience.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders that can include a number of different clinical conditions. These include -

  1. Panic disorders - This condition is characterised by the patient experiencing a feeling of terror, breathlessness, sweating, chest pain and even their heart racing extremely fast. Many patients present to hospitals with a panic attack thinking that they might be suffering from a heart attack.
  2. Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - This is a form of anxiety where patients suffer a traumatic event that leaves them with a terrifying memory of it, with it exerting a significant impact on the daily living of a patient.
  3. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - Here patients have constant thoughts of performing a particular action that troubles them all the time. Performing these actions can cause significant anxiety to the patient.
  4. Social phobias - This can include anxiety in social situations such as meeting up with friends or even strangers.
  5. Generalised anxiety disorder - Here, the slightest things can worry the patient and can result in anxiety.
  6. Other phobias - Patients may experience fear of certain situations which are typically described as phobias. For example, certain patients panic and have an anxiety attacks when they are in enclosed spaces such as elevators (claustrophobia).

When patients experience any symptoms suggestive of an underlying anxiety disorder, it is termed an anxiety attack.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack

There are a variety of symptoms that patients suffering from an anxiety attack may experience. These include -

  • Chest pain
  • Increasing breathlessness with shallow breathing
  • Palpitations - Heart racing fast
  • Sweaty, cold hands
  • Flashbacks in the case of patients with PTSD
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour in patients with OCD
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting

These symptoms often occur in combination with each other and can be very distressing not just to the patient, but also to family members as well.

Anxiety disorders encompass a number of different disorders. Symptoms overlap and require managing effectively.

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