can cause numerous disruptions within your life and relationships

Professional talk therapy counsellors will help find personally restorative strategies to enable you to cope better and manage distressing panic events when they occur.

What is anxiety?

The distinction between panic attacks and anxiety disorders can be summed up as follows:

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of such intense fear that the person loses partial control over their emotions and reactions. Panic attacks last for relatively short periods (a few minutes to a few hours) before they subside.

Anxiety disorders cover a number of conditions that make people more susceptible to panic attacks. An anxiety disorder may last for years unless treated. Frequent panic attacks might point to an underlying anxiety disorder.

The difference between “normal anxieties” and “pathological anxiety”.

Normal anxieties are responses to realistic threats or concerns.

Fear, when you are confronted by a vicious animal, is normal anxiety. Social nervousness prior to making a public speech is normal, as are other mundane worries, such as a dip in your finances, or frights while watching a horror movie. Normal anxieties are those deemed fairly common to all people.

Pathological anxiety is an abnormal or irrational response to vague or non-existent threats.

There is no justifiable threat, yet you are overwhelmed by “what if” feelings of fear, doom or panic. It may include excessive fear of harmless animals, open spaces or small spaces, social events, or being a passenger in a car to name a few. There may even be no threat at all or a very remote threat but that it is perceived to be imminent. Pathological anxiety can affect a person’s life negatively for a very long time. It can last for many years, if not treated.

Stimulants like caffeine and other substances, especially some illegal drugs and some medications, make panic attacks and anxiety disorders worse.

Anxiety is a relatively common mental health symptom. About one in ten people are afflicted with it at some point in life. Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with cognitive behavioural therapy and, if necessary, supportive medication.

Anxiety Types

Generalised anxiety disorders are the most common anxiety disorders and are present all the time, or a lot of the time. You feel a constant mental and physical tension about many things that may never happen. Overarching anxious feelings across many seemingly “small issues” cause you persistent stress. When you are unable to shake the feeling where you expect that something, somewhere, will go wrong.

Panic disorders can happen to healthy people when under unusual stress. Symptoms may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. It becomes a disorder when these attacks happen often enough to cause disruption to your life.

Specific phobias refer to excessive dread of clearly defined phenomena. Sufferers strenuously avoid these things. Example are: certain animals, insects, reptiles, blood, heights, thunderstorms, tight spaces, wide-open spaces, flying, being a passenger in a car, etc. Sometimes the fear seems outrageously irrational, such as a fear of pigeons.

Social phobia is worse than shyness or stage fright. You stress even when just having a peaceful, private conversation with two or three people. You feel that you are being closely observed and negatively judged by them. The larger the gathering, the more the fear of public humiliation and the need to avoid it.

Separation anxiety happens when someone is separated from a person or place and they feel unsafe or insecure because of the separation. It may also come from a major lifestyle change. Mild insecurity may be normal, but the excessive reaction is a disorder that results in trauma and panic attacks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) results from an extremely unpleasant event experienced by a person. It may be a natural disaster, combat duty, sexual assaults and rape, serious accident, etc. The event is relived in the mind and brings on bouts of panic. Sufferers also live in fear of a real-world repetition. They anxiously avoid things that remind them of or expose them to, such an event.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is symbolised by repetitive, intrusive actions. The actions are unnecessarily repeated, over and over. It involves things like constantly checking if machines are switched off, washing hands, checking door locks, etc. Sufferers do it to soothe simmering anxiety about the possibility that something may go wrong.

Get help with anxiety today in Cape Town’s leading treatment centre.

Talk therapy is one of the widely-used treatments for anxiety disorders. This collaborative process can be most effective when applied in inside a safe & restorative recovery centre environment. Recovery Direct can help you make positive life changes & build healthy coping strategies.

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What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Some symptoms and signs of anxiety disorders:

  • Frequently experiencing sudden, strong fears
  • Unjustifiable feelings of danger or impending doom
  • Ongoing irrational fear of certain objects, places, situations
  • Losing control of emotions and reactions
  • Shaking, trembling, sweating, weakness in limbs
  • Rapid pulse, irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Choking, dry mouth, nausea, stomach upset
  • Strained vocals, difficulty talking (or, conversely, yelling and screaming)
  • Poor concentration, dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling detached
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Clenching of hands or jaw, twitching facial muscles
  • Asthma and allergy symptoms
  • Muscular tension and pain (especially neck, shoulders and back)
  • Anger, impatience, fatigue,
  • Insomnia, nightmares, depression, isolation (urge to escape)
  • Changes in lifestyle, behaviour and habits
  • Abuse of alcoholmedication or illegal drugs

Anxiety brings more than panic or stress. It leads to, or worsens, other mental and physical conditions. Apart from these additional ailments, the frequent panic attacks also create a feeling of “fight or flight” – the person may over-react to this and inflict some form of injury or damage. Someone who has an anxiety disorder is repeatedly exposed to this risk.

There are many other symptoms, and not all are present at the same time.

What treatment is available for anxiety?

To gain control over anxiety, you have to learn techniques that give you control over the conditions that cause the anxiety, rather than relying too heavily on medication. The medication suppresses the symptoms, rather than curing the root causes. However, some medication may be required for certain conditions.

Benzodiazepines (tranquilisers) are effective, but they should only be used in the event of very severe panic, as they are addictive and this can become a bigger problem than the anxiety itself.

Less risky / addictive solutions to treat anxiety should be explored before turning to prescription medications like benzodiazepines.

Antidepressants have shown good results in some cases, but it requires experimentation to find one that works for you. Although some brand named products portent to be identical solutions, in real life they cause different side effects for different people. There is a bit of scientific uncertainty about the usefulness of antidepressants for anxiety treatment, yet anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression, so it may be worth your while to experiment with it.

Beta-blockers prevent rapid heartbeat. This will work if you find a pounding heart troublesome, but it does not help for the other symptoms of anxiety. Beta-blockers are not addictive, as they do not induce you to take bigger doses as time goes by. However, if you use them for a while you can not suddenly stop using it – you have to taper off slowly.

So-called exposure treatment for phobias involves gradually exposing sufferers to what they are afraid of. In this way, they are conditioned to whatever triggers the anxiety and the unfounded fear gradually disappears.

Psychotherapy is usually the most effective method for treating long term anxiety. For example, methods such as cognitive therapy, mindfulness, meditation, are often used to uncover destructive thought patterns and ways to change them, thus averting the need for medication. In cases where medication may be required, professional psychotherapy will still enhance your life and reduce your reliance on prescribed medications.

What are the long term prospects for anxiety treatment via talk therapy?

Anxiety disorders respond very favourably to cognitive and other talk therapies and can be used in conjunction with other methods of treatment. With guidance, you learn to master the problematic triggers and to deter relapse cycles. Anxiety requires care principals, sensitivity and experience to apply it effectively.

Avoidance behaviours restrict the way you live your life and learning how to handle many life situations, without these restrictions holds immense value.

Alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications may soothe anxiety symptoms temporarily however effective treatment requires the dismantlement of the driving emotional causes of the condition. This can be achieved fastest through confidential talk therapy sessions with a qualified counsellor.

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