Credit: Photo by FlickrJunkie

It was sudden. My chest tightened, my heart was pounding, I started to sweat and it was difficult for me to breathe. I ran out of the room quickly hoping that nobody would notice. I thought I was going crazy! I thought I was going to die!

Can you figure out exactly what is happening in the situation described above? Go ahead and give it a shot…if you guessed a panic attack you were right. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…let me back up a little to our main topic of Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety Disorder is a blanket term that covers a range of different types of manifestations. More specifically, it encompasses feelings of fear, worry and apprehension; creating illogical and restrictive patterns of behavior.

What about the symptoms? What are they? Did you recognize any in the above scenario? How about in your own experiences? Let us explore this further.  

The symptoms can be categorized in three ways; there are cognitive manifestations, behavioral manifestations and physical/biological manifestations.

Cognitive Manifestations

The cognitive manifestations are related to the thoughts that go through your mind when you are in an anxious state. These thoughts can be as mild as worry to as severe as panic attacks or feelings of impending doom (such as death).

Can you identify some of the thoughts that run through your mind when you are feeling anxious? Are you looking for approval? Wherein you are constantly worried about what people think of you.  Are you addicted to worst-case-scenario thinking? Wherein you always think that the worst possible outcome will come true.

How about do you magnify the importance of negative experiences in your mind, further heightening your anxiety? Do you abhor making any mistakes and think that everything must always be perfect? Do you struggle with focusing your thoughts because of preoccupations with unknown dangers/fears?

Lastly do you experience racing thoughts? Wherein worry and concern repeatedly invade your thought process and is almost uncontrollable. The aforementioned describes some of the cognitive manifestations. Next we will move on to the behavioral symptoms.

Behavioral Manifestations

The main and probably most important behavioral manifestation for Anxiety Disorder is avoidance!  Do you fear public speaking? How about large crowds? Whatever your fear may be, what was one of the first things you did to manage your anxiety? You probably avoided those situations all together! For example classes that required you to do presentations were probably dropped instantly or jobs that required presentations or public speaking weren’t even considered.

If you fear crowds I am certain you made sure to stay clear of the malls during Black Friday, Boxing Day, Christmas season and the like.  Avoidance serves the function of decreasing your anxiety and making you feel better instantly because you don’t have to encounter or experience your fear.

Other than the cognitive and behavioral symptoms mentioned above, there are also physical/biological manifestations.

Physical/Biological Manifestations 

The physical/biological manifestations include:

  • Mouth dryness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Fainting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased perspiration
  • Muscular tenseness
  • Indigestions
  • Dizziness

So far we have defined Anxiety Disorder and have examined the three categories of symptoms. I also hope you were able to explore your own experiences or that of a relative or friend. Rest assured you are not alone! Anxiety is very common but most people are afraid to talk about what they are going through. I hope this is the first step towards you being able to open up about your anxiety, even if it is to yourself.