Anxiety Disorder Symptoms and Prevention
Public speaking is a major challenge and burden that creates a lot stress for Natela Wasike. Natela is a friendly girl who is quite comfortable interacting with different pressures through her work and social networks. She is very conscientious and organized. Natela does not like to have things put in the wrong places at the wrong times. While she is well-adjusted to society, Natela does not like to be put out of her normal place as she interacts with different people. She does not like public speaking or being put ‘on the spot’. Instead, she prefers to receive proper warning and preparation beforehand. This early notice allows her to prepare herself with the goal of ensuring that she will be successful in responding to these issues. Being informed that she will have to host a discussion has created a lot of stress for her.
Natela’s outreach club has chosen her to host a panel of young people, meaning that she will have to carry out public speaking without a clear script. This situation has caused her to have serious bouts of anxiety. As the day of the event comes closer, Natela has experienced a few anxiety attacks. She struggles to breathe in these situations as she remembers the way in which this situation will unfold. It is hard for her to feel ready as she knows the questions may come from all corners with no clear organization. When she wakes up on the day of the event, Natela has her worst panic attack yet as she reviews the discussion information. The weight of anxiety is extensive on her as she works to deal with this widely open situation
Being worried or fearful is normal while Anxiety Disorder is not. Here is the difference. Experiencing occasional bouts of anxiety is a normal occurrence. You will sometimes be worried about your test results, a job interview, or even a first date. Anxiety disorder is more than this, however. The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety disorder as a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.
We sat down with counseling psychologists Catherine Muriithi and Edna Chawia from Nsikize and asked them to help us define Anxiety Disorder. Here are some of the insights we gleaned.
An anxiety disorder is an unreasonable and excessive fear towards a situation, event, person, or object. A person with an anxiety disorder may or may not display the following signs and symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- An increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Psychosomatic illnesses – These are illnesses such as hypertension, gastrointestinal disturbances, migraine and tension headaches, pelvic pain, or even impotence. Despite conducting several tests psychosomatic illnesses have no known physical cause.
- A persistent sense of impending danger or doom
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty relaxing
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Even if you display some of these symptoms you should be careful with self-diagnosis. Edna Chawia mentioned during our conversation that only a qualified counseling psychologist or psychiatrist should diagnose an individual with anxiety disorder. They will usually do so if you are displaying five or more symptoms and have done so for more than two weeks. “This is what distinguishes anxiety disorder from seasonal or situational anxiety” she told us.
Prevention of Anxiety
If you are displaying some of these symptoms or know someone who is, here are a few things to help cope.
Discussing with other people is important in dealing with anxiety. Today’s young person has limited in-person interactions. There is also less access to older generations – most grandparents live out of town and several parents work late and leave early isolating their children. Social interaction is about the intentional relationships you maintain. Having people around you who notice when your behavior or patterns change is good for your mental health. It also helps to be able to talk and be open about what it is that is causing you stress and anxiety.
Think of self-awareness like your personal check engine light. You do not need to go to a mechanic to know when a car engine has an issue – the car will indicate when there is a problem. It is likewise important to be aware of our mental and emotional states. A good way of building awareness is creating a priority list. List down all the things in your life that might be causing anxiety.
- COVID-19 has pushed my graduation, and entry into the job market.
- Do not have enough money for school fees
- Both my parents are out work and we have had to move to a new house
- I am afraid of the Coronavirus and death
- Because of COVID-19 and the effect of the pandemic on business there are few available jobs in the job market.
Next, determine what is within your control and what is not within your control. For items that are not within your control you will need to figure out how to cope with them and be at peace. Another way of developing self-awareness is journaling writing about experiences that have played a role in how you feel or think.
Seek Help Early
If you are overwhelmed or can sense that you are severely anxious then seek help. Talking about what is causing you anxiety or spending time with a professional counselor will help you feel better and assist you in changing your mindset on the issues affecting you. Seeing a counsellor does not mean that you are mentally insane or abnormal. Counsellors help you cope and give you a variety of tools and exercises to support you through the various challenges that life throws at you.
Seeking professional help has turned several people’s lives around and increased the quality of their life. If you would like to talk to a professional but you are afraid and not sure as to how it will go, start of by making an anonymous call. Nsikize have a 24-hour hotline (0900 620 800) that only charges you 7 shillings per minute. For 20 minutes you will spend KES 140 and will be able to find some form of release.
This is a good and simple start to helping you ease into the idea of counselling. If you feel you need more time with a professional, they have affordable but professional chat and in-person counselling services. Remember a conversation with a professional counsellor not only helps increase your quality of life, helps you cope with day to day challenges but could also save a life.
For more tips on how to prevent anxiety, read our mental toughness article here.