How to Spot the Signs of an Anxiety or Panic Disorder

Throughout your life, it’s normal to experience a sense of anxiety, fear and even panic, when you’re facing a scary or threatening situation, or you’re in danger. These are natural emotions, connected to our internal “flight or fight” response (see our previous blog, Learning How to Manage Your Anger , which explains this in more detail). However, the problem begins when people start to feel these emotions on a day-to-day basis in non-threatening situations. When this occurs, it can often indicate that someone is suffering with a form of anxiety. According to ‘Anxiety UK’ stats, around 3 million adults suffer from anxiety nationwide and there are many different types, including panic disorders.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry or unease. When this feeling persists and begins to impact on our daily lives, it is usually the sign of an “anxiety disorder”. For example, if you’re suffering from anxiety, you may start to withdraw from your family and friends. You might feel unable to go to work or attend social events. Sometimes, this can evolve into a “panic disorder” whereby your anxiety causes you to experience an extreme level of fear in the form of a “panic attack”. Such an attack can be incredibly frightening for the sufferer due to the physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and they may even feel faint.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of having an anxiety disorder can range from mild to very severe. As well as having a direct impact on relationships with family, friends and work colleagues, the sufferer will experience a lower quality of life, due to feeling continually restless and fearful.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself or someone whom you suspect may be suffering with a type of anxiety or panic disorder:

1. Do you regularly turn down invitations to events with friends and family for no significant reason, and/or avoid certain situations at work or in your personal life?

2. Do you often find it difficult to sleep, i.e. you might struggle to fall asleep and/or wake up early or very late?

3. Do you constantly feel tired and fatigued?

4. Do you find it difficult to control your worries?

5. Do you struggle to concentrate, i.e. brain fog?

6. Do you often feel irritable for no apparent reason?

7. Do you feel physically tense, i.e. in your muscles?

8. Do you find yourself overreacting to certain situations?

9. Do you suffer with any psychosomatic symptoms, such as headaches, dizzy spells, stomach aches, or even pins and needles?

10. Do you experience any physical symptoms, such as “panic attacks”, i.e. a racing heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath and excessive sweating?

What are the long-term effects?

Anxiety can take over people’s lives and, if left unchecked, a sufferer might withdraw completely from day-to-day life due to constantly living in fear. On a physical level, there are many negative health effects, as sufferers are less likely to lead healthy lifestyles, leaving them at risk of illness and disease. If someone suffers regularly from panic attacks, this will affect their heart and their blood pressure. Over the long-term, as a panic attack causes metabolic changes and the release of stress hormones, continual attacks could lead to a serious illness later down the line. If left untreated, the feelings associated with anxiety can become cyclic. As people live “in fear of being in fear”. By worrying about getting anxious, this can in itself cause the sufferer to experience more attacks, and the “anxiety cycle” goes on and on. There are various ways to treat and manage an anxiety disorder and, usually, it’s a combination of several approaches. Factors such as poor sleep and fitness levels, an unhealthy diet, excessive caffeine and alcohol can often contribute and exacerbate anxiety disorders. However, one of the most successful ways to control anxiety is by undergoing talking therapy or counselling sessions. Talking therapies enable a sufferer to explore whether there could be an underlying issue causing the anxiety – for example, a past trauma, relationship breakdown, abuse or an addiction.

Getting support to overcome anxiety and panic

If you believe that you, or someone you know, is suffering from anxiety or a panic disorder, then it’s really important to seek help. We offer a safe and confidential setting, where our clients can openly discuss their feelings free from any judgement. For more details, please get in touch.