Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Dr Anuja Kelkar

Causes of Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Anxiety can stem from various factors, and it's often a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and neurological elements. Here are some common causes:

  • Genetics: A family history of anxiety disorders can increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety.
  • Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine can contribute to anxiety.
  • Personality Factors: Certain personality types, such as being more prone to perfectionism or having a negative outlook, might make someone more susceptible to anxiety.
  • Trauma: Past traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can significantly impact mental health and contribute to anxiety.
  • Stressful Life Events: Major life changes, ongoing stress, work pressure, relationship issues, financial difficulties, or health concerns can trigger or exacerbate anxiety.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, heart conditions) or medications can cause symptoms similar to anxiety.
  • Substance Abuse: Drug or alcohol abuse can lead to anxiety symptoms or exacerbate pre-existing anxiety disorders.
  • Environmental Factors: Living in a highly stressful or chaotic environment can contribute to the development of anxiety.
It's essential to recognize that each individual's experience with anxiety can be unique, and it often involves a combination of these factors. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can provide valuable support in managing anxiety.

Anxiety Management techniques

  • Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 technique. These can help calm your nervous system and reduce immediate feelings of anxiety.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): This technique involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in your body progressively. It helps release physical tension associated with anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness or meditation practices can train your mind to stay present and reduce rumination or worries about the past or future.
  • Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress. Aim for regular exercise, whether it's walking, yoga, running, or any activity you enjoy.
  • Journaling: Write down your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can provide a clearer understanding of your triggers and help you track patterns in your anxiety.
  • Limit Stimulants: Reduce caffeine intake as it can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Opt for herbal teas or decaffeinated options.
  • Establish a Routine: Structure your day with a consistent schedule for meals, sleep, work, and relaxation. This predictability can create a sense of stability.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts by reframing them positively. Replace self-critical or catastrophic thoughts with more realistic and positive ones.
  • Visualizations and Guided Imagery: Visualize calming scenes or use guided imagery apps to redirect your focus and promote relaxation.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small, to build confidence and reduce stress.
  • Connect with Others: Share your feelings with someone you trust. Social support can provide comfort and perspective.
  • Limit Media Exposure: Constant exposure to distressing news or social media can heighten anxiety. Take breaks and limit your exposure if it's impacting your mental health.
Remember, finding the right combination of techniques may take time. What works for one person might not work for another. Experiment with these methods and consider seeking professional guidance to tailor a plan that suits you best.

Anxiety Psychology

Anxiety, a blend of cognitive distortions, intense emotions, and behavioral patterns, emerges from exaggerated worries, catastrophic thinking, and fear responses to perceived threats. It triggers physical symptoms and avoidance behaviors, often rooted in past experiences or learned responses. Psychological treatments like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) target distorted thoughts, modifying behaviors, and teaching coping mechanisms. Understanding the interplay of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors assists in developing strategies to challenge anxious patterns, cultivate resilience, and regain a sense of control over anxious responses, fostering better management and alleviation of anxiety's impact on mental well-being.

Anxiety symptoms in women

Anxiety manifests through diverse symptoms, including persistent worry, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and tense muscles. Physical manifestations encompass increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, and gastrointestinal issues. Sleep disturbances, fatigue, and a sense of impending danger or panic characterize anxiety. Avoidance behaviors, obsessive thoughts, and heightened sensitivity to triggers are common. These symptoms often disrupt daily functioning, leading to social withdrawal and diminished quality of life. Recognizing these signs aids in seeking timely support, as untreated anxiety may intensify and impact overall mental and physical health.

Anxiety disorder Psychotherapy

Anxiety disorder psychotherapy employs evidence-based approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat excessive worries, panic, or specific phobias. Therapists guide individuals in identifying and challenging distorted thought patterns while learning coping strategies to manage anxiety triggers. Exposure therapy desensitizes individuals to feared situations, gradually reducing anxiety responses. Mindfulness techniques foster present-moment awareness, mitigating anxious thoughts. Through structured sessions, therapy aims to reframe negative beliefs, modify behaviors, and equip individuals with effective tools to navigate anxiety, promoting long-term relief and empowering individuals to regain control over their lives.

Anxiety attacks

Also known as panic attacks, involve sudden and intense feelings of fear or discomfort that peak within minutes. These attacks can be overwhelming, often accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms that can feel frightening and uncontrollable Anxiety attacks.
During an anxiety attack, individuals may experience a range of symptoms, including:
  1. Physical: Rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, tingling sensations, and chills or hot flashes.
  2. Emotional: Intense fear, a sense of impending doom or danger, feeling detached from reality, and a fear of losing control or going crazy.
  3. Cognitive: Racing or intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and a feeling of being out of control mentally.

Anxiety attack Immediate Treatment

  • Deep Breathing: Controlled breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 method, can help regulate breathing patterns and calm the nervous system.
  • Grounding Techniques: Focusing on the present moment by engaging senses—feeling the ground beneath, observing specific objects, or using mindfulness—can help divert attention from anxious thoughts.
  • Safe Environment: Moving to a quiet, safe space or engaging in familiar, calming activities can reduce overwhelming stimuli.
Long-Term Management
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) assists in identifying triggers, changing thought patterns, and developing coping strategies to manage and reduce anxiety attacks.
  • Medication: In severe cases, doctors may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or beta-blockers to alleviate symptoms or prevent future attacks.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction techniques, and a balanced diet contribute to overall mental health and can help reduce the frequency of anxiety attacks.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation: Practices like meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation can lower overall anxiety levels and prevent attacks.
  • Professional Support: Seeking guidance from mental health professionals offers tailored strategies and support for addressing and mitigating anxiety attacks, providing tools to navigate future episodes effectively.
  • Understanding the symptoms and having a range of coping strategies—both immediate and long-term—can empower individuals to manage and diminish the impact of anxiety attacks on their daily lives.