Anxiety disorder symptoms give us insight into how anxiety disorders develop. Stemming from experiences, anxiety/panic and learning, these symptoms can be expressed physically, behaviourally and psychologically.
Many of them occur across all anxiety disorders reinforcing the belief that these problems are all related. When we truly understand anxiety disorders, we know that it is much more than this. These problems are not just related, they are the same problem, merely expressed in different ways.
Here's some of the symptoms that many people experience, whatever their disorder.
These can include:- headaches, digestion problems, bowel problems, allergy-type problems, fatigue, constant colds and skin problems and may be due in part to the suppression of the body's immune system by chemicals released into the bloodstream when anxious.
(Please note that any recurring physical symptoms such as pains or function
problems (eg. digestion, bowel) need to be checked out by a medical doctor
as they could be the signs of underlying physical disease)
BEHAVIOURAL - some examples are:-
Feeling nervous and uncomfortable in the company of other people.
(possibly mild social phobia / social anxiety symptoms)
Persistant and uncontrollable worrying about people / events / situations.
(GAD - symptoms general anxiety disorder)
Avoiding situations where we can be judged, criticized and rejected or places
(eg. outdoors) and objects where we feel vulnerable. (phobias)
Obsessions and compulsions
Attempts to reassure and protect ourselves - to allay the anxiety over inner
fears through a sense of control. (OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms)
Constantly visiting the Doctor. Every ache and pain becomes associated with being something more serious.
Involves feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, that events are beyond our control and everything we try to do fails or will fail.
Fears over losing control and being judged on performance can maintain these
Others include: aggression, sleep disorders and eating disorders.
PSYCHOLOGICAL - expressed in our thoughts, feelings and actions, they can include:-
Needing to be the strongest, the most beautiful, the cleverest, the most
handsome, have the best body, to do the best, to be the best etc.
Always comparing ourselves with others and coming up short.
Constantly watching ourselves.
Desperately needing the love and approval of parents and others.
Common ones include:- one day being rich/famous/great, loved by all.
Represent attempts to bring form and order to our world, to gain a sense of being in control.
Here, what is done by (happens to) one side of the body must be done by (happen to) the other side - also related to order and control.
Ending sentences with questions
To shift the attention away from us to the other person.
Involves constant feelings of 'being picked on' and 'others are treated better'.
Believing our body, or parts of it, are 'not good enough'.
Standing shoulders down, feet inwards and arms in front of body, trying to be small, almost apologetic for being there.
Others include: persistent negative thoughts and images, constantly looking back for reasons and answers and feelings of having no control over our mind or body.
Which anxiety disorder symptoms exist, the number of symptoms, the extent to which they occur, the situations in which they appear and the way they interact with each other are as complex as the individual and the events experienced. They can support and confirm each other and strengthen until they become part of the make up of an individual. It's not surprising that we tend to use such phrases as "It's just the way I am" and "It's just part of me".
However, such behaviours do make up JUST PART of a person.
Someone who is sad - is also at times happy, weak - is at times strong, scared - is at times brave and unconfident - is at times confident!
The psychological symptoms above give us a massive clue as to what anxiety disorders really are and how we get them. They also show us how it is possible to cure anxiety disorders completely.
By Terry Dixon B.Sc.
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