More than just the feeling of fear
It’s normal to experience emotions like anxiety and fear when faced with day-to-day stresses or problems. However, when these emotions become persistent, excessive and irrational, they may interfere with the way a person leads his or her life, ability to work, and ability to cope with the demands of life or relationships. When this happens, anxiety becomes a disorder.
Anxiety can manifest in various forms
If an individual has anxiety, he or she could suffer from the following conditions:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): Those with GAD tend to worry excessively about health, money, family or work even when there is no reason to.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Individuals with OCD have persistent and intrusive thoughts which are resisted at the cost of mounting anxiety.
- Panic disorder with agoraphobia: These panic attacks (characterised by sudden attacks of fear, breathlessness, a choking sensation, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fears of losing control or going insane) can occur anytime and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes each time.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This condition often affects those who have been through extreme trauma caused by war, natural disasters and assault.
- Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder): Social phobia is classified by an extreme anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
Women are twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder
Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that women are more prone to anxiety. It’s not known why women are more likely to have anxiety, but the researchers suggest that it could be due to differences in brain chemistry between the two genders.
Other risk factors include individuals from the low socio-economic strata, middle-aged persons, those who have gone through negative life events such as relationship failures, job loss or illness of a loved one and those who are anxious by nature.
Looks are deceiving
In the early stages of anxiety, it will not affect normal life. According to the Singhealth website, an office worker who has anxiety, for example, may still be able to step into the office, but his productivity might be marred. Only severe forms of anxiety disorders can disrupt daily activities.
Don’t be afraid to seek help
If the anxiety is disruptive, see a doctor. The doctor will take a series of blood tests to rule out physical issues like hyperthyroidism, as well as use a diagnostic tool like an electrocardiogram to exclude cardiac conditions.
Depending on the severity of the anxiety disorder, doctors may prescribe different classes of medication like anti-depressants. Psychotherapy is also very helpful for those with anxiety. Sessions may include cognitive behaviour therapy which helps you to recognise and control your fears, modify your mindset, or desensitise you to anxiety triggers.
If you think you may have the symptoms of mental illness or want to find out more, you can visit sites like Singhealth and the Institute of Mental Health. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or know someone who is thinking about suicide, you can contact the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800-221-4444 for help.
The above medical information is from Singhealth, Singapore Association for Mental Health, Institute of Mental Health, Centre For Psychological Wellness and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.