Anxiety / Panic Attacks

Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time, when speaking in public, for instance, or when going through financial difficulty. This is a short lived normal emotional response.  However for some people, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives.  Anxiety comes in many different forms, such as panic attacks, phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety.

Scientists have done much research in this area and it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress.  Anxiety disorders may be caused by problems in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate fear and other emotions.  Studies have shown that severe or chronic stress can change the way nerve cells within these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to another.  Other studies have shown that people with certain anxiety disorders have changes in certain brain structures, namely the hippocampus, that control memories linked with strong emotions. 

Panic Attacks -  is a condition that strikes without reason or warning.  Symptoms may include sudden attacks of fear and nervousness, as well as physical symptoms such as sweating and a racing heart. During a panic attack, the fear response is out of proportion for the situation, which often is not threatening.  A person with panic disorder, over time, can develop a constant fear of having another panic attack, which can affect daily functioning and general quality of life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It's also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD.

Social Anxiety Disorder - It is characterized as the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.  Although a person may recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety.  They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety:

Feelings of apprehension or dread
Trouble concentrating
Feeling tense and jumpy
Anticipating the worst
Watching for signs of danger
Feeling like your mind’s gone blank


Common signs and symptoms of panic a attacks:

"Racing" heart.
Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy.
Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
Sense of terror, or impending doom or death.
Feeling sweaty or having chills.
Chest pains.
Breathing difficulties.
Feeling a loss of control.