October 3, 2012

Anxious Much?

In today’s world, people have so much to do and so…little…time. In a global world where in seconds people have contact with someone on another continent, we can accomplish so much. As cool as this is, it also means that we do more. We are constantly doing—trolling the web, writing reports, researching ideas, creating new studies, curriculum, and opinions, helping others, and so, so much more. With all this doing comes stress and anxiety.

Anxiety often is not just a feeling; it can be a disorder. WebMD describes five different types of anxiety disorders: panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Each disorder has different effects; however, one key component of all the anxiety disorders is fear. For instance, NPR recently reported that people with OCD fear that if they don’t do something, something else very bad will happen. Fear drives their compulsions.

Nail-biting, which is considered a form of pathological grooming, will be classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). NPR notes that one key difference between pathological grooming and OCD is that nail-biters enjoy their compulsion. There is no fear. Yet, nail-biting is often a sign of anxiety for many people. It’s a release—albeit temporary—from their worries and stresses. Of course, for many nail-biters the consequences of short nails, red fingers, and scabs often contribute more anxiety.

Anxiety can be dangerous because it often leads to other disorders, most specifically depression. It is important to understand the risk factors for anxiety. The Mayo Clinic states that the following are all risk factors for anxiety:

  1. Being female
  2. Childhood trauma
  3. Stress due to an illness
  4. Stress build-up
  5. Personality
  6. Genetics
  7. Drugs or alcohol

Obviously, some of these we can control like our usage of drugs or alcohol and controlling our stress build-up, but some, like simply being female or having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder, are completely out of our control. Regardless, though, if we know what to look for, we can better prepare ourselves and seek the medical attention we need.

Anxiety disorder is not just feeling anxious about a tense meeting; it consists of fear, panic, worry that is so intense it controls our actions and choices. A good example that shows this comes from specific phobias. Those suffering from specific phobias, one of the types of anxiety disorders, are so controlled by their fears that they change their entire lives to avoid the phobia. Likewise, those with some form of OCD often suffer such compulsions that they interrupt their very lifestyles. Each of the types of anxiety disorders impact the sufferer’s very existence. It’s no laughing matter. It’s not light nor something to ignore. Anxiety is dangerous. Psychologically, it contributes to depression. Physically, anxiety manifests in many ways including, but not limited to, heart palpitations, headache, fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, and so much more. Clearly, this cannot be healthy for the heart. And if anxiety manifests itself in the form of a panic attack, we can lose control of our bodies. Anxiety is not something to ignore.

In our ever-moving world, with our constant contact and doing, we must be aware of our health. Even the slightest attack of anxiety can be a precursor to something larger. We must be kind to ourselves and take care of our stress. We must be aware of our individual risk factors for anxiety. And we must seek help if we have anxiety disorders. Nothing is more important than taking care of our bodies, minds, and souls; being educated on anxiety does just that.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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