ANXIETY DISORDERS: Among the most prevalent psychological problems seen by mental health professionals and are known to be a major component of many medical conditions as well. These disorders (described below) are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Simple Phobia, Social Phobia, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fortunately, successful psychological treatments are available for Anxiety Disorders. These include (among others) relaxation. Untreated, anxiety can have a profound impact on your ability to work, socialize, travel and generally cope with the demands of everyday living. Frequently, people with a fear of one object or situation wind up being apprehensive in a wider variety of circumstances unless they do something about their anxiety. People experiencing Anxiety Disorders are often misunderstood by well-meaning friends and family members who advise them to “just get over it” or “just stop thinking about it”. Anxiety sufferers very often report that they cannot get others to really understand just how severe their nervousness, fear, apprehension and physical symptoms are.
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDERS: Unrealistic or excessive anxiety or worry about several life circumstances which persists for six months or longer and is accompanied by a some physical symptoms (shaking, sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, etc.).
SIMPLE PHOBIA: A persistent fear of a specific object or situation. Exposure to the specific phobic stimuli provokes an immediate anxiety response. Examples; fear of flying, of snakes or of closed spaces.
AGORAPHOBIA: The fear of having a panic or anxiety attack, primarily when outdoors or in large, open spaces. Panic attacks often occur in busy or loud places, and the underlying fear is of harm, loosing control, or being unsafe. Untreated, this disorder can result in people being housebound.
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD): The development of unwanted, repetitive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that may develop into elaborate rituals. The behaviors can be time consuming and interfere with normal functioning. Examples: persistent hand-washing, checking light switches or door locks repeatedly or feeling a need to count certain objects over and over.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
SOCIAL PHOBIA: A persistent, irrational fear of and a compelling desire to avoid scrutiny by other people.
PANIC DISORDER: A sudden, intense and overwhelming sense of terror which occurs for no apparent reason. These feelings are accompanied by disturbing physical sensations and catastrophic thoughts about loss of control; a heart attack or even death.
Stress is the most frequently reported health problem in the United States. Stress causes physical complications, such as hypertension, cardiac difficulty, and headaches. Stress can prevent us from performing effectively, distracts us from our goals, and is known to directly cause or be a major component in Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Hypertension, Backache, Acne, Lowered Resistance, Digestive Problems, Hair Loss (in patches), Fatigue, Headaches, Stomach Aches, Migraines, Heart Disease, Muscle Aches, and Blurred Vision.) In some circumstances, prolonged stress can be fatal! The good news is: You can do something about it! Stress-related emotional and physical problems are among the most preventable.
There are dozens of words we often use to describe stress: “Stressed Out”, “Wired”, “Burnt Out”, “Tense”, “Under Pressure”, “Strained”. Like an outside force, stress begins with demands placed on us by our environment. Stress becomes a serious problem only when the demands in our life overwhelm our ability to effectively cope. In some cases, we increase stress by adding our own unreasonable demands to the expectations already placed upon us.
Although there is a certain degree of overlap in definitions, stress can be differentiated from anxiety by looking at their respective sources: Stress begins with an outside source of excessive demands while anxiety is a fear or nervousness originating from inside of us (when there is no actual danger).
It is no surprise that we are surrounded by stress. Stress comes from everyday life. Living in the (soon to be) 21st century is stressful! If you think about the sources of stress in your life, you are likely to focus on your job, your family, romantic relationships, parenting, the economy, traffic, deadlines, etc. What is it about these situations and interactions that produces stress?
- Underlying many everyday life events are “Stress Points”: Circumstances and conditions which specifically increase our level of stress by placing demand on our capacity to cope. Think about a specific source of stress in your life and consider if any of the following underlying demands are present:
- Time Pressure (demands to perform work within specific time limits)
- Ambiguity (not knowing what’s expected, vague demands, unpredictable outcomes)
- Intellectual Demands (requirements to use cognitive skills and problem solving)
- Multiple Roles (having to switch roles, “change hats”, or be different things to different people: “mother”, “wife”, “employee”, best friend”)
- Responsibility (having to take action effecting the lives of others)
- Decision Making (making many, complex decisions without adequate time to think)
- Pressure to Perform (meeting other peoples unreasonable expectations for your work)
- Attention (having to attend to or focus on something for extended periods of time: air traffic controllers or security guards)
- Simultaneous Tasks (the requirement to do two or more things at the same time)
- Over-Stimulation (too much activity or sensory input in the environment)
- Noise (periodic, loud or distracting sounds)
- Pollution (smoke, fumes, odors, garbage, dirt, and litter )
- Crowding (lack of personal space, being in very close proximity)
- Lack of Quality (low quality materials, products not working to expectations, others who do not care about their work or personal life)
- Loss (loss of abilities, loss of a possession, loss of friendship or love)
- Expectations (predicting outcomes which do not occur as planned)
- Change (modification or change in some important aspect of life)
- Becoming aware of the underlying sources of stress in your life is a good start in coping more effectively. Any of the suggestions on anxiety found at this website can be applied to stress as well.