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Anxiety and All About It

Historical Background for Anxiety

Anxiety has been prevalent since the time that humans were worried about getting crushed over by woolly mammoths. But anxiety has not always been recognized as a potential mental disorder. Gaining recognition as a treatable disorder took many years, figuring out how to treat it and what medication or therapies would be required took even longer.

Ancient Greece: Unsettled Uteri

During the Greek era the term “Hysteria” which was coined meant bad news for anxiety prone women for centuries to come. The word hysteria actually has its roots in the Greek cognate for the uterus, “Hystera,” most likely because the people who practised it at that time believed it only affected women. They believed that hysteria meant panic which was caused by the uterus.

It was also suspected to be caused by “female semen,” which goes stored in the body due to lack of sexual intercourse, turns into poison and makes the women behave in a strange, high strung manner. Sexual intercourse was naturally considered a cure.

The Early Renaissance: Witchy Worries

During the early Renaissance, females who were particularly highly anxious were often called witches. When women started becoming vocal about their anxiety or having physical symptoms that others could not explain any other way, caused a female to be “treated” why a torture (in Spain), execution (in Britain), a burning at the stake (mainly in Scotland).

The Victorian Era: Bored and Batty

Similarly, during the Victorian Era women who showed anxiety were seen as being crazy. The tension that was built up by the fear of being trapped indoors without a job or anything to do lead to such unusual behaviour. If a woman had persistent panic attacks, the family of the husband would most likely send her off to a local insane asylum where treatments were electric shock therapy and even Lobotomization.

The American Civil War Era: Opium for Over Excitement

Post-traumatic stress disorder in this era was known as “irritable heart syndrome,” soldiers in the American Civil War often suffered with this. It was occasionally treated through the use of opium, whose addictive effects were not so well understood.

This Era actually had some benefits for anxiety. For the first time in history, men were diagnosed with anxiety related issues. But on the negative side there was no treatment for anxiety and the “solutions” that were being provided actually worsened the situation.

Early 20th century: Sterilising the Psychos

The Russians were 1st to catch onto the psychological nature of this condition, they began sending psychiatrists of the war along with soldiers to treat them during battles. Unfortunately, for many years it was also appropriate to sterilise anybody suffering from this disorder.

The 1930s saw an interesting mixture of therapies related to anxiety, which included muscle relaxation techniques to electro shock.

Late 20th century: Modernising Medicine

Most modern techniques for treatment of anxiety came into existence after the 1950s. The fear exposure therapy introduced in 1950, which called for patients to be repeatedly exposed to a fear causing factor to desensitise the occurrence. About 10 years later it was realised that antidepressants could be an effective medication to treat anxiety and depression. In the 1980s “Anxiety Disorder” the term was coined. In the 1990s it was discovered that antidepressants worked on anxiety, they were responsible to bring happy chemicals i.e. dopamine and serotonin to the brain in anxiety patients.

So what exactly are anxiety disorders?

When you enter a new situation, meet new people, start a new job, go to a new place, while taking a test the feeling that you face which is unpleasant or sometimes motivating is known as anxiety. Sometimes it motivates you in order to work harder and perform a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, it does not interfere with daily life.

In the case of an anxiety -disorder one faces anxiety all the time. It is a vague feeling of fear and apprehension which is extreme and sometimes debilitating.

This type of disorder may make you stop doing things that you enjoy. In extreme cases it may stop you from entering an elevator, going to parties, or even leaving your room. If this disorder is left untreated the situation may worsen.

These disorders are the most common forms of emotional disorders and can affect anybody at any age. The American Psychiatric Association suggests that women are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.

Types of anxiety disorders

Panic disorder – recurring panic attacks and unexpected times.

Phobia – an extreme fear of a specific object or situation.

Social anxiety disorder – extreme fear of being judged by others in a social setting.

Obsessive compulsive disorder – recurring thoughts or recurring behavior.

Separation anxiety disorder – a constant fear of being separated from loved ones.

Illness anxiety disorder – anxiety about your health.

Post-traumatic stress disorder – anxiety following a traumatic event in life.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety may feel different in each person. It may range from a feeling of butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. One may feel out of control as in it may feel like there is a disconnect between your mind and body.

Some people might experience nightmares, panic attacks and painful thoughts on memories that cannot be controlled. One may have a general feeling of fear and worry or one may feel fear during a specific event.

Symptoms of general anxiety include:

a. Increased heart rate

b. Rapid breathing

c. Restlessness

d. Trouble in concentrating

e. Difficulty in sleeping

Causes of anxiety

According to a lot of researchers there is no one exact cause of anxiety. But it is likely multiple factors playing a role. These factors may include Gene’s, environment as well as the chemicals in the brain.

In addition, a few researchers believed that specific areas of the brain responsible for controlling fear may be impacted.

Gender and anxiety

A host of biological and psychosocial differences between men and women place women on the top for anxiety disorders.

It has been said that women experience anxiety nearly twice the rate of men.

Many factors suggest that the above said lines are true.

Following are some reasons why researchers say that women experience more anxiety:

Menstrual cycles can have an effect on anxiety levels

Female hormones contribute to an easily activated, longer acting flight or fight response

Male hormone i.e. testosterone is more abundant in men which may help in easing out anxiety symptoms

Women also experience residual anxiety from sexual abuse/violence more than men

Women are also more likely than men to seek help for anxiety, get diagnosed and then get treated.

Men and women differ in how they talk about their anxieties, which also means that men and women may have different symptoms of anxiety. So the next time you’re feeling anxious do not be too hard on yourself. The primary cause could be your gender. Consider seeking professional help if your anxiety becomes excessive as it may worsen over time, so if you feel now is the time to speak to a professional, book your session at Psychoflakes!

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