Feeling nervous about tackling a problem at work, going to an interview, taking a test or making an important decision? That’s quite normal, natural and can even be productive.
Fear is an immediate alarm reaction to present danger characterized by strong escapist action tendencies. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a future-oriented emotion characterized by marked negative affect, bodily symptoms of tension, and chronic apprehension.
An anxiety disorder happens when:
▪ It interferes with your ability to function.
▪ You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
▪ You can’t control your responses to situations.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
▪ Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
▪ Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
▪ Having an increased heart rate.
▪ Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation).
▪ Feeling weak or tired.
▪ Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
▪ Having trouble sleeping.
▪ Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
▪ Having difficulty controlling worry.
▪ Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
▪ Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
▪ Panic disorder.
▪ Separation anxiety.
▪ Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Experiencing one or more negative events deemed significant and unexpected, greatly increases the likelihood of manifesting GAD. In fact, the majority of patients with GAD have faced traumatic life events.
The accumulation of responsibilities, the birth of children, difficulties at work, health problems are most strongly associated with the onset of the disorder.
GAD patients report more family problems during childhood. Tensions within the couple are strong predictors of therapeutic relapse, and therefore of maintenance of GAD.
To date, it is estimated that only half of patients will consult for treatment (usually more than 10 years after the onset of symptoms). Of those who seek treatment, more than 50% go undiagnosed because their condition is masked by somatic symptoms and/or comorbidity.
Moreover, 56% of patients with GAD have at least one other anxiety disorder, while 59% of TAG patients develop major depression within a year.
In the long term, GAD is associated with cancer, diabetes and the risk of developing a cardiovascular disorder.
An event is “traumatic” when a person has been confronted with death, the fear of dying or serious injuries, or when his or her physical integrity or that of another person has been threatened. This event must also cause intense fear, a feeling of helplessness, or a feeling of horror.
Besides natural disasters, accidents caused by human or technical error, acts of violence (rape, abuse, aggression, attacks, war, robbery, captivity, torture), are where there is the greatest risk of post traumatic stress disorder.
Certain groups of people are more at risk than others, particularly in relation to their professions: military, firefighters, emergency workers. However, 90% of Americans will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime versus 30% of French.
Also, 50% of patients suffer from depression, with a suicide rate 15 times higher than the general population. Alcohol abuse: 52% in men, 28% in women. Frequent presence of other anxiety disorders includes phobia and panic disorder. PTSD patients feel misunderstood or rejected.
Consequently, the disorder is underdiagnosed because victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may mask their condition, as they very often experience a sense of shame associated with the traumatic event.
Globally, approximately 280 million people suffer from depression. Depression is 50% more common in women than in men, and more than 10% of pregnant women and women who have just given birth suffer from depression.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in things and activities you once enjoyed. It can also cause difficulty with thinking, memory, eating and sleeping.
Depressive disorders – Clinical depression – Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) – Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) – Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – results from the interaction of multiple factors including genetic predisposition, personality traits, certain socio-demographic factors (female sex, loneliness, low socio-economic level), individual development (early separations, loss of one or both parents before the age of 15), and in particular psychosocial stressors (mourning, divorces, sudden lifestyle changes, professional failures).
Studies also reveal that people diagnosed with anxiety disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, lung disease, or other chronic illnesses, have a greater chance of being depressed. Finally, some medications can cause depression as a side effect.
People with depression are sometimes victims of their own prejudices and those that exist in society. These stigmas discourage sufferers from seeking help or continuing treatment.
The most common psychological symptoms in people with depression are:
▪ Great sadness. For example, the person cries often.
▪ Very significant loss of interest in professional, social and family activities.
▪ Feelings of guilt or failure.
▪ Decreased self-esteem.
▪ Difficulty concentrating on a task.
▪ Difficulty making decisions.
▪ Suicidal thoughts.
Although there are known and effective treatments for mental disorders, more than 75% of people living in low- and middle-income countries do not receive any. Lack of resources, lack of investment in mental health care, lack of trained caregivers and social stigma associated with mental disorders are all barriers to effective care.
▪ Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional. Your therapist helps you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. There are many types of psychotherapy, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common.
▪ Brain stimulation therapy can help people who have severe depression or depression with psychosis. Types of brain stimulation therapy include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
▪ Complementary medicine involving treatments you may receive along with traditional Western medicine. People with mild or ongoing symptoms can improve their well-being with therapies such as acupuncture, massage, hypnosis and biofeedback.
▪ Prescription antidepressants can help change the brain chemistry that causes the disorders. However, some patients may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior, when taking antidepressants, particularly in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed.
But, many patients prefer herbs for symptoms relief, which have limited side effects, to conventional medications.