Monday, December 12, 2016

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Anxiety Conditions (GAD, OCD, Panic attack & etc)

     It is normal to feel anxious/ worrisome when you are faced with stress. Anxiety can sometimes be helpful to keep us alert and be aware of possible threats/ danger.

    However, persistent and severe anxiety that interferes with daily activities (e.g. work or studies) can disrupt relationships and the enjoyments in life. Such excessive level of anxiety is a health condition that requires prompt treatment.
    World Health Organization's (WHO) World Mental Health Survey revealed that about 4.8%-31% of the population will have anxiety disorders (conditions) in their lifetime. It is thus common to have anxiety conditions.
    There are several types of anxiety conditions. The more common ones are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Panic Disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    All of us worry about certain things in life and in certain situations. However, if these worries are excessive and persistent, leading to difficulties coping with work/studies or in having healthy relationships, it may be due to a condition termed Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

     GAD can also occur as young as in children and adolescents, which may present as school refusal, temper tantrums and poor academic achievements.
- Persistent/ excessive worrying about small or large issues. The person finds it difficult to control these worries.
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge. Easily startled.
- Easily fatigued and etc.
GAD can be treated (see below under Treatment for Anxiety Conditions).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

    Everyone thinks about certain issues and double-checks things at times. If these thoughts and checking behaviours get out of hand, it may be due to an underlying anxiety condition termed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD can occur in children and adolescents.
    OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by having recurrent thoughts, images or fears (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). You may realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable. You may also have tried to ignore them or to stop them.    Obsessions may have themes such as fear of dirt/contaminations, fear that things are not in order and etc. Compulsions may include repeated washings, checking that things are in order, counting and etc. If left untreated, OCD can lead to significant difficulties in your daily work/studies due to the intrusive, persistent and debilitating symptoms.
OCD can be treated (see below under Treatment for Anxiety Conditions). 

Panic Disorder
    Everyone "panics" at times due to certain stressful situations. Symptoms that, however, require a psychiatric assessment may include sudden and repeated attacks of fear or discomforts that affect your usual ability to function. These fears or discomforts (panic attacks) may include having palpitations, shortness of breath and etc.

    The combination of worrying about having another panic attack (and its implications), having recurrent panic attacks and etc are some characteristics of a Panic Disorder.

    With Panic Disorder, the person may become discouraged, have low self-esteem and have difficulties coping with the required activities (e.g. studying, working or driving).

Panic Disorder can be treated (see below under Treatment for Anxiety Conditions). 

Causes for Above Anxiety Conditions:   
    Multiple factors contribute to anxiety conditions. These include genetics, stress, personality, medical conditions, biochemical changes in the brain and past events.  
    Many people are worried about seeking help for their anxiety conditions. They are worried about being stigmatized by their conditions or being labeled as having a “weak” character (which is untrue). Without timely treatment, anxiety conditions will continue to adversely affect the person’s ability to work/study, to enjoy life and to spend meaningful time with one’s loved ones. Depression may also co-exist with anxiety conditions. 
Treatment for Above Anxiety Conditions:
    Effective treatments for anxiety conditions are available:
- Psychological therapy (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), relaxation therapy, hynotherapy and etc)
Various medications (e.g. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), noradrenergic reuptake inhibitors, short-term anxiolytics and etc.)
-   Lifestyle modifications
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