Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Mary Williams, Executive Director from Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Imagine walking towards your car down a dark, deserted street when suddenly you see a large shape lurking behind a tree. The shape moves towards you. What happens? Your anxiety kicks in, and you run as fast as you can. You jump in your car and drive off. Your heart is beating fast, you’re shaking, and feeling nauseous. But you’re safe and driving away from what seemed to be a dangerous situation. What saved you? Anxiety! Anxiety kicked in and enabled your body to react to a perceived threat effectively and efficiently, the way it was intended to do, as part of our evolved flight, fight, or freeze response. Anxiety is a normal part of our human makeup and can help us, as this example illustrates. Anxiety is our reaction to a threat—real or imagined.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it’s more than an occasional occurrence and you’re worrying about things that should not cause worry. Anxiety can develop into a disorder when it involves ongoing, excessive worry, nervousness or fear that has a negative impact upon our ability to live our daily lives.
Physically, an anxiety disorder can make your heart race, cause chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness, numbness, tingling, nausea, diarrhea, shaking or trembling, choking sensations, sweating, chills, muscle twitches, aches or tension, headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, restlessness and more.
Mentally, anxiety disorders can cause feelings of apprehension, negative thoughts, anticipating the worst, trouble concentrating, feeling like your mind has gone blank. Anxiety often causes people to lose confidence in themselves, underestimating their ability to cope.
And behaviorally, avoidance is one of the leading symptoms of anxiety. Those living with anxiety disorders often avoid situations and actions they fear will trigger their symptoms or where they’ll be unable to escape.
Many of the above symptoms manifest in different types of anxiety disorders, but some are specific to a particular one. There are six main anxiety disorders that can affect us physically, mentally, and behaviorally:
Panic Attacks: An anxiety disorder which can occur for no apparent reason, panic attacks can create sudden and intense physical symptoms. Those experiencing a panic attack often think that they are having a heart attack or dying and go to an emergency department for help.
Agoraphobia: Those living with agoraphobia often have symptoms of a panic attack when they are in a situation where there is no quick escape or readily available help. They may fear open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, being in a crowded place, being alone, or losing control in public. They often feel comfortable at home to maintain control of the situation.
Social Anxiety: For those living with social anxiety, interaction with other people prompts high levels of self-consciousness and fear of being judged, criticized, and evaluated negatively.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People living with GAD expect disaster to strike, and experience excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life. These worries can include health, money, family, work, or school—even when there is no obvious reason for worry.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): For people living with OCD, anxiety takes the form of obsessions, the excessive feeling of preoccupying thoughts, and compulsions, the repetitive actions to try to relieve anxiety.
Phobias: These are intense fears of specific things or situations that are not inherently dangerous. These can include the fear of heights, dogs, or flying in an airplane.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This type of anxiety disorder results from a traumatic past experience. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, fear, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event that caused the anxiety.
Anxiety is real. Anxiety can be debilitating. But anxiety is TREATABLE!
How the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba Calm Nerves
For the past 30 years, our small, peer-based registered charity at the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba has helped thousands of people learn how to cope with anxiety disorders on their journey to recovery. Our programs provide education and information to help people understand anxiety and learn about various treatment options. We offer public information sessions, and workshops, and presentations to businesses, schools, other organizations, and health care professionals. For those living with anxiety disorders, we offer group sessions delivered by trained peer facilitators specifically to treat social anxiety, panic disorder, and GAD. Plus, we also provide regular support groups and individual peer support.
Because all of our staff and volunteers have personal lived experience with anxiety disorders, and are in recovery, we are able to both talk the talk and walk the walk alongside people experiencing anxiety disorders and their families. We’re there to help quash the worry.