Getting to Know Your Anxiety Disorder

We all experience anxiety.We all deal with anxiety. At times it can be a good thing; it helps us meet deadlines and to know when we’re in danger. Other times, it can be a nuisance. If you experience anxiety on a regular basis that interrupts your daily activities, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder. The following are a few of the most common anxiety disorders diagnosed in adults.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Someone who has OCD would experience recurring and persistent thoughts about things . For example, the person may obsess about cleanliness or checking on specific things around the house. The second part of OCD consists of compulsions which silence the obsessive thoughts.

Going along with our example, someone may clean a specific part of their body numerous times per day which would dry out their skin and interrupt other responsibilities. Someone who checks things may check to make sure the stove is off 20 times before they leave the house. The thoughts are obsessions while the actions are compulsions. Most importantly, the thinking and actions interrupt daily functioning.

Social Phobia

This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of social situations where one comes into contact with unfamiliar people or scrutiny of others. Due to this fear, a person with social anxiety will avoid these situations in order to reduce the anxiety. Someone with social anxiety will fear that they will act in a certain way that makes others have a poor opinion of them.

For example, someone with social anxiety would avoid their significant other’s work party because they are fearful of being around people they do not know and acting in a way that may make others laugh or question their actions.

Specific Phobia

Someone experiencing this type of anxiety disorder would experience fear or anxiety over a specific object or situation. The specific object or situation almost always produces fear or anxiety that makes you actively seek to avoid the object or situation. Characteristics of a specific phobia are as follows:

  • The fear or anxiety is extreme compared to the actual danger that can be caused by the object or situation.
  • The fear or anxiety has lasted for at least 6 months
  • The fear or anxiety causes impairment in your everyday functioning.

An example of a specific phobia would be someone with an extreme fear of needles. Someone who has a specific phobia with needles would avoid them at all cost. They would avoid hospitals, doctors offices, tattoo parlors, any place where they would come in contact with needles. As you can see, this would interrupt their functioning due to being unable to see a doctor without extreme anxiety. The person may fear death or extreme sickness if stuck with a needle, and they may have to be held down at the doctor’s office.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

With this disorder, a person has difficulty controlling excessive anxiety over a number of events or activities. Physical symptoms of GAD include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Disturbance

The key to this disorder is an excessive amount of anxiety. Someone with GAD would worry excessively about finances, losing their job, the car breaking down, whether they are being a good parent, and coping with difficulties that arise.

Panic Disorder

This disorder is characterized by experiencing unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that intensifies within minutes. Someone suffering from a panic attack may experience some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chills or heat sensations,
  • Numbness
  • Fear of losing control or dying
  • Feelings of being detached from oneself

Another part of this disorder consists of fear of having another panic attack or a change in behavior due to the panic attack.

Agoraphobia

Someone experiencing this disorder would experience anxiety or fear about at least two of the following situations: using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces, being in a crowd, or being outside of their home alone. The person would avoid these situations because they are fearful that escape from any one of them may be impossible or assistance may not be available if panic symptoms occur.

These situations almost always produce anxiety or fear causing them to be actively avoided. Also, the fear or anxiety is exaggerated in regard to the actual danger present in the situation. These symptoms typically last for at least 6 months and interrupt the person’s functioning.

For example, someone may be fearful of crowds and being outside their home alone. They would avoid leaving their home and being in crowded places. If they came in contact with a crowded place or were alone outside their home, they would experience extreme anxiety and fear. As you can see, this would make it very difficult to hold a job or even shop for everyday items.

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Anxiety disorders are often co-morbid (meaning they happen alongside other disorders) like eating disorders (See How Anxiety Fuels Eating Disorders).

If you believe you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, please seek the opinion of a mental health professional. We have many professionals at The Relationship Center that are experienced in diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders. Please call us today.

 

anxiety counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Reference

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

How Anxiety Fuels Eating Disorders

eating disorder

Most people diagnosed with an eating disorder also experience anxiety severe enough to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  It is common for an anxiety disorder to precede or develop before an eating disorder. Eating disorders can often be a destructive reach for control, or a means of managing fear.  In this article, you will learn what types of anxiety disorders are most commonly diagnosed with an eating disorder as well as how the anxiety drives the eating disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)– This disorder is the most common anxiety disorder diagnosed in conjunction with an eating disorder.  Someone who has OCD in addition to an eating disorder would experience recurring and persistent thoughts about things other than food and their body image. For example, the person may obsess about cleanliness or checking on specific things around the house. The second part of OCD consists of compulsions which silence the obsessive thoughts. Going along with our example, someone may clean a specific part of their body numerous times per day which would dry out their skin and interrupt other responsibilities. Someone who checks things may check to make sure the stove is off 20 times before they leave the house. The thoughts are obsessions while the actions are compulsions. Most importantly, the thinking and actions interrupt daily functioning.

Social Phobia– This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of social situations where one comes into contact with unfamiliar people or scrutiny of others. This fear is not limited to food consumption and body image.  Due to this fear, a person with social anxiety will avoid these situations in order to reduce the anxiety. Someone with social anxiety will fear that they will act in a certain way that makes others have a poor opinion of them. For example, someone with social anxiety would avoid her husband’s work party because she is fearful of being around those she does not know and acting in a way that may make others laugh or question her actions.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)– With this disorder, a person has difficulty controlling excessive anxiety over a number of events or activities, not limited to food and body image. The worry leads to physical symptoms including restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. The key to this disorder is an excessive amount of anxiety. Someone with GAD would worry excessively about finances, losing their job, the car breaking down, whether they are being a good parent, and coping with difficulties that arise.

How Anxiety Drives An Eating Disorder

Using the words “fuel” or “drive” to describe anxiety’s role in eating disorders is very fitting. Anxiety gives the eating disorder life. It gives the eating disorder a superficial purpose. Many of the eating disorder behaviors continue because they are helpful in reducing anxiety. While anxiety is rarely the underlying issue of an eating disorder, it helps harmful eating patterns develop into an eating disorder. Anxious attachment is very central to these disorders. So, how does this happen?

  • The anxiety is excessive.

Someone suffering from an eating disorder experiences overwhelming anxiety. They feel that it will never go away. The only relief they may feel is when they focus their attention on food: eating or not eating. Therefore, they focus more attention on calories, food preparation, exercising, purging, how little calories they can eat, or when they will eat next in order to feel relief. The issue of control almost always points to attempts to stop fear, which is central to anxiety issues.

  • The anxiety makes one feel out of control.

Even with all the focus on food, eating or not eating, the anxiety still returns. It is like the eating disorder sufferer is in a vicious cycle. The cycle occurs because the ritual with food allows a temporary break from anxiety, at the cost of long term increase in anxiety. It is like borrowing money now to spend, while at the same time developing an unmanageable debt. At the same time, the rituals with food are becoming less effective. A larger dose is needed.  As much as one tries to get off this cycle, they keep spinning and spinning. They feel no sense of control over their anxiety. The only area they may feel a slight level of control is over what they do or don’t eat.

  • The anxiety shames.

Shame feels like something is wrong within you. Often, you feel that failure defines you. The secrecy and feeling the need to hide your eating disorder can produce shame. Due to this shame, anxiety creeps in to help you hide your disordered eating behaviors. You may eat late at night or when no one is looking because you are fearful of binging. You may lie and say you already ate when you are starving. You become anxious after these behaviors wondering if anyone knows the truth. You think something must be wrong with you to act on this anxiety. The shame is huge, as are the unrealistic expectations you may have of yourself, others, relationships, and success.

  • The anxiety isolates.

Due to feeling shame about disordered eating patterns, those suffering from an eating disorder often become anxious about eating around others. They worry what others will think of them or that they will find out the sufferer’s secret. In order to continue to hide the eating problems, an eating disorder sufferer will avoid social situations, family gatherings, and even spending time with a few good friends.  The shame and isolation felt by the eating disorder sufferer also makes them feel alone in their struggles. They begin to believe that no one understands or suffers like they do.

  • The anxiety helps you believe lies.

People believe something when they feel it is true, not necessarily because it factually is or isn’t. Many people who suffer from eating disorders believe lies such as:

My life would be better if I could just lose weight or look a certain way or the pain I feel will never go away.

Anxiety perpetuates these lies. Due to the worry and physical symptoms of anxiety, these lies or irrational thinking continue because it calms the anxiety.  For example, it is easier to focus on food than to focus on anxiety, hurt, pain, sadness, and fear. While the eating habits may calm the anxiety for a short period, it does more harm than good in the long run. It can become part of a fantasy of what could be, which is not based in reality.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in eating disorder treatment. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

eating disorder treatmentOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Eating Disorder  Counseling at The Relationship Center

Resources

Kaye, W. H., Bulik, C. M., Thornthon, L., Barbarich, N., & Masters, K. (2004). Comorbidity of anxiety disorders with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 2215-2221. Retrieved from http://journal.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=177216

Koenig, K. R. (2007). The food and feelings workbook: A full course meal on emotional health. Carlsbad, CA: Gürze Books.