Learn What It Is . . . What It’s Not . . . and A Lot More
These days there’s a lot of anxiety information on the web, and some of it is wrong.
Knowing whether something is true or not is important to me.
That’s why for this section, I went to the established authority here in the U.S., the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH/NIH). They definitely help set the record straight about what anxiety is and what it’s not.
Besides being an authority site, I like the way that NIMH/NIH keeps their information real. They don’t use a lot of jargon, and their site gets updated as necessary.
Links to their site have been provided so you know that you’re getting timely information.
The other information is based on my experience and backgroun plus the reading I’ve done to make sure I know what I’m writing about.
The content being presented here is for informational purposes only. Be sure to do your own research so you’re getting the information you need for your situation.
Anxiety: What it is and What it is not
The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines anxiety as: a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill
Of course, being a medical dictionary what most people refer to as anxiety is called an Anxiety Disorder. This is how they describe it: any of various disorders (as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder) in which anxiety is a predominant feature
Not everyone refers to anxiety as a disorder.
On one Facebook page about anxiety, I was surprised to see that someone called anxiety a disease like diabetes.
A disease is a diagnosis about something that affects your body. For example: cancer, diabetes, and celiac.
The term disorder is used when a physical problem has been identified but the cause has yet to be determined.
While disorder can be used in describing both physical and mental conditions, the use of the word disease is specific to a physical problem.
Anxiety, panic, phobias, etc. are disorders. That’s what NIMH/NIH calls them, and that’s how they’re referred to on this site.
How Professionals Communicate About Anxiety
People in specialized professions such engineers, physicists, application developers, etc. have a specific way of communicating with each other.
For example, dentists and dental hygienists will refer to teeth by number, or break it them down by upper and lower teeth and then by quadrant.
They use diagnostic codes as well.
The words and codes are standardized ways of communicating with everyone involved in your treatment. That includes the people who need to bill you, submit your claim to your insurance company, and those who process your claim.
The same is true when it comes to mental disorders.
You talk with a practitioner (psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist etc.) They make a diagnosis using a code from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that the American Psychiatric Association setup and maintains.
The diagnostic codes and other standardized labels make it easy for everyone in the entire chain of supplying, billing and paying for you visit to communicate with one another.
But where are you in this communication chain?
Communicating with Your Practitioner: Diagnostic Challenges
While classifying someone based on a diagnosis makes it easy for professionals to communicate with one another, the diagnosis is a limited view of you and your challenges.
It leaves out a lot of information about you such as what makes you different and unique from anyone else with that diagnosis.
Mental assessments don’t have the same advantage as do the assessment of physical conditions where laboratory tests can be done.
According to WebMD, there are no laboratory tests that can help in diagnosing a mental condition or disorder.
That means relying upon your practitioner’s education, experience, powers of observation, and the assessment tools they use.
In turn, your practitioner also depends on you. They need your reports of symptoms and how they affect your everyday life. They need to learn as much as they can about you so they can understand what’s normal and not normal for you.
Sometimes an initial diagnosis has to be made. Doing so enables you and your practitioner working together. Getting to a specific and more accurate diagnosis may require a number of sessions and interchanges between the two of you. This can happen over weeks or even months.
When a diagnosis is made and communicated to you, it’s important to remember one thing: People get used to using a specific type of language and forget that it doesn’t convey the same understanding to you.
A diagnosis and the language used in explaining it to you affects how you think about your condition and yourself. That makes a difference in how you’re able to move forward.
It’s very important to ask your practitioner for clarification if you don’t understand something including why they diagnosed you as they did. Consider asking them to recommend books or sites where you can learn more.
Physical Characteristics of Anxiety
Your anxiety symptoms can go from one end of the spectrum to the other. There can be occasional anxiety that’s annoying but manageable to anxiety that leaves you physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Anxiety attacks can build slowly or you can find yourself in the middle of an attack before you can blink an eye. Symptoms vary in what you experience, how intensely you experience them, and the length of time they last.
As of January 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH/NIH) divides anxiety symptoms into these three categories: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia).
This is how the NIMH/NIH describes the symptoms you can experience with each of these disorders.
General Anxiety Disorder
“Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.”
“Physical symptoms during an attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, feeling hot or a cold chill, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, or stomach pain.”
Social Anxiety Disorder
“Blush, sweat, or tremble around other people; feel nauseous or sick to their stomach when with other people.”
Established Methods for Treating Anxiety
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH/NIH) has three categories for the treatment of mental disorders including anxiety: Psychotherapies, Medications, and Brain Stimulation Therapies.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Family-focused Therapy
- Combined Psychotherapies
Medications (only those specifically used for Anxiety are listed)
Brain Stimulation (not currently used for anxiety)
Get more information by clicking on the link to their site: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/index.shtml
Additionally, NIHM/NIH provides Booklets, Brochures and Fact sheets, in both English and Spanish that you can read online or download.
Here is the link to their Publications page: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/index.shtml
How to Find Professional Help
When it comes to finding professional help, NIHM/NIH suggests you start with your primary care physician.
If you have health benefits insurance, you should check your plan to see what is and what is not covered for mental health conditions.
Even if your plan seems clear as to what it covers, it’s always a good idea to make a call and check to make sure that your understanding tallies with what the plan offers.
Failure to do so could result in you paying more money out-of-pocket than you planned on or wanted to.
Here are a few examples of things you need to know:
- How many times you may use the benefit, e.g., a set number of visits,
- The pre-screening or pre-certification required,
- The difference between choosing an in-network provider vs an out-of-network one,
- When and if the visits will apply to your deductible, if you have one,
- The out-of-pocket costs you may incur and more.
When talking to your plan’s representative, be sure to ask them if there’s anything that you haven’t asked about that you need to know.
Go out to Amazon, select the category books, query the word anxiety, and over 100 pages of them show up.
Some may be duplicates, older editions, or simply author pages. Take those out of the equation and there’s still a ton of authors, information and different approaches for dealing with and overcoming anxiety.
How to choose?
One good place to start is with your local library, and of course, a book store. Both let you browse through entire books and not just a few sample pages.
That will give you a better chance to find the authors whose approaches resonate with you.
One other option is to take note of the author’s name and check out their website, if they have one, or YouTube for any videos they may have done.
Because it’s been my experience that anxiety is a response to what has happened or is happening in your life, I suggest you also look into books on stress, depression, and diet, those that deal with happiness, success, and better relationships. (For a list of the books I’ve found helpful, click here.)
Anxiety is a disorder that can affect many parts of life, but like anything that’s become disordered, it can be re-ordered.
For more information about Outsmarting Panic and Anxiety and other resources you can find on this site, (including the foundation practices I successfully use) Start Here.
For Disclaimer and Privacy Information click here.
For a copy of my free gift, click on the link: 10 Tips to Outsmart Anxiety (Whatever the Situation)