[notice]A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]
The first step in effectively dealing with any problem or challenge is to acknowledge it. Unfortunately, in the case of an anxiety disorder, and indeed all mental health issues, that is easier said than done. Particularly since we live in a time when ‘having it all’ and ‘having it all together’, is the accepted norm, and especially since there is stigma attached to mental health issues, even in this modern age.
For a number of years now I have been aware that I walk with what I refer to as a limp; a limp that may not be obvious to the eye but which is nevertheless very real. To me and to those who are close to me. I live with anxiety. Of course, everyone feels nervous now and then, whether before making an important decision, before a test or examination, or on their wedding day. But this is not the type of emotion I am referring to. Anxiety disorders are serious mental health issues that can be so debilitating that they interfere with one’s ability to lead a normal life. Where one is anxious, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming companions, making it almost impossible to accomplish even the most mundane of daily tasks. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, namely:
Panic disorder: People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly without warning. Other symptoms include sweating, chest pain, palpitations and a feeling of choking.
Social anxiety disorder: This disorder is also known as social phobia, and involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often focuses on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment.
Specific phobias: These are intense fears of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying, which may cause the person to avoid everyday situations.
Generalized anxiety disorder: This disorder is characterised by excessive and unrealistic worry and tension, often without provocation.
While it varies according to the specific type of anxiety disorder, general symptoms of anxiety include:
Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Cold or sweaty hands or feet
Shortness of breath
Not being able to be still and calm
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Interestingly, it was only when I found the courage to scratch beneath the surface of the symptoms I had been experiencing on a daily basis that I discovered what it was that was holding me back from living the abundant life God had intended for me all along. It took courage because I mistakenly thought that what I was feeling was due to personal weakness or some sort of character flaw.
While the exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, and scientific research is ongoing, what is clear is that such disorders are caused by a number of different factors. These include changes in the brain due to for example, problems in the circuitry that regulates fear and other emotions. Studies have also shown that anxiety disorders can run in families, in other words they can also be inherited from one or both parents. Further to this, environmental stress, such as a trauma or other significant event, may trigger an anxiety disorder in those who are already genetically susceptible to the illness.
At the root of every anxiety disorder is fear. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown. Fear of others. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of failure. Fear of losing control. The list goes on and on. The good news is that with treatment, these feelings can be managed so that it is possible to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
While a treatment plan may include drugs, in addition to therapy and dietary and lifestyle changes, as a believer, the Word of God remains the central pillar of my treatment. It is alive and has the power to separate lies from truth and breathe life into every situation. For it reminds me not only of who I am in Christ but also the freedom and healing that Christ purchased for me by His death on the Cross. I need only appropriate it on a daily basis.
A blessed Easter Everyone!