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Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms and My Personal Experience

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Throughout my life I have encountered many positive experiences and outcomes, but along with the positives, I have also experienced many hard times and negative experiences that have shaped me into the person that I am today. Learning through the negative times put me into the direct path of some pretty great things.

For many people including myself, anxiety has played a major role in most of my adult life that I can remember and I have slowly figured out how to live and function normally with generalized anxiety disorder. As discussed in chapter 12 of Experience Psychology by Laura A. King, anxiety disorders involve fears that the person cannot control, therefore they are deemed to be uncontrollable. They disrupt the flow of everyday normal life for the person affected, and make them believe that they are always in danger despite the fact that most of the time they are not in danger at all. Almost everyone experiences some form of anxiety at some point in their life. Whether that is the feeling before making a major life changing decision, how one may feel before taking a big exam, or the anxiety of starting a new job career. But for people who have been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, they feel a great deal of anxiety in the simplest of situations that would not affect someone who does not have the disorder at all. Examples may include but are not limited to driving a motor vehicle, being in unfamiliar places, being around unfamiliar people that you do not know, and just the fear of the unknown during any given situation. These constant worries can influence many of a person’s life choices and can have negative effects in that person’s life leading to more opportunity of anxieties. Symptoms of anxiety almost always include trembling of the hands, dizziness, racing heart, and an overall uneasy feeling that cannot be controlled by the individual experiencing them. From generalized anxiety disorder, other side effects such as phobias can even develop into other disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most times the individual isn’t even aware of what given situations may trigger the anxiety episodes, so there isn’t much they can do to avoid those situations. Once the general panic of the situation starts, they basically just have to ride it out and wait for the symptoms to subside, but there are things that may help alleviate the symptoms which I will discuss next. Psychologists will sometimes prescribe medications for generalized anxiety based upon many factors within the individual’s life and the symptoms that they experience. The class of medications involved is benzodiazepines. Some popular names among these include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. What happens when you use these types of drugs you may be wondering? They have a sedating effect on the brain because when you have an anxiety disorder, you have a chemical imbalance in the brain which involves serotonin. A lack of serotonin causes the individual to not be able to relax and alters the person’s sense of well-being. Although medications will not cure the disorder, by altering the brains perception of chemicals, they can block the receptors that are most associated with anxiety disorders.

Many behaviors and how people interact with themselves and the world around them can be attributed to experiences one has gone through during their childhood development as well as their more recent development periods. The concept of “nature versus nurture” can be used to describe some of these processes. As discussed in chapter 8 of Experience Psychology by Laura A. King, the nature component is described as “an individual’s biological inheritance, especially his or her genes.” These behaviors are not learned through life’s experiences and cannot be picked by individuals. The nurture component of this concept is described as “an individual’s environmental and social experiences.” These behaviors learned aren’t necessarily able to be chosen either, they influence people and are learned from different situations we live through in our lives throughout all stages of development. Some of my anxiety related behaviors could be attributed through an inheritance of them; the nature of some of my genes that have been passed down to me. My mom had experienced periods of anxiety throughout her life and has described similar feelings to ones I have had at times. Having anxiety about what could go wrong in a given situation, or just being worried for an unexplained reason was experienced for her in mostly her adult life when more responsibilities for besides herself was taken on. Some behaviors effected by my anxiety can also be attributed to the nurture component of experiences I’ve had in my life.

When I first noticed my anxiety symptoms, I was overwhelmed and was not able to do normal things such as go to work each day, drive a vehicle, be around people, or go to any unfamiliar place that I had never been to before. I can’t say that anything in particular triggered the onset of my anxiety because I cannot recall anything that was traumatic or that posed a threat to myself, I just remember waking up one day and I felt a sense of doom wash over me and I have been struggling with anxiety ever since. The “nature” component described above may have something to do with this part of my anxiety, since I can’t say that a specific situation influenced my behavior in given situations. At times I think about what my life would be like if I didn’t struggle with this disorder, or how my life would be different than what it is now. Would I travel more? Would I have had more children? Would I already be a registered nurse like I have always wanted to be since I was a child? But I have learned to deal with this disorder and not let it stop me from pursuing my dreams and ultimately my goals that I have had set for myself for a long time. Although at times I feel completely overwhelmed and I do not think that I can possibly achieve these goals, I continue every day to better my life for myself but most importantly for my daughter.

With the help of therapy and medications some symptoms of anxiety can be suppressed, and new techniques can be learned to help someone in dealing with situations that can cause anxieties. Through therapies such as medications, I am now able to work a full time job, drive a vehicle without panicking, and I am pursuing my dream to become a registered nurse, and I am able to function not as a normal person because I do still struggle with many things anxiety related, but I am able to overcome this disorder and still make my life meaningful and achieve the goals that I have set for myself. There are still things that I am unable to do or that just give me an uneasy feeling all together such as traveling far away from home, and in almost every situation I am thrown into, I still think about the worst case scenario possible instead of the good that could come out of it, but I have made huge progress and have learned so much about myself in the past ten years or so and am very proud of the many challenges that I have overcome.

Besides seeking treatment through therapy and medications, one can recover or adapt to behaviors that may cause them difficulties in everyday functioning throughout their lives by being resilient and turning some negative parts of life into more positive things. Defined as “a person’s ability to recover from or adapt to difficult times,” in the text Experience Psychology by Laura A. King, resilience has been a trait describing me and how I have learned to overcome my setbacks and to cope and move forward with things I have experienced throughout my life time. From time to time I do have thoughts of what could be or what I could have achieved in my past but I don’t let it hold me back from future planning and continuing to achieve goals I have set for myself. Pushing through some of my anxiety is vital to living life how I want to and continuing to be a success for myself and for my daughter. I’ve learned to convert some of the negative behaviors and experiences I’ve had into positive and allow them to strengthen myself.

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