Everyone is different in terms of how they respond to events & circumstances that affect them. We are all wired differently. :) By nature, I am a very sensitive, empathetic person. If I see someone else crying, I cry. I feel those feelings with them and desperately want to help. I wear my emotions and my heart on my sleeve. After doing some reflecting, I can now pinpoint certain things that trigger anxiety for me. You may relate to some, and others may be completely foreign to you! It is a known fact that anxiety can be caused by a chemical imbalance, genetics, or life stressors/circumstances.
The first section covers what I will call my "generalized anxiety." Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be described as finding it difficult to control your worry. Some common things people worry about include work, school, relationships, money - causing an overall feeling of uneasiness & it interferes with your everyday life. This chart will help spell out the difference between everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
(Photo Credit: Paradim Malibu: Adolescent Treatment Center)
There are different levels of intensity, but I am no doctor! I am just simply sharing my own story based on my personal understanding from years of conversations with doctor's, researching and doing a lot of reading on this subject. For me, I do not panic when experiencing this generalized anxiety. However, if I don't keep these in check, they DO and WILL become panic anxiety triggers.
1. Too Much on My Plate - this includes work, shows, and having too many plans. I need several nights where I do nothing, especially on the weekends. This means no plans - NONE - if I can help it. When I know my schedule is crazy, I try to prepare in advance mentally, emotionally, and physically (yes, it makes me exhausted), but I’m not always successful. This creates stress and in turn becomes a vicious cycle. I want to be able to do everything, but I simply can’t, and it has honestly been a hard thing to come to gripes with over the past few years.
2. Fear of the Unknown & Unresolved Conflict - I’m sure many of you can relate. I like to be in control. I think that is a common factor for many people with anxiety. I’m a planner, and when there is uncertainty or big decisions that cannot be answered right away like I want it to, this makes me incredibly anxious sometimes.
3. Change - this has affected me since I was little! In previous posts, I shared how changing grades/schools made me nervous - not excited, but ANXIOUS. Needless to say, I don’t do well with change. I think it all goes in with the fact that I want to be in control. There is only one person who is in control! Because I grew up with anxiety, I have patterns and habits I am just realizing. It is extremely difficult to grasp, and I know it will be a huge challenge to change my thinking, but with prayer and scripture, I am trusting Him with the next steps.
4. Health Issues - this is actually a huge one. Where do I begin? This has been a huge source of my anxiety since I was young. I will definitely talk about this more in a separate post but here is a brief rundown. From a young age, I thought something was wrong with me because I passed out at a doctor's office and it looked like a seizure. It got to the point where this fear affected every doctor visit I had. I did my best to avoid it for ten years due to PTSD after high school. I am just getting comfortable going to doctors when needed and I'm happy to report I haven’t had one of those episodes in quite awhile. I have Vasovagal Syncope - basically, it means I pass out more easily. But mine can be triggered by unexpected pain. There are several things that can trigger this response and I'll go into some more about this later!
People often talk about "panic attacks." They casually toss around the phrase in everyday life, and it bothers me. They are absolutely terrifying, and if you have never had a real panic attack, I truly don’t wish it upon anyone! The definition of a panic attack is: "a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause." Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying.
My panic attacks involve shaking (mostly my legs but also throughout my body), shortness of breath, an out-of-control feeling, nausea, upset stomach, heart beating out of my chest, and crying. I used to get scared of just HAVING a panic attack, and the "fear of the fear" became a vicious cycle I didn’t know how to stop. It wasn't until I understood coping mechanisms and faced some of my fears that I now feel better equipped to deal with them if they occur.
I would say my panic attack triggers are the same as my generalized anxiety triggers - they just reach a heightened intensity. Here are my biggest triggers:
1. Medical Issues - example: if I am at the doctor, and I already think something is wrong with me, I am very scared because I don’t want to hear the news. Another example: getting a root canal. Anytime something invasive has to be done, it is a much bigger deal to me. This has to do with my past, but I fear having another “episode” and truly feeling safe at the doctor. This may seem strange to many of you!
2. The Unknown - letting “what if” thoughts run my mind, causing me to go to unhealthy places mentally. Sometimes, I get nervous without knowing why, and it is because subconsciously, I was thinking all of those things. There is no way to know the future. You can try to prepare and plan but things change. It all goes back to control.
3. Agoraphobia (past issue) - I did not want to leave my house! Many times, I would leave and turn around and come home because I was afraid I would have a panic attack. Having one at all was NOT FUN but especially not in public or driving!
4. Flying- this isn't as big of an issue any more but there was a time where I had a panic attack the entire flight. I definitely developed PTSD from this. Over years of counseling and with a wonderful support system I am able to fly again. The next step is: flying by myself!
There are MANY different types of anxiety disorders, I am only touching on a few that relate to me. Here are some others you may have heard of.
(Photo Credit: Psychiatric Residential Treatment Network of Services)
We get so caught up with the “what if’s” and all the stress that comes with it! All we can do is give it over to God - every day! Next up, I will share how anxiety affects my every day life, the medical story and more! Have a wonderful week and remember to take each day as it comes!