We have all experienced the nervousness and anxiety set in just before an exam, a big presentation, moving to a new place or going for a job interview. The butterflies that start building up in your stomach, the sweaty palms and the constant fidgeting that doesn’t end till the task at hand are done. These are the common and not so severe signs of anxiety.
It’s normal to feel anxious in stressful situations, but in the case of an anxiety disorder, that feeling of fear may constantly be with you. The increasing intensity of fear that becomes bothersome to the point that it hinders your communication and cognitive skills in any situation is worrisome.
Psychiatrist Dr Naazneen Ladak was kind enough to enlighten us on the topic of anxiety on Monday in an interactive zoom session hosted by Bhoomi Asher, a content writer at The Unfiltered Journal.
In her many years of experience, Dr Ladak has dealt with many patients suffering from mental disorders and has helped them throughout their visits to her. “Anxiety is definitely something that comes under the mental health umbrella as it is also associated with disorders like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Various situations can trigger an anxiety attack like insecurities and uncertainties, anticipation, and even phobias like a fear of heights or closed spaces could lead to an attack.” Dr Ladak suggests maintaining a journal if you suffer from anxiety and documenting every time you have an attack.
While speaking of triggers, Dr Ladak says triggers can steam from anything, a dreaded meeting, a tough examination and most often it steams from phobias. One can’t know when something might trigger an attack but they can calm themselves or others by way of distraction techniques.
Anxiety is usually categorized with panic attacks. However, it is not the same thing. Panic attacks can occur suddenly without an obvious trigger. Some of the symptoms include a racing or pounding heartbeat, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath and sweating. An anxiety attack, on the other hand, follows a buildup of excessive worry. Symptoms may be more intense over the next few minutes or hours, although it may be less intense than a panic attack. Rapid heart rate, restlessness, fatigue, dizziness and constant fear are some of the many symptoms of an anxiety attack.
In a country like India, the topic of mental health is always kept hush-hush due to the lack of awareness about it. There has always been a big stigma around people suffering from mental illnesses. The longer you wait, the more feelings are pent up eventually leading to a breakdown. And the longer it takes for you to accept you have a problem, the longer it will take to receive the necessary help. “Never shy away from seeking help in these situations,” was one of the suggestions by Dr, Ladak.
If you have family or friends who may be suffering from similar disorders, just talking to them about what makes them happy and comfortable can help cope with it and can help calm the person down.
Mindfulness is another method of coping with anxiety as it helps reduce anxiousness and depression. It makes you focus on the present moment without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. It also encourages a person to see things from a different perspective. “After all, it is in our hands to create and change our thoughts as we have that remote control,” says Dr Ladak.
The event ended with Dr Nazneen answering a few questions from the chatbox, one of which was how not to let failures affect you. The doctor in a very warm tone spoke, “Everybody has an idol or famous personality that they look up to. But, most of the time you only see the tip of that iceberg, which is all the success that person has received.” She further explains that no one focuses on the failure and struggle it took to get to peaks of success. The fear of failure causes anxiety and also leads a person to give up when a certain project is not going their way. To reach that level of success, we have to treat our failures as a stepping stone and keep going no matter how long it takes.
“Ultimately, we are all human beings, and we have flaws. Accept that.” This is Dr Ladak’s advice to us all. Never seek validation from every person you meet. There’s no point in being so critical of yourself or worried about what others may think of you. When you learn to stand up for your values and principles, people will respect that.