Understanding Anxiety Disorders, And PTSD (In My Life)
Basics of Anxiety Disorders
Since I have many friends whom are curious about my PTSD, and its effects on my life and decisions, I put this explanation piece together. I made this decision to not only help them understand a little more, but also to answer some questions for others whom also have the same questions.
I am not a Mental Health Professional. I do not intend any of this to make suggestion or implication what is effecting me, is completely applicable to others who may be suffering with PTSD. Therefore, this should not be considered my degrading or exaggerating of symptoms, which would cause judgment upon myself or others.
I suppose to start this, I should outline what types of panic disorders there are, and the categories of these disorders. I hope that by doing this, it will help in the remainder of my explanations. If not, it is an attempt to get everyone on the “same page” as my conversational mind is on.
Panic Disorder: Terror that strikes suddenly and without warning. These are typically shown as sudden panic or terror attacks, where someone will feel rapid or irregular heartbeat, including feelings most associated with having a heart attack, and feelings of choking.
Social Anxiety Disorder, or Social anxiety; this is a phobia, involving the feelings of being overwhelmed, worry and self-conscious about everyday social settings and situations. People who suffer from this typically fear being judged by others, or behaving in a way that may cause themselves to become embarrassed, or lead to being ridiculed in some fashion.
There are specific Phobia’s, which most of us are aware of, such as fear of snakes, heights or flying, etc… The level of fear is typically not appropriate to the situations which may be causing the person to avoid common and regular situations in life.
Then there is Generalized Anxiety Disorders, which involves unrealistic worry and tensions, even when there is little or nothing to cause the anxiety.
General symptoms include:
Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
Shortness of breath
An inability to be still and calm
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
(Information on type and symptomology comes from the National PTSD Foundation, a section of the Veteran’s Administration, and more can be read by clicking here.)
Do I know What Starts My Episodes?
Since I am new to discovering my disorder, and the range that it has on its effects upon my life, I am not sure. However, I am constantly looking and trying to find out what triggers my going into an anxiety attack, or panic attack. I am constantly reviewing and reflecting on my days, when I have noticeable symptoms. When I notice a symptom coming up, I take a note of it and then plan out how to contain my responses to the various facets of the disorders onset and progression.
All I know is that something as simple as a person who might come near me, who is wearing perfume or cologne, can start off an attack. I might be walking on the street and a sound of someone having their stereo bass turned up loudly, might set off another form of an anxiety attack, or startle me into an anxiety episode. A baby crying, might be okay but depending on the pitch of the cry or screams, I can be set into a frenzy.
As you can see, the array of stimulus can be so minor, that not even I will know that I am being set into a panic episode, until it hits me. In most cases, my anxiety disorder will begin from seemingly nothing at all, and all of the sudden. I can be doing the same things, going the same places, subjected to the same sounds, many times and never be triggered. But there is a chance that one time, I might be subjected to a multiple of these stimulations, to my senses and I am suddenly thrust into a “hellish” spiral downwards trend, of multiple anxiety attacks, which sometimes are intertwined with “flash-backs” all at once. Sometimes these attacks will last for hours (I think the worst case scenario, which I have experienced, lasted over 8 hours).
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Are All of My Episodes That Intense?
My PTSD anxiety attacks are not always so intense, in fact they sometimes will alternate throughout any given day. Sometimes, they will be as minor as my feeling merely dizzy for a few minutes, until I can sit down, and become “mindful” of my breathing and my surroundings. Sometimes, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and slight disorientation and my head will feel like someone punched me in the nose and become numb. But in these times, the events are mostly minor and by taking time to acknowledge them, and reminding myself that I am okay, then focusing on what is around me, takes care of the problems for the most part.
Other times, I might be pre-occupied and the slight indications will start up, followed by a “tidal wave” of symptoms will slam upon me, like an ocean “rip-tide” and pulls me deep into a severe anxiety attack that completely over-whelms me. In these instances, these attacks take me by surprise and I am completely unable to think logically, or find the where-with-all to start into exercises to control the various facets of the attack, and my mind goes blank disallowing me to focus enough to even think about the tools, I have to work through these episodes, to bring myself down.
Master of Disguise
As a long time sufferer of PTSD, I learned many things, including how to hide. But something's I could not just pass off such as facts like:
- Anxiety Disorder and PTSD sufferers, often go to Emergency Rooms more frequently, with chest related pain and other issues, than other people normally do.
- PTSD sufferers often become agitated over seemingly little or seemingly no reasons at all, and often spontaneously.
- PTSD sufferers will often trend towards being alone, or out of social settings to avoid settings which may remind them of a traumatic event.
- PTSD sufferers often feel they have to be in "control," to eliminate possible triggering an anxiety related or depressive disorder related event.
Isn’t Your Reactions More A Matter of Choices?
I was on the Freeway, in Southern California, during rush hour traffic. I was changing a tire for a disabled motorist. I noticed a car getting very close to, and appearing like he was going to hit me or the car I was working on. I lost all sense of my surroundings and stood up, in traffic lanes and stared at the driver, as he neared my location, without moving my body to a safe place.
I was rigging up a Vehicle to be picked up from a viaduct, while recovering an accident scene for the California Highway Patrol, out in the Inland Empire. I knew that the securement was not what it should have been, to ensure the maximum amount of safety, should one section would fail. During the lift, the Patrol officer walked by me and his cologne had startled me, and he was heading directly near the area of danger (called the “Dead Zone”). I yelled at him to get away from the area, and back away. He ignored me, and I entered right in the middle of the “dead-zone” and stopped him to explain it was too dangerous for him to be there. I was in a far worse area, when the securement let loose from the front of the vehicle, due to the winds making the vehicle shift. The nose, or front of the vehicle dropped down and I just stared at the officer not paying attention to the falling front section of the vehicle. (Needless to say, I got one heck of a head ache.)
AS you can see, my sense of danger had become distorted, and not what would be expected from an average person, whom is not suffering from PTSD. I had no regard for my own safety and not the sense to make the decision to stand away or seek safety for myself. It’s not a matter of choices, which one would logically assume; at least not for sufferers of PTSD Anxiety Disorders. There is a lot of things that go into this phenomena, beyond my knowledge and ability to explain to anyone. It just is, what it is!
I wrote three articles, that might bring some light to some of the struggles that I, like other sufferers of PTSD and associated Anxiety Disorders face, on a daily basis. Again, I am not wishing to bring judgment upon others, or myself, or place a means to place a stigma upon those of us whom suffer from PTSD. Not all sufferers experience the effects of our mental illness, the same or to the same degree. So, please read the following articles with as much as an open mind, intent on learning and becoming informed, rather than to allow yourself to become judgmental.
(If you cannot just click on the links, try holding the ctrl key down while clicking on the links.)
How Do Flashbacks and Nightmares Effect You?
Again, the effects of the flashbacks vary. I am sort of afraid of discussing this because the effects of the nightmares and flashbacks will range widely among other sufferers, as all of the subjects discussed in this article. I definitely don’t wish to imply that all of the sufferers will, or do experience their own episodes in a “like kind” manner with the same symptoms.
For me, I sometimes see a collage of things that occurred in my traumatic events, conversations that took place during or afterwards and sometime previous to the attacks, I suffered. Sometimes I will see faces of people whom had died in auto accidents, which I had direct contact with. Sometimes I will hear the clicking of a gun that was used in an attempt to shoot me in the head and misfired multiple times. Other times, I will see silhouettes of people involved in the trauma’s I was involved with, other times I will just be in the places where my traumatic events took place, with no one there but me.
As far as nightmares, I think you can imagine how a child’s imagination works with the proverbial “boogie-man” nightmares. Well, at best take all and more of the facets of my traumas were and could have been, then put in place the imagination of a child and the possibilities are endless of where the mind takes one, whom had suffered the amount of trauma’s I have, over the years. I sometimes can smell scents which reminds me of something in the traumatic events, sometimes I can incorporate a television show playing on the T.V. that was left on, or the radio station show on at the time of the dream. So, describing these events can be difficult, at best.
The other night, I was shocked awake from a nightmare, into a direct “flash-back” from one of my traumatic events, which my life was directly at risk, and was seeing attackers in all of the shadows of the room, moving towards me.
I felt I was under attack, and I suppose I started fighting in the room. When I finally came to, with the assist of a crisis line, I had found that I had tipped over my entertainment center, my dresser, broken several vases and cut my arms and punched my service dog in the hind quarters, when I was on the ground (I guess from the entertainment center falling on me during my flashback episode.) I was covered in sweat, my bed was sweat soaked, my heart was pounding and I was hyper aware of my home and the noises kept me on guard until the counselor on the phone had talked me down. (By the way my dog is fine.)
I believe that the episodes described above, concerning my nightmare, was the worst I have ever experienced, in over 28 years. However, I think it gives some ideas of what extent my experiences have taken me, in my life.
For Those Who Don’t Believe PTSD, is a Debilitating Condition
Again, I am not speaking for anyone who is suffering with PTSD, or any other Anxiety Disorder. I am merely speaking from my own experiences. But by merely reading this article, I would hope that further research and reading, on part of those who do not believe that PTSD is debilitating, please check your sources of information and investigate it on your own. It will serve others in your life, whom may be suffering and not trusting you enough to let you know of their issues. This would also mean that, you may not be as good of a friend, as you might think.
For those whom are not sure, what PTSD is, and how it effects those whom do suffer; please, do some research, and become informed. It may serve you well, should you meet or have someone who is suffering from an anxiety disorder or PTSD.
There may be some of you, whom decide to read this, whom may have someone they suspect may be suffering from PTSD or another anxiety related disorder. For those folks, ask some questions and if you still suspect something try to talk them, or please decide to get help for yourself should that person be yourself.
Either way, my intentions for writing this article, is to educate; not to illicit sympathy or judgment. In fact, I am hoping that if you should find someone is suffering, that you will help them reach out and find assistance to deal with their issues. IF they are, I ask for your not judging them and instead become a part of their support network. It will fill your life with frustration (no doubt) but it will be fulfilling as you watch their progress in treatment.
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