Anxiety disorder.

What is Anxiety?

We all experience feelings of anxiety, particularly when we are nervous about certain situations like having an interview for a new job or taking an exam, but afterwards it soon goes away. But for some people, it becomes much more than that, with anxiety taking over a normal day-to-day routine and worrying about anything and everything. Our bodies have a “fight or flight” system so that when we find ourselves in dangerous or fearful situations, our body produces adrenaline to aid us in being able to fight or to get away from this situation quickly. However, this starts to occur in normal situations for people who suffer badly with anxiety, meaning this adrenaline starts pumping with nothing to react to, often resulting in various symptoms like panic attacks. (Mind.org.uk 2015).

“Some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased muscle tension
  • “Jelly legs”
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Hyperventilation (over breathing)
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wanting to use the toilet more often
  • Feeling sick
  • Tight band across the chest area
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Choking sensations
  • Palpitations

Some of the most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are:

  • Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
  • Thinking that you might die
  • Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
  • Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
  • Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
  • Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
  • Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
  • Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you”

(Anxietyuk.org.uk n.d.)

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

“The most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:

  • generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • panic disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • phobias
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”

(Anxietyuk.org.uk n.d.)

These different disorders are the basis for causing these feelings of severe anxiety. Dependant upon the disorder, different types of treatment can be received to overcome these past traumas. There are quite a few ways to help and support with anxiety, such as visiting your GP, having counselling, taking medication or various self help activities, like keeping a journal, learning breathing activities and maintaing a healthy lifestyle through exercise and eating right.

For me, my anxiety stemmed from a emetophobia – a phobia of being around or being sick, or being around others who are sick. I have always had such strong feelings of fear towards it since a young age however when I was younger, I didn’t know it was actually a phobia. Half way through my 2 years of a-levels, one day something just changed as if a switch had flicked in my body. I felt terribly ill and have never been the same since. It soon spiralled into not being able to eat or sleep properly and going to school became an unbelievably tough challenge. Even just walking to school could trigger a panic attack and trying to take my exams knowing I couldn’t get out was unbearable. I ended up missing my lessons because I couldn’t sit comfortably in them without panicking. This all became so much for me that often I didn’t even want to leave the house because I was too scared of what would happen and whether it would trigger another panic attack. Sometimes they have been so severe I have turned grey in the face, nearly fainted in public and experienced such unbearable chest pains I nearly resulted to call an ambulance.

Telling people about this issue has been embarrassing and humiliated but more often than not, I haven’t had a choice in the matter as I have found myself in situations where I have been so desperate for help. Looking back, it is unbelievable to think how badly anxiety can affect you both mentally and physically. Coming to university became one of the biggest challenges whilst suffering with my anxiety but it has also helped me immensely by simply forcing me to cope. I have had good days and also a lot of bad days, but I am in such a better place than where I was. I have been so lucky to have people around me who have understood my disorder and supported me, as well as developing my own coping mechanisms like keeping a journal recommended to me by a counsellor, listening to music and being outdoors, hence why I have based my project around this.

For me, people knowing I have anxiety isn’t a problem but I no longer want it to define me. Whilst there have been good people who have helped, I have also experienced the stigma surrounding mental health where I have been accused of using my anxiety as an excuse and being asked, what are you even panicking about? This is why I think it is so important for people to be able to share and speak about their experiences, so more people learn how crippling anxiety, or any other mental health issue can be. Just because it is not something you see on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting a battle within. If you met me, you wouldn’t know I have a serious battle going on with anxiety but if people did know, I’d want them to be able to understand it rather than associating it with general misconceptions which surround mental health. This project is personal to me and tells my story. I want it to be relatable so people can understand what I am trying to say and why and although it may not have a huge affect on challenging the stigma, it makes a small contribution to changing society’s perception and will hopefully encourage others to talk about their own experiences and seek help, it is the best thing you can do.

With this in mind, I brainstormed possible ideas for my self portraits to tell my story about my anxiety.

  • What things do I do to cope with my anxiety?
  • Wearing mask, half face in darkness, half in light to symbolise the hidden battle.
  • Close up of eye in mask.
  • Sat at the window, symbolising too scared to go out at one point?
  • Shot of face with hands around neck and shoulders, feeling trapped.
  • Birds eye shot in the bath underwater symbolising not being able to breathe when having a panic attack. Red water to represent danger?
  • Standing alone in a wide field, loneliness.
  • Slow shutter speed/blurriness showing the world continuing around me, not making sense.
  • Playing with hair, coping mechanism.
  • Nails digging into skin, coping mechanism.
  • One in the rain?
  • One under lamppost with single light at night, showing loneliness engulfed by darkness.
  • Always keep face hidden – mask? Show embarrassment and how anxiety has taken away my personality.
  • Some kind of ‘hope’, letting go of fears?
  • Mask tied to the end of balloons to symbolise trying to let go of anxiety – welcome hills?

Anxietyuk.org.uk, (n.d.) Anxiety Information « Anxiety UK [online] available from <http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help-now/anxietyinformation/&gt; [26 March 2015]

Mind.org.uk, (2015) About Anxiety | Mind, The Mental Health Charity – Help For Mental Health Problems [online] available from <http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/about-anxiety/#.VVsEW1VVikp&gt; [26 March 2015]

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on March 26, 2015.

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