From palpitations to panic attack: When anxiety becomes disease

Imagine walking alone through a deserted car park at night. With a queasy feeling in the stomach, the steps are faster and you are happy when you sit in the car. But is that why you are already a pathologically anxious person? Not at all. This reaction is completely normal, as psychologist Frank Meiners explains: "Most people experience anxiety in situations they consider threatening, uncertain and uncontrollable, and anxiety is a protective mechanism of the body to react quickly in dangerous situations."

Fear as a biological reaction

A biological reaction takes place: the heartbeat and blood pressure rise, the muscles contract and the bronchia dilate. In addition, blood sugar is released to quickly provide energy. The hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol ensure maximum motivation.

Now the body can react to the threatening situation - either in the form of flight or combat readiness. In that sense, fear also ensures survival.

When does fear become illness?

However, it becomes problematic when the fears go beyond the normal level. They become disease when they:

  • inappropriately strong,
  • happens often,
  • last too long,
  • and with the feeling that you no longer have control over appearance and persistence.

An overview of anxiety disorders

In anxiety disorders, doctors and psychologists distinguish between panic disorder, phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. When panic disorder occurs, the attacks suddenly appear out of the blue - unlike the generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by a constant concern for everything and everyone. The phobias are divided again: agoraphobia describes the fear of being in public places or in crowded, crowded rooms. This includes the fear of using public transport or going shopping. In the case of social phobia, those concerned fear dealing with other people - especially being devalued by them. And who suffers from a specific phobia, gets panic at the sight of spiders, dentist-drills, in exams or on the plane.

Great suffering

As different as the various anxiety disorders are, they all have one thing in common: those affected feel a considerable amount of suffering. They try to avoid the unbearable fear-provoking situation. As a result, they are so limited in their daily activities that fear finally determines their lives.

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