I have been diagnosed with severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, & Agoraphobia. For those of you that know me this isn’t anything new. I thought I would post about living with these conditions & what it means for me. These disorders are not anything new to me. Although I was only diagnosed with these for the last 10 years, it is something I have dealt with my entire life.
Right off the bat, if you are one of those people who tell me that “it is all in my head & I should be able to handle it”, then yes, you are right. It is in my head, but is it something I can control? Hell no. I try.
So let’s start with the one that is the worst for me.
A Few Questions I Get Asked
- Do I look like I have a mental disability?
- Nope, by looking at me you would think I am a “normal” person. Also, I have spent almost 30 years learning to hide these issues cause “people with mental problems are not trusted”.
- Am I going to snap & shoot people?
- NO! I am too much of a pacifist to do any of that. I am the person that gets upset over killing game mobs. *sigh*
- Am I going to go “crazy” & start running around screaming?
- Highly doubt it. If I do then people who know me would probably faint from shock. :happy:
- Does my disorder cause me to have problems with my everyday life?
- Does it cause me to miss things or do things I want to do?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) & Social Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
A few statistics for you to chew over from The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).
- Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.
- Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance abuse.
- Most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder. Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have their first episode by age.
These are the main issues I have. Every other problem I have usually stems from these issues. So what does this mean actually? To put it plainly:
Everything & anything is a cause or trigger for anxiety
Yep, just waking up can cause the feelings to show up. The anxiety can even just show up for no apparent reason, i.e. sitting at the library (nice, quiet, not a lot of people around) reading. Sometimes there is a good reason for the feelings to be there & you manage to handle the situation.
Just imagine spending an hour in a state of high fear, sweat pouring off of you, and the feeling of being a deer stuck in headlights. Got that imagined? That is not a fun thing to imagine is it? Nope, wouldn’t want to have that happen for any length of time, right? Guess what! I live in that state for the majority of the time. Sounds fun, right? I didn’t think so. You learn what you can do & what you really shouldn’t do. Though you still do the things you know will cause problems (at least I do & try).
A person with agoraphobia fears being in places where there is a chance of having a panic attack that people may witness, and getting away rapidly may be difficult. Because of these fears the sufferer will deliberately avoid such places – which may include crowded areas, special events, queues (standing in line), buses and trains, shops and shopping centers, and airplanes.
A person with agoraphobia may find it hard to feel safe in any type of public place, especially where large numbers of people gather. Some people may have it so severely that the only place they feel really safe in is their home, and rarely ever go outside.
Yes, I know you are thinking, but Heather goes out every day. Yes, I do. I do not have this so bad that I am forced to stay inside my house. Though I rarely will go places by myself or if I do then I have to be somewhere & everyone knows my limits. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I leave the house is because the idea of staying there is so nice & wonderful that I am scared that if I give into the thought I won’t be able to leave again. Also, Dad refuses to let me stay home all the time. He has made it to where if I want to talk to the few friends I do have I have to leave the house. Most of my friends are online & there is no internet at home. My phone data plan is only so big & if since I share it with Dad I can’t use it.
For me to go someplace by myself it is completely exhausting. Just fighting off the attacks is mentally exhausting. If I stay out too long or go out too many “new” places then I will be so exhausted that I will be unable to function. Since I am an introvert being around a lot of people exhausts me & as such why most of my friends are “online”. I only go where I have to & then I go home. If it is a big store (Wal-Mart) then I can promise that I will go in & then spend about 30 minutes sitting in my car resting from the trip. Usually I have even driven off to a quiet secluded place where there isn’t a lot of people around. I plan my trips around what I have to do & I never go “just because”.
Since I don’t want to have this post be filled with every single thing about my disabilities this page is a wonderful description of the symptoms & problems with Agoraphobia.
At the same time, I only go to certain places that are or what I consider “safe” for me. Do I go to new places, not very often & if I do then I must have someone with me. That someone has to know about my disabilities & know what to watch for. See, if I have too much landing on me at a time, I will have a panic attack & those are nasty buggers. Then to top it off the panic attack will cause more anxiety & lead to another panic attack. Yep, it goes in a very nasty circle. To double the problem, I am prone to have pseudoseizures (see the bottom of the post for info on these) with my panic attacks & anxiety. Major problem right there. If someone doesn’t know how to handle my seizures they will get hurt, cause I flail around & then pass out. Imagine a 300lb person start twitching & then flailing. Then they completely stop & fall. Oh, did I mention that when the person wakes up it will start the whole cycle over again, unless it somehow manages to get under control? Yep, fun right?
I have a psychiatrist (D.O. or M.D.) & psychologist that I talk to all the bloody time. No, I do not like having to rely on them, but I can’t handle it alone. *No, they would not be completely happy about this post, but I don’t care.* Between the two of them & a large change in how I live my life has made it to where I can manage my disabilities most days. Oh, I will still have days that are horrible & bad, but thankfully they are not that often. Maybe once or twice a week. Yeah, that is a lot, but I used to have “bad” days every single day. Pseudoseizures multiple times a day (I am talking 10 or more). *knock on wood* I have not had a pseudoseizure in over a year. That is simply amazing. I am talking about a full blow pseudoseizure. I still have my twitches & jerks when I am having a bad day, but now a full flailing about, pass out pseudoseizure. Trust me, that is wonderful.
How do you handle these disabilities?
Thought you would never ask, lol. I thought for the most part I would just make a list (helps me keep track).
- Avoid or leave any place that is crowded or has loud noises.
- Yep, malls are not a good thing for me. If it is Christmas time, you will not find me anywhere that people are. When we go see movies, they are several weeks old in the theaters. Even then we get there early & I read until the movie starts, so I don’t see the people in the theater. Yes, this trick works wonders if the book is engaging enough. Dad does a lot of talking to me about anything & everything to keep my mind on the conversation instead of the people & noises I am hearing.
- I do things during the “off” times instead of the times when everyone else is doing them. I.E. Shopping in the middle of the day when there isn’t that many people around.
- I love to go shopping at 2am. There is NO ONE there. Sadly, I can’t do that very often. The Internet is a dream come true for me in this case.
- You have a list of places that are “safe”. These are places that everyone that works there or is there knows you & will help you get in & out quickly.
- I have restaurants, shops, & places that I can go to & know that I don’t have to worry about lines & such. They don’t let me skip ahead (most of the time unless they see I am having a problem). Or these places will take a phone call from me & have everything waiting for me at the front so I don’t have to venture too far into the store or deal with to many people.
- You learn to trick your mind & use little tricks to make it through everything you can.
- For me my tricks are reading, knitting, & music. I am never without an engaging book (usually one I have read before, i.e. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, Earth’s Children series by Jean Aual, Eve Duncan series by Iris Johansan to name a few) in my hands or on my phone. Finding a phone that supports epubs is essential for me. I don’t care about anything else a phone does as long as I can call out, receive calls, & read my epubs. I knit everywhere I can. Yep, I am the person in the car that while waiting at stop lights, is paying attention to the road & knitting. No, I don’t knit while I am driving. I use music for that. Yep, I blare the music so I don’t have to see anything else. I don’t notice people, I pay attention to cars. If I see a person then that is something for me to worry over.
- You write everything you need to do down.
- I will avoid things by “forgetting them”. I, honestly, will forget them. So my calendar *Google Calender* has every single little thing I am doing. Doctor appointments (those are usually crowded, unsafe places for me), movies, everything. I will even forget to eat because I don’t want to leave my “safe place”. Yep, that is why I get asked all the time if I have eaten & why I leave my containers separate from the trash can until Dad can see them. So he knows.
- Have someone who will go with me when I know I have something I have to do that is going to be a “problem”.
- I am going to be having dental surgery coming up. Side Note: Dentists are major anxiety spiking issues for me. I don’t go anywhere near one without Dad or someone else. So Dad knows that he is going to be missing a day of work on each of the days I have to go visit the oral surgeon & when I have the surgery. There is no choice or I will not go. He knows this & is ok with it. I do my part & do my best to make sure the appointments & anything else is on his off days & not during tax season (January through April).
- Like a person with Obsessive–compulsive disorder I try to keep everything in a certain order & place. Change is not something I handle well.
- Any change is an anxiety situation that can & does render me helpless & under attacks. Goes back to having the “safe” places.
- Have someone to live with me otherwise I will stay at home, never eat, not take care of myself, etc. Basically, it is not healthy for me to live alone. I am very clumsy (the Agoraphobia) & I will forget to take care of myself just to keep my mental issues at bay.
- Yes, this is a constant worry for my Father. I am trying to get to the point where I can “function” without someone else, but I don’t know if I will ever get to that point. So yep, a roommate will be something for me to look forward. *sigh*
- I don’t do things that I want to because I know what will happen.
- TNNA is happening right now. It is a *huge* festival for needle workers. No, I couldn’t have gone even if I didn’t have these issues, but there is on in Arkansas every year & that I could go to if I could handle it. But the mere thought of all those people & being in a strange new place is paralyzing to me. Just like one of my friends, Aisling, is moving to England from Canada. Me, there is no way in this world I would be able to do that by myself. The idea of getting on a plane, leaving everything behind me here (even though with phone calls & such) is not something I would be able to do. Even the trip to England that Dad & I are going to do is enough to make me have anxiety attacks, but sometimes you have to do things you know you shouldn’t do. The only way I can do them is to take everything a little at a time. On vacation, we only do about two things a day. That is all I can handle with everything else. Usually, we will do the zoo & a mall one day, then the next will be another two days. If there is more than this then you will find me back at the hotel for a while in the quiet resting & trying to control the anxiety & fear.
- You take your medication every single day no matter what.
- Oh yeah, running out of medication (in my case, 40mg or Viibryd) is not an option. If you do then that is guaranteed to be an anxiety attack happening. I have only run out twice in the entire 15 years I have been on medication for these disabilities.
I am sure that there is more, but at this moment, I am not thinking of them.
What I am hoping you get from this?
Realize that just because you are just fine & have no problems, not every one is that good. Some of us has to fight just to get out of bed every morning. So before you snidely tell someone to handle it & it is just in their head, think about it. Yes, it is in their heads, but they may not be able to control it.
When you see someone “hiding” in a corner don’t laugh at them. They maybe having a problem. Instead watch them & see if there is something you can do to help, even if it is just talking to them. Don’t call attention to them unless you have to.
I hope I have you thinking about these disorders (disabilities) in another light. Realizing that people who suffer these are just like you, but sometimes unable to do the things you do.
There is a reason that person is walking around the store with headphones in their ears & possibly no music playing. They are avoiding conversations that will remind them that they are not in their “safe” place. *Yes, I do this all the time.*
Now I have to summon the strength & will power to go get supper. *sigh* Here I go…..
Now the info on the pseudoseizures is in the block-quote below.
What Are Pseudoseizures?
Pseudoseizures are a physical manifestation of an emotional disturbance. They resemble epileptic seizures, but, unlike the seizures caused by epilepsy, they are not caused by electrical disruptions in the brain. People experiencing pseudoseizures often experience loss of consciousness, grand mal-like twitching or jerking, and aggravated emotional states. These episodes may last for 20 minutes or more.
Physicians believe that pseudoseizures are psychological defense mechanisms, and may be brought on by episodes of severe stress or emotional trauma. The seizures tend to occur when patients try to suppress the trauma, often taking the person suffering with them by surprise, as do epileptic seizures.
The difference between epileptic seizures and pseudoseizures can be difficult to recognize, even for trained medical professionals. The physical appearances of epileptic seizures and pseudoseizures are virtually identical. Generally, a diagnosis of pseudoseizures is reached after a complete neurological work up is performed, thorough seizure history and description is obtained, and the results of an electroencephalogram (EEG) are analyzed to gauge differences in the brain’s electrical activity from what would be expected of someone prone to epileptic seizures.
One of the most common complications involved in the diagnosis and treatment of pseudoseizures is the misconception that people who suffer from the phenomena are hypochondriacs, hysterics, or “faking it.” The name for the condition alone, “pseudoseizures,” leads some people to think of the occurrences as medically suspect.
Many patients who experience pseudoseizures are urged to seek counseling. This can be a good or bad therapeutic option, depending on the context. As pseudoseizures are a physical manifestation of intense emotional or psychological stress, or a physical response to a childhood trauma, counseling to work through the underlying cause of the pseudoseizures is certainly an important step toward resolving the concern. However, counseling alone will not resolve the pseudoseizures. The physical manifestation of the disorder will not resolve if the entirety of the phenomena is not considered and treated.
Most importantly, it is crucial that patients and healthcare providers remember that pseudoseizures are seizures. There is a complete lack of control inherent in any seizure activity, and the potential ramifications of that loss of control can be just as devastating for people suffering from pseudoseizures as it can for those living with epileptic seizures. Doctors are split as to whether or not driving restrictions should be placed on people who suffer from pseudoseizures. However, where the onset of an attack of either is unpredictable, it is important to consider what safety precautions should be put into place to protect people who experience pseudoseizures, and to protect those around them.
Treatment of Pseudoseizures
Although physical in nature, pseudoseizures are coping mechanisms of the psyche of the person afflicted. Similar to multiple personality disorder, the psychological disturbances of a person suffering from pseudoseizures can become so overwhelming to the system that they manifest themselves physically. Pseudoseizures are medical occurrences.
If a patient has already been prescribed anticonvulsant medications, they should be discontinued (under a doctor’s supervision), as they may actually exacerbate the condition. Anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed, with the addition of psychiatric services. It is important to address the root of the psychological stressors that are causing the emergence of the pseudoseizures, but they should be addressed as a part of the whole picture, and not as the whole picture.
Ideally, with the help of anti-anxiety medication and counseling, the disorder can begin to be brought under control. People suffering from pseudoseizures often have a long journey toward recovery, a journey that often includes medication, psychiatric counseling, and close medical supervision. It can be long and frustrating. However, with proper intervention, people do find themselves in full recovery from the condition.
Just as a final point, none of my issues come from any form of drug abuse. I have never & will never take recreational drugs. As far as Dad & I can figure out they have been with me from birth & just gotten steadily worse.