Community//

Keep Calm: mindfulness, Deep Breathing, and Staying Healthy

The coronavirus is causing a lot of anxiety and panic. This article describes some of the differences between Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, and Panic Disorder. I hope you and your family are staying well

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
a picture I took in Coer d’lene when I was on a walk
A view with the sun...

I can’t imagine anyone has made it to this point in the week without hearing about the Coronavirus.

It is a mutating virus, which is affecting our country, our plans, and the global environment. It is affecting our financial situations, our plans for recreation, and for some, our work and income.

I encourage you to do what is best for you to work to stay calm. I encourage you to learn about your own immune system, those that are close to you, and those you care about.

Many people have heard of the term ‘anxiety’, and ‘panic attack’.

I hear both terms being used colloquially fairly often. ‘I nearly had a panic attack, I was so afraid’. and ‘this test caused me so much anxiety’.

When we think of the DSM V diagnosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorders, and Panic Attacks, we are talking about some pretty specific characteristics.

For Generalized Anxiety Disorder, some of the hallmark symptoms are:

at least 3 of the following:

  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)

In addition, people experience:

  1. The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
  2. The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.

WIth the recent changes in our schedules, these symptoms can feel really common and prevalent.

Generalized Anxiety means that there is a baseline anxiety hovering around that someone may feel. Someone generally feels anxious, not tied to a specific thing or reason for their anxiety.

Before I go on, let’s talk about Panic Attacks.

A Panic Attack generally feels like a racing heart, difficulty breathing, and a sense of being overwhelmed.

To meet the criteria in the DSM V, a person must experience four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • A feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Feelings of unreality (derealization) or being detached from oneself (depersonalization)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias)
  • Chills or hot flushes

For someone with a healthy fear of germs, and for someone whose health may be more fragile, it may not take much to go from feeling an overall sense of unease or fear to a full blown panic attack.

During a panic attack, a person may be very difficult to reason with. They may feel so strongly that they are losing control, dying, or having chest pain that they need to be hospitalized.

It is important to note that feelings of panic are real and physiological., I have heard people say ‘it was just a panic attack’, which minimizes the feelings one experiences when panicking, and their need for medical attention.

Panic Disorder is a different diagnosis in the DSM V.

Panic Disorder

A. Recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:

Note: The abrupt surge can occur from a calm state or an anxious state. 

– 1. Palpitation, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.

  • –  2. Sweating.
  • –  3. Trembling or shaking.
  • –  4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
  • –  5. Feelings of choking.
  • –  6. Chest pain or discomfort.
  • –  7. Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • –  8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
  • –  9. Chills or heat sensations.
  • –  10. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).
  • –  11. Derealization (feeling of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from one self).
  • –  12. Fear of losing control or “going crazy”.
  • –  13. Fear of dying.

DSM-5

Note: Culture-specific symptoms (e.g., tinnitus, neck soreness, headache, uncontrollable screaming or crying) may be seen. Such symptoms should not count as one of the four required symptoms.

So…you can see that each diagnosis has its own set of criteria, and each diagnosis differs from the others in some ways.

I participate in TalkSpace as a therapist, and have a private practice in McKinney, Texas at Blank Slate Therapy. As more and more people because distraught about things that cause them to panic, the more important access to mental health services are.

My understanding is that some of the rules of Telehealth are set to change. One thing that could change is that I would be able to provide Telehealth to clients who live anywhere in the country, as opposed to only in my current state of Texas and my previous state (both were I hold licenses) of Indiana.

Being able to provide therapy would help those who need therapy, whether it be by Telehealth, in person, or some other form, to access it.

It is important to reduce our anxieties in ways that work for us. I have written an article on Mindfulness, and on ADHD and some other topics that I find interesting.

I hope that you are able to feel some peace as we all adjust our schedules from what they have been to our ‘new normal’ for the moment.

I hope you stay healthy, and so do your loved ones.

I encourage you to think about what brings you peace, what causes you stress, and to utilize some stress management techniques to work to reduce your level of stress.

I also encourage you to work on reaching out to others who may not have the income that is needed to pay their bills. I encourage you to talk with your friends and family, as those ‘touches’ can be really important to our mental wellness.

I also encourage you, if your anxiety is disrupting your life in a way that makes it hard to work, interact with family members, or sleep, to reach out to your local health workers. See a doctor if needed. Schedule an appointment with a therapist. Ask someone else what they would recommend for you, then ask someone else.

Enjoy your weekend.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Living With an Anxiety Disorder Amidst the Pandemic

by Sweta Bothra
Community//

Can you treat anxiety with YouTube videos?

by Adeel Mehmood
Community//

Four Ways to Address a Panic Attack

by Dr. Evian Gordon MD, PhD

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.