Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Anxiety Disorders

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Anxiety Disorders

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Okinawa

I remember when my car broke down in the Mojave Desert. I had AAA car towing service. But when I called, they said they didn’t know where I was or how to get to me. I had a lot of anxiety at that point. It’s one of those “What now, coach?” moments when a knot in your stomach gets tighter and you’re gulping back your emotions. Looking at the barren surrounding as sage brush rolled by, and swirls of dust danced on the barren landscape, I felt desperate.

Oh sure, psychologists say occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. But I’m about to have a panic attack. Okay, it’s early morning. I have all day to figure this out: I have one bottle of water. I took survival training in the Marine Corps—what’s the first rule? Don’t panic! After I finished screaming and swearing, I realized most people worry about health, money, or family problems. My situation was not the same as the occasional worrying about those things. I was experiencing anxiety due to a stressful life event. I didn’t want to die crawling in the sand, gasping for water and seeing mirages in the distance. I decide to think positive, at least I wasn’t living with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder and experiencing frequent anxiety attacks for months, if not years. This feeling of anxiety and dread was temporary and wouldn’t interfere with my daily life in the long-term. Now to just come up with a plan.

But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of GAD include feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge, being easily fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, irritability, headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains, difficulty controlling feelings of worry, and sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

As a trauma specialist I learned that the cause of separation anxiety disorder is unknown, but there are some risk factors. Separation anxiety disorder, for instance, commonly develops after a person experiences a major stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one or pet, change of schools, divorce, or some disaster that separates an individual from their loved ones. Also, having parents who are overprotective or intrusive might lead to separation anxiety disorder.

Everybody worries or gets the odd case of butterflies in the stomach. While moderate anxiety can be limiting, severe anxiety can be crippling. Anxiety currently afflicts more than 20 million Americans, making it the most common mental illness in the US, according to a report in Psychology Today. In addition, the American Psychiatric Institute found anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.

Separation anxiety disorder most often begins in childhood but may continue into the teenage years and sometimes into adulthood. The National Institute of Mental Health said risk factors may include certain temperaments, which are more prone to anxiety disorders or a family history, including blood relatives who have problems with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, indicating that those traits could be inherited.

What to do when your anxiety grips you? Get involved in activities and meet other people:  discover a new balance in your life and relationship. Be patient: sadness doesn’t go away overnight. Recognizing the positive aspects of a specific worry doesn’t mean you should ignore the problematic components. Anxiety can become severely disabling. If you or someone you love is experiencing severe anxiety volunteer to help yourself, seek professional help. It will make it much easier to find your balance and re-boot what you’re thinking about.

Finally, after hours in the hot desert, with only a few sips of water left, a tow truck arrived. AAA contacted a garage in the desert, and they came to my rescue. I was all smiles and giddy with happiness, until I was told a needed a new transmission. At that point as I leaned against my SUV, I began experiencing severe anxiety, I became irritable, I started worrying, I was on-edge and wound up. I smiled at the mechanic then walked away from the vehicles, and screamed “Why me?” “Why me?” “Poor me! Poor me! Pour me a drink!”

Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at the website or email. Follow his YouTube channel Hilary’s Quick Talk for more insights.


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