HR professional Anupama Verma has always been the nervous sort. Small things get her agitated and anxious. When she can’t reach her husband on his mobile phone, or when her son complains of feeling a little low, or when her parents, who live in another city, don’t answer their phone, Verma freaks out.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is ‘has anything happened to them? Have they had an accident?’ and so on,” she says. “It is very scary and I don’t know what to do. I become a nervous wreck.”
Verma realises she worries unnecessarily, but is completely incapable of letting go of her fear. “It’s a typical anxiety attack,” says consultant psychologist Dr Seema Hingorrany. “An anxious mind tends to think of the worst possible scenario in any situation it ‘perceives’ to be a crisis situation. And that ‘crisis situation’ could be anything from work and professional disturbances to personal day-to-day happenings. People with anxious minds react or overreact to even small problems in a big way.”
Mind over matter
What is an anxiety attack? Experts define it as an irrational fear of misfortune. “Hyper sensitivity or anxiety generally runs in the genes,” says psychiatrist Dr Bhavna Mehra. “These people tend to react to ordinary situations in an extraordinary manner. Someone not calling or getting home on time. People not responding in an ‘appropriate’ manner. Just about anything. Their thoughts go to extremes and link together completely unrelated instances.”
The mind tends to overwork in times of an anxiety attack, but there are often physical signals as well. “It’s like a panic syndrome. The person starts palpitating, his or her blood pressure could shoot up, the mouth tends to dry and the hands may sweat out of sheer nervousness,” says Mehra.
What a fright
An anxiety disorder is more often than not the outcome of some sort of insecurity. “It could be anything – a subdued childhood, discord in the family, temper tantrums of one or both parents or siblings... Even superficial marital discord or living alone in a city could act as a trigger,” says Mehra. “A sensitive mind tends to get affected at a subconscious level and that could manifest itself in anxiety over small matters at a later stage.”
Architect Nishant Pande accepts that his anxiety is a manifestation of his parents’ bitter fights and his father’s bad temper. “When I was growing up, my dad would lose his cool at the drop of a hat. He was a great dad, but we didn’t know what would anger him when,” Pande says. “So we tried our best to keep him calm. We had to be back home on time, do things properly etc. Now, I feel I do the same – lose my cool if the kids don’t come home on time, think of the worst, so on and so forth.”
Unreasoning fear is also the product of the times we live in – unexpected natural disasters, not to mention political violence, generate and increase a fear of the unforeseen in our minds. “The effect of course is multiplied twice or thrice over in case of an already anxious mind,” says Hingorrany.
Like Verma and Pande, most people who suffer from anxiety disorders realise that their reactions are not normal. But they fail to control their negative thinking.
Experts feel this problem cannot be sorted out quickly. It takes a lot of time and conscious deliberation to heal it. “Half the battle is won when a person realises that his or her actions and thought processes are not normal. But they have to make a conscious effort to not think negative thoughts,” says Hingorrany. “When you start thinking negatively, make a deliberate effort to deny the bad ideas. Rationalise by giving yourself the probable reasons why this situation is happening.”
Of course, the real solution is to talk to a specialist and learn the deeper reasons for your negative thoughts. “Meditation, deep breathing and telling oneself to calm down again and again also helps,” adds Hingorrany.