Anxiety is a common symptom among mothers
following the disclosure
of their child's sexual abuse
. Anxiety is the feeling we recognize as worry and sometimes fear. It is accompanied by physical symptoms, many people experiencing a racing heart, shortness of breath, clammy hands, and sometimes chest pain or headaches.
When a person is anxious, she is affected in many ways:
- Mental - What thoughts are you thinking that contribute to the anxiety? Thoughts of danger motivate a survival response, and your thoughts turn to ways of maintaining safety. Be aware of your thoughts.
- Physical - Your body experiences a fight-or-flight response, releasing hormones and changing your organic process. The body is getting ready to protect itself and is in an emergency state. Heart rate increases, blood flow to muscles increases, and immune and digestive processes slow down or stop.
- Emotional - A sense of dread or panic can initiate poor choices unless you recognize this as emotion-based thinking. Anxiety initiates a destabilization of emotions. Try not to make decisions unless you are calm and clear-minded, not out of fear or anxiety.
- Behavioral - Motivation is toward escape or avoidance of what you are anxious about or afraid of. Unfortunately, avoidance may not be in your best interest.
Some anxiety is useful. If you walk down a dark street late at night, a little anxiety will keep you more alert and aware. Anxiety about a scheduled test may motivate you to study. However, many people experience acute anxiety that is disabling. Anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder - You may feel anxious a lot of the time over a long period of time. The anxiety is not related to a specific situation, event, object, or person. It is pervasive, affecting many areas of your life.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - If you have lived through a traumatic life event involving threat of harm to yourself or someone else, you may develop PTSD. Symptoms include reexperiencing the event, nightmares, anger, and avoidance.
- Acute Stress Disorder - Symptoms similar to those experienced with PTSD are experienced immediately after the trauma event.
- Specific Phobias - You may feel very anxious when confronted by a particular object or situation, for example, snakes or heights. You tend to avoid those things or situations.
- Social Phobias - You may feel very anxious in social or performance situations, for example, speaking in public or being in a crowd. You tend to avoid those situations.
- Panic Disorder - Causes panic attacks in which the person experiences terror and possibly fear of dying, accompanied by fast heartbeat, chest pain, breathing difficulty, and dizziness. A panic attack happens unexpectedly, and once someone experiences one, she may live in fear of another one.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - People with OCD experience obsessions, repeated disturbing thoughts about something that may be accompanied by repeated efforts to stop the anxiety. The repeated actions are called compulsions. You may feel driven to do something over and over to reduce the anxiety.