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Biology 202
2003 First Web Paper
On Serendip

Anxiety Disorders

by Student Contributor

As I got close to the Embassy Suites, where Lincoln Financial Group was holding
their interviews, I felt myself get tense. "What if people are in the lobby and they see me
in jeans? Would that make a bad impression?" After a long debate with myself, I decided
that it was nearly midnight and that people would not be awake. I walked into the lobby,
got my room key and went up. We all had our own suite so it was clear that Lincoln had
some money to spend. As I tried to fall asleep, I became more and more restless. I began
thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I couldn't sleep. 3am rolled around.
Then 6am. At 7am I got up, showered, put my suit on and walked out of the room. I
immediately turned around because I realized that I had forgotten my name tag. As I tried
to open the door with the plastic key, I realized I was trembling so bad that I could not get
the stupid key in the door. I finally managed to enter the room and get my name tag and I
proceeded to stab my finger with the safety pin of the tag. The pin kept slipping because
my palms were sweaty. I took a deep breath, cleaned myself, cursed myself for being
clumsy, and went downstairs to eat.

The elevator doors opened and I saw over 150 people in the lobby. I nearly
fainted. I felt like my lungs would not expand and for a second everything went black. I
quickly walked over to the bathroom and slapped myself a couple of times. Splashing
cold water on my face would have been out of the question given that I was wearing
mascara. I asked myself to get a grip (several times) and walk out of the bathroom. I
was so nervous that I hung my head and walked over to the food hoping to avoid any eye
contact. I looked at the food and I wanted to eat because I was hungry, but my nausea
got in the way. I finally had to look up and then I saw the rest of the name tags. "OH MY
GOD!" Cornell, University of Penn., Princeton, Yale, Columbia. I wanted to start
crying but there were too many people around. I thought "you might as well go home.
There is no way in hell you will get a job given the competition."

Time came to mingle with upper management. At this point I started sweating.
My heartbeat was so strong that I could almost feel it impair my speech. Soon enough,
my stomach and intestines began working overtime. Thankfully the bathroom was near
by.

Symptoms so far: tremors, diarrhea, sweating, palpitations, muscle tension, sleep disturbances.

I returned to Bryn Mawr where more fun times were awaiting me. This is a brief
on the rest of the month:

Lots of snow = lots of car trouble.

Computer crashes. Thought we saved everything on FTP. Nope! Some files got
lost. But at least I ordered another computer (which I had no money for. But hey! What
are credit cards for!!!?)

I work about 30 hours a week so I can't get to Guild to work on a computer. I fall behind in all my classes because 4 out of 4 classes are computer/web based.

The new computer arrives. It turns out that the hard drive is not spinning properly and I have to wait for another new computer.

Another interview in NYC. I get there a half hour late due to traffic and I make a total jerk of myself.

Hell week is coming up and I am dorm president without a computer to keep in
close touch with people. Lots of other social issues to deal with which should not be
mentioned.

It's only downhill from here because papers are due, midterms are coming up, I
have to start my thesis, and more interviews.

Symptoms over the last month: muscle tension, easily fatigued, edgy, difficulty
concentrating, irritability, sleep disturbances, need to cry when more than 5 things go
wrong in one day.

I would say that for the most part I am stressed out because there are a lot of
things happening at the same time. I would not consider myself to have any sort of
anxiety (although I did suffer from panic attacks a couple of years ago). I expected my
senior year to be a difficult one and I think I am doing just fine. I strongly believe that many things in life can be solved through the power of suggestion. When I feel like things are getting out of control, I look in the mirror and I try to put things in perspective. Will I really die if I don't get a job with Lincoln? Absolutely not. That is why my
interviews went fine regardless of how nervous I was at first. I think it is perfectly
normal to be scared when meeting very important people for the first time; or even when
you meet new people. Nobody wants to be viewed as "socially retarded" so we all worry
about the kind of image we project out to other people. Does a person have a disease if
they are shy or nervous or irritated? I don't think so. I believe that some of these
disease/illnesses are conjured up socially and by pharmaceutical companies to get people
to think they need a pill to make all their problems go away. But being nervous or shy is
normal for the majority of the human population. So if everyone listened to the
symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), the majority of us would be taking a pill.

According to the Wyeth, anxiety is "a feeling of unease and fear that may be
characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of
stress." GAD is "a psychiatric condition in which the main symptoms are chronic and
persistent apprehension and tension that are not related to any situation in particular.
There may be many unspecific physical reactions, such as trembling, jitteriness,
sweating, lightheadedness, and irritability." (1) The symptoms of GAD are thought to be:
muscle tension, easily fatigued, restless, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep
disturbance and most people will have at least 3 of these symptoms. (1) They also
mention that these symptoms should persist over 6 months but I can easily see these
symptoms persisting if (for example) I was going through a painful divorce which would
take more than 6 months.

Is it maybe possible that we as adults are taking on too many responsibilities?
Maybe we work too many hours and we don't have enough time to relax. Therefore we
are always juggling 100 things at the same time. The more things we juggle, the higher
the chances that something will go wrong, the higher the stress. The brain may be a
wonderful and complex thing but it needs to rest every-now-and-then.

So maybe a lot of adults are suffering from GAD due to high stress levels.
However when one looks at the symptoms for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD):
palpitations, tremors, sweating, diarrhea, confusion, and blushing, it is very clear that
these are too general and can be interpreted by some people as a sign of illness.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, "individuals with the
disorder are acutely aware of the physical signs of their anxiety and fear that others will
notice, judge them, and think poorly of them."(2) Don't most of us worry about what
other people think of us? Don't most of us get nervous when we meet new people or
when we have to perform? Plenty of people suffer from stage freight. It is a matter of
self control and with enough experience; most performers learn to deal with it. The more
I look at it, the more it seems like we want to be perfect at everything and we want a
quick simple fix. Meditation or counseling just takes too long and we want to see results
immediately.

If it was not enough to subject adults to these ridiculous, socially constructed
illnesses, we have decided to put our children through the same traumas. SAD has a
slightly different template to go by when it is applied to children. The Cincinnati
Children's Hospital Medical Center states: "Social anxiety disorder (in children) is
characterized by fear and anxiety in social situations, extreme shyness, timidity, and
concerns about being embarrassed in front of others. Situations that trigger anxiety and
are often difficult for children with social anxiety disorder are speaking in front of the
class, talking with unfamiliar children, performing in front of others, taking tests, and
interacting with strangers." (3) How many children would not be shy to perform in
public and talk to strangers? The criteria used to diagnose this illness are too broad and
would apply to the majority of children. The symptoms for children are: avoiding eye
contact, speaking softly, trembling, fidgetiness, and nervousness. I would say that not a
lot of kids tremble. However all the other symptoms are exhibited by both shy and
hyperactive children depending on their activity.

Although I agree that there are some individuals who would benefit from the use
of medication, I believe that the majority of people need to understand that we are not
perfect and we can't expect ourselves to be perfect at all times. And if we notice our
imperfections, our first choice in treatment should not be a pill. It is true that we are all
very busy and meditation for example would require too much time. However what is
the point of taking medication which will have side effects which are just as bad as your
"illness" and can potentially be addictive (like Paxil which is used to treat SAD). (4)

Not all illnesses/diseases have strong medical support. Homosexuality was
considered a disease until the last 1970's. It is important to understand that although the
brain is complicated, there is no reason for doctors or pharmaceutical companies to create
more diseases/illnesses based on social construct rather than scientific facts.

References

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