Yesterday, I presented my post about my experiences with trichotillomania, for the next part of my experiences with Mental Health series I’m going to be discussing how I’ve coped with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The two are very closely linked but not the same and probably led to my, if not cause, my trichotillomania.
Warning: the following contains mentions of rape, molestation, panic attacks and domestic abuse.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a form of an anxiety disorder which is categorised by excessive, uncontrollable (and sometimes irrational) worry. For this to be diagnosed as a disorder, the person in question must be diagnosed with this mindset for a period of at least six months. This excessive worry often interferes with a sufferers daily life as the sufferer is prone to be overly concerned about everyday matters such as: health issues, family matters, death, friendship matters, relationship problems, work problems etc. It’s not only a psychological issue, it also can display a lot of physical symptoms. The cause for most of these is the reaction to your body producing far too much adrenaline and under panic situations (which happen for too often) the blood rushing to the necessary places (heart, head etc). This is the case when the GAD is down to a chemical imbalance, such as in my own case. Physical symptoms can include: fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, bouts of difficultly breathing, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, insomnia, hot flashes, rashes and restlessness.
In my personal case, I have a tendency to feel the majority of the above in terms of physical symptoms. When I’m having a panic attack I feel numbness in my hands, nausea, difficulty swallowing and I start hyperventilating. I’ve had panic attacks over the most unimportant things, such as a missing book. There tends to be a trend in my panic attacks however, for example I have phobias of hospitals, crowds and public speaking. So the three tend to lead me into a frenzy.
It’s a common misconception that GAD doesn’t come with any physical symptoms and that “everyone gets a little worried sometimes”. Sufferers of anxiety are often obsessive in certain traits in order to get control over their life, the idea of losing control can cause further panic. The fact that they are over-dramatising and in fact, everyone gets a little worried is another thing that can cause extreme anxiety. It can be worry that causes people not to leave the house, interact with people. I’ve been known to risk my health extremely due to my fear of hospitals, for example. A fear which is related to my anxiety and is proven since, although hospitals still make me nervous, it’s controllable with my meds and counselling.
GAD is treated through therapy, medications and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The idea is, the only real cure is you have to “unlearn” traits that you have picked up through your body processing too much adrenaline and use medication to control the imbalance. In my case I am being medicated with “Sertraline” (trade names, Zoloft and Lustral) and will, at some point in the future start CBT. As to whether I ever fully get over my GAD remains to be seen.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD goes hand in hand with GAD, they are more or less, two sides of the same coin. The difference is PTSD is about individual events that have traumatised the sufferer, which is why it’s really common in soldiers. There are many things, other than war zones that can cause PTSD and sometimes it’s not just one thing, it can be many events which have caused a person to snap. One of the main symptoms of PTSD is that flashbacks can cause flashbacks to other bad memories, that’s what makes flashbacks so awful. You feel like you are surrounded by these bad memories – it’s as if you are being forced to relive the memory and when you try to escape it… You’re met head on by another terrible thought.
Many things can cause PTSD, in my circumstances it was a combination of things: childhood molestation, domestic abuse and rape as a university student. All three events would have caused trauma by themselves but as a combination they have effectively, ruined my life. I find myself plagued by nightmares of the events, thinking about them leads me into fits of crying, shivering and like I’m about to have a panic attack. I can’t enter certain places or take part in certain activities without being haunted by these memories. I can’t listen to “Boy’s Don’t Cry” by the Cure due to the fact it was the song I sung at karaoke the night of the rape, some acts of intimacy with my girlfriend are out of the question because it just brings harrowing thoughts to what happened. I can’t physically take not being in control, I can’t trust as easily as I would like to. One day, I hope my PTSD will subside and the symptoms will become easier to cope with… It’s unlikely the causes of it will ever go away however.
These traumatic events don’t just leave me with flashbacks and panic attacks, I feel as if my body isn’t my own any more. (Or maybe my skin is not my own, perhaps? Okay, bad joke.) I feel as if someone has violated and taken away my freedom in the worst possible away, the emasculated me. They have, in a sense, metaphorically castrated me. There isn’t much help for male rape and domestic abuse victims you know, particularly not a transmale.