Patients with Anxiety Disorders
Health care patients can have physical problems or mental and emotional problems. Mental and emotional problems might seem harder to care for because the problem is in the mind of the patient. Some common mental and emotional problems are anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a feeling of extreme worry about something negative that might happen in the future. The patient might not know why she is worried, but the anxiety causes her great distress and frustration. Everyone experiences some anxiety in life, but it is usually temporary. When anxiety remains and makes living a normal life difficult, the result is an anxiety disorder.
One anxiety disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. A person with OCD may feel the intense need to perform rituals throughout the day in order to fight the obsessions she is constantly thinking about. Examples of OCD could be frequent hand-washing, skin-picking, and repetitive actions such as locking doors and turning light switches on and off. The person must complete these actions several times per day, Therefore, these actions interfere with her life.
Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have experienced a traumatic event such as an earthquake, rape, abuse, or war. They often have flashbacks and nightmares related to the event because it affected them so deeply.
Panic disorder is another anxiety disorder. A person with a panic disorder has panic attacks. During a panic attack, the person can have shortness of breath, dizziness, an increased heart rate, and chest or stomach pain.
When caring for a patient with an anxiety disorder, giving her only two or three choices will make it easier for her to make a decision and decrease her anxiety. It is important that all of the staff on her health care team know about the anxiety disorder to try to minimize the patient’s anxiety. The team should continue to follow her care plan so that her anxiety disorder will improve, and she can function more normally.