Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of fear and apprehension in response to some perceived threat or danger. It is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. Anxiety becomes abnormal or pathological when it is excessively severe or prolonged, distressful and interferes the social, physical or occupational performance. It becomes a mental health concern when our fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety affects brain and body in different ways and the symptoms for both are also different.
Effects on the body
* A churning feeling in stomach
* Feeling light-headed or dizzy/nausea
* Grinding of the teeth, especially at night
* Feeling restless or unable to sit still
* Headaches, backache or other aches and pains
* Faster breathing, sweating or hot flushes
* A fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
Effects on the mind
* Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
* Having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
* Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
* Like other people can see you are anxious and are looking at you
* Feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
* Worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen
* Wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you
* Worrying that you’re losing touch with reality
Causes of Anxiety
It is very difficult to identify the exact cause of anxiety. These are some of the perceived causes on the basis of researches:
* Past or childhood experiences- physical or emotional abuse, neglect, losing a parent and similar incidents
* Current life situation- long working hours under pressure, tackling money problems, losing someone close and such
* Physical and mental health problems- living with a serious, ongoing or life-threatening physical health condition can sometimes trigger anxiety
* Drugs and medication- some psychiatric medications, medications for physical health problems, recreational drugs or alcohol acts as stressors for anxiety to kick in.
Types of Anxieties
* Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)- anxiety triggered by regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life
* Social anxiety disorder- anxiety triggered by social situations (such as parties, workplaces, or any situation in which you have to talk to another person)
* Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Anxiety problems after going through something you found traumatic.
* Phobias- Phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation
* Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Anxiety problems involve having repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges.
* Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – This means you experience obsessions and compulsions relating to your physical appearances.
Self-help and treatments
It is very difficult to live with anxiety. To reduce the impact, one must also focus on self-care, apart from only medical treatments. Some self-care techniques that can keep a person functioning well in anxiety are:
* Talk to someone you trust
* Try to manage your worries
* Look after your physical health
* Try breathing exercises
* Keep a diary
* Try peer support
* Complementary and alternative therapies
* Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)- this focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behavior, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.
* Applied relaxation therapy – this involves learning how to relax your muscles in situations where you normally experience anxiety.