Let’s learn about anxiety in order to understand it. In this article, you will get to understand what anxiety actually is, what are its signs and symptoms, what causes and anxiety and how we can deal with it.
There is nothing new about it. We all face anxiety from time to time as we face the daily grind of life. Anxiety is actually our body’s natural response to stress. However, when it becomes extreme and lasts long for more than six months, it becomes worrying.
Understanding Anxiety – contents:
Anxiety is normal, it is essential for us to survive. Faced by the danger of attacks by predators, the body of the early human beings had been adapted to raise alarms to take necessary action. Adrenaline rushed through the body to prepare it for the fight-or-flight response. The adrenaline rush can be observed through sweating, raised heartbeat and increased sensitivity.
Nowadays, we don’t face any fear of attacks from wild animals. However, today we experience anxiety involving our work, social life, money, family and health issues. The nervousness we feel before an important meeting or an interview is the manifestation of the same fight-or-flight response.
Psychologists use anxiety as a general term to denote feelings like nervousness, apprehension, fear and worrying. Feeling these are quite normal in a day-to-day life but if they become severe they may hamper our normal life.
Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms which require medical attention.
First of all, we must mention that an anxiety attack is not a clinical term. The term is used to describe feelings like worry, fear, and terror that suddenly grips a person. In this regard, we must mention that an anxiety attack is quite similar to the panic attack in terms of symptoms. However, the context varies and the duration also. Let us elaborate.
Anxiety attacks are related to the apprehension or worrying over a potentially stressful situation. The symptoms related to anxiety attacks are both emotional and physical. The emotional symptoms include worry, fear, and restlessness. The physical symptoms are dry mouth, shortness of breath, sweating, headache, chills or hot flashes.
Anxiety attacks are always related to a trigger that is perceived as stressful. Anxiety attacks vary in intensity– they can be mild, moderate and severe. The anxiety builds on gradually leading to an attack.
How bad is anxiety? Should we worry about it? Yes, we should. Anxiety disorders affect around 40 million adults in the USA alone. It is the most common mental disorder in the USA. Women are more prone to suffer from it. People who are suffering from anxiety disorder are more likely to suffer from depression also.
Generalized anxiety disorder affects 3.1% of the US population or 6.8 million adults.
Anxiety is the body’s reaction to a perceived threat. When we feel anxious, our body activates the fight-or-flight response. The symptoms of anxiety can be divided into three categories namely, physical, psychological, and behavioral.
There are several types of anxiety and it is important that you know them so that you can deal with it effectively.
This is popularly known as GAD and is the most common form of anxiety disorder. People suffering from GAD feel anxious and worried most of the time. It is an ongoing state of tension and nervousness that occurs without any specific cause or for reasons that should not be causing the anxiety.
GAD is associated with symptoms like fatigue, restlessness, lethargy, low energy, trouble in concentrating, negative thinking etc.
Social anxiety is an irrational fear of social situations is known as social anxiety. While some degree of shyness in public places is normal but people who suffer from this type of anxiety experience fear and anxiety when socializing, speaking in public or meeting strangers and authority figures. These people find socializing distressing. They fear being judged, remarked or avoided. This makes the people avoid social gatherings.
A panic disorder is a severe feeling of fear and worry that can cause mental and physical symptoms. These symptoms can get severe leading to hospitalization. The general symptoms of panic attacks are excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness or light-headedness, chest pain and digestive problems. Along with these symptoms people also feel severe anxiety, helplessness and a feeling of doom.
Agoraphobia is the fear of going to unfamiliar places. People suffering from this disorder experience fear of open spaces. They avoid traveling to unknown places and often only travel between home and office. It has been observed that people who suffer from agoraphobia also have panic disorders. As they get panic attacks in public spaces, they avoid going out and this leads to a phobia of public spaces.
The common symptoms of agoraphobia are excessive fear of socializing with people, stress or anxiety in an unknown environment, feeling of tension and stress while performing regular activities like going to the grocery store or talking to strangers.
Phobias are intense feelings of fear of specific objects, animals or situations. Some people dread animals like cockroaches or spiders. Some people have fear of thunderstorms or airplanes. The phobias cause instant fear when confronted with the object of the phobia, excessive fear of any object or event, inability to control the fear and also unable to lead a normal life due to the phobia.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, known as OCD in short, this is a destructive anxiety disorder in which the obsessions and compulsions make a person exhibit confusing behaviors. Obsessions and compulsions are similar in nature but manifest differently. Obsessions are preoccupied thoughts which are often negative and fearful which a person cannot shake off. Compulsions, on the other hand, are needs to perform an action which is often illogical but the person cannot stop himself from performing it.
Worrying that your mother may fall sick is an obsession while the need to check the taps before going to bed is a compulsion.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder is caused by physical or emotional trauma that people encounter in life. This anxiety causes both physical and psychological harm. People suffering from it often relive the trauma, as they encounter triggers that cause intense fear. Some people suffer from emotional problems like detachment in personal relationships, disinterest in getting into relationships etc.
Causes of anxiety are complex and seldom only a single reason can be pinpointed. The broad reasons behind anxiety disorder are as follows.
People with certain personality traits are more prone to suffer from anxiety. Children who get easily flustered or who are timid and lack self-esteem are more prone to get anxiety attacks. Moreover, people who are perfectionists also have high chances of suffering from anxiety.
Anxiety is often a result of genetic predisposition. It has been observed that it runs in some families. However, it is not likely that if a parent or a close relative suffer from anxiety the individuals from the next generation would also get it.
Stressful life events may trigger anxiety. The common causes are financial problems, work stress, family-related issues, verbal or sexual abuse, pregnancy and childbirth and death in the family.
Chronic physical illness can cause anxiety. Diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and asthma are some of the diseases that are associated with anxiety.
People who use alcohol or other substances to manage their anxiety end up aggravating the condition. It is important to seek help in such conditions as substance problem and anxiety problem both need treatment.
Anxiety problems can occur on their own or in combination with other conditions as for example depression. In such cases, the situation may get grave and require medical help to treat each problem separately.
Anxiety is the reality of our lives. We all face it and most of the times know how to cope with it. However, if it becomes a disorder and hampers the daily life we have to seek help from outside. There are several things we can do to deal with anxiety. We have listed here a few of them.
You cannot control everything that happens around you and accepting that would help you to relieve anxiety. Contemplate why you are stressed and if there is nothing that you can do to mitigate it, it’s better to not fret and just let things happen.
Maintain a positive attitude- this is the key to manage stress and anxiety. Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones and you would get relief from anxiety.
Don’t aim for perfection always. Do your best and as per the situation and feel proud of your achievements.
Helping others and getting engaged in community activities would restore your self-esteem. This would shift your focus to others problems and help in managing your anxiety levels.
Knowing what triggers anxiety is the first step to manage it. Introspect whether your personal life, finance or work triggers the anxiety and find ways to deal with the problem.
It is important to eat healthy and well-balanced meals to boost up your mood and feel fit and healthy.
Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. Get enough sleep and drink adequate water. Engage in physical exercises to release good hormones in the body.
When you feel anxiety is building up in the body, take deep breaths and count up to 10. Practicing meditation regularly would also help you.
Keep aside some time every day for yourself. Practice yoga or go for walks in the park. Listen to music or talk to friends. Take up a hobby so that you can keep your mind engaged in some interesting activities.
For serious cases of anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful. Talking to people, getting help from counselors and medical practitioners is important to deal with anxiety. The therapy sessions include educating people about anxiety, imparting skills to handle it, identifying the worrying thoughts and challenging them.
Antidepressants are prescribed to manage anxiety and relieve the symptoms. However, it is important to remember to take the drugs as per the prescription and not to discontinue them on their own.
To deal with anxiety you must try to solve the problem that makes you worry and also learn to control the level of anxiety.
The best way to control anxiety is to confront the situation and not avoid it. In most of the times, the situation is better than what we perceive and confronting it helps us to regain confidence and deal with the trigger.
The symptoms of anxiety and stress are often the same and it becomes difficult for us to differentiate between them. However, there are differences between them that we must learn to deal with them.
Stress is mostly short-term and is body’s reaction to a trigger. It can be positive or negative. Anxiety is a sustained mental disorder that is triggered by stress and hangs around for a long time.
Anxiety is triggered by internal worries while stress is a result of external events. Stressful events can lead to anxiety depending on the genetic makeup.
So, get cues from the symptoms we have discussed above and determine whether you are suffering from stress or anxiety. To manage both stress and anxiety you may have to seek medical intervention if they hamper your daily life.
Anxiety is normal, accept it. Everybody gets it and also finds ways to deal with it. Hence, you can also do it. Learn to understand the triggers, take a note of the symptoms you experience and adopt different techniques that we shared to deal with anxiety. If things go out of control, seek medical help as it is possible to treat anxiety.