Anxiety – What is Anxiety?
Worry vs Anxiety
Fear and worry are normal and needed emotions; in fact, it is these emotions that very often save us. They are our body’s alert system to danger. They are the emotions that make us act when most needed. It is what motivates us to study for that test or try a little harder. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. The first day of school, moving towns, writing an exam, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause people to feel fearful and nervous: and that’s okay. But if your feelings of anxiety, fear and worry are extreme and debilitating, last for longer than six months and/or interfere with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Who gets Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional or mental disorder. It can affect anyone at any age. Anxiety doesn’t play favourites.
While anyone can get anxiety, the causes of anxiety disorders are varied and there are certain risk factors. It’s likely a combination of factors that play a role. These include genetic and environmental factors, as well as, according to new research, brain chemistry. Life experiences such as traumatic events may trigger anxiety disorders while inherited traits also contribute. Sometimes anxiety is the first indicator that there is an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, thyroid or diabetes- to name a few. The symptoms of anxiety can also be a side effect to certain medications. Other risk factors may include certain personality types, childhood trauma, depression, drugs and alcohol, genetic predispositions, illness and stress.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘3.6 percent — or about 264 million individuals worldwide — have an anxiety disorder. Additionally, 4.6 percent of females and 2.6 percent of males globally are affected by anxiety.’ It is said that people with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders. It has also been reported that although anxiety is a highly treatable disease, only around 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. This is mainly due to the stigma that surrounds anxiety and other mental health disorders. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
What are the symptoms?
While anxiety presents differently from person to person, symptoms may include some of the following: often feeling nervous, restless or tense; the feeling that danger or panic is looming; an increased heart rate; sweating; fatigue and weakness; struggling to concentrate or think about anything other than the worry; sleep regressions; persistent headaches or gastrointestinal problems; avoiding people and places that trigger worry and anxiety; racing thoughts that contribute to the panic; worrying about an outcome before the situation or event even arises; problems with decision-making; a racing heartbeat; irrational fears and fearing made-up scenarios.
A few people that experience anxiety described it as follows…
“For me, it’s a vicious cycle where during the day, I’m completely exhausted and can’t seem to get anything done, and then I lie awake all night worrying about all the things I didn’t do…”
“For me, my mind is split into two halves. The anxiety half worries constantly about every aspect of my life (from health, image, to relationships) where the other half is too exhausted and worn down to do much about it.”
“Constantly being held back from things you really do want to do. Anxiety says ‘what if you don’t go and people get upset, or if you do go what if something sends you into panic mode?’”
“Anxiety — it’s like being on a rocking chair that’s tipping back, that feeling of dread that it’s going to fall back, but it doesn’t. It’s worrying and overthinking simple things. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere, even when my whole day has been positive and I have nothing to worry about, I start to worry about nothing.”
The different shades of anxiety
The most common forms of anxiety include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
Panic Disorder. This is where a person experiences recurring panic attacks at unexpected times. A person with panic disorder may live in fear of the next panic attack. These may also present physical symptoms, such as, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
Specific Phobias. This is when a person has an excessive fear of a specific object, animal, place, situation, or activity.
Social Anxiety Disorder. This is when a person has an extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations and tends to want to avoid them because of this. They may also go into panic mode just at the thought of a social gathering. It is excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This is when one experiences recurring irrational thoughts that leads one to perform specific, repeated behaviours to avoid or stop the perceived danger or threat. Repetitive behaviours such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.
Separation Anxiety Disorder. This refers to the fear of being away from home or loved ones or the excessive fear of losing someone close to you.
Illness Anxiety Disorder. This is the excessive worry about your your health. You may constantly be googling symptoms or visiting the doctor in fear of something being wrong.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This usually follows a traumatic events, such as, violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
I have anxiety, what now?
Because anxiety may be caused by varying factors; it is important to do a full assessment to rule out any underlying causes or contributing factors. A single test can’t diagnose anxiety. An anxiety diagnosis requires a lengthy process of physical examinations, mental health evaluations, and psychological questionnaires. Some doctors may conduct a physical exam, including blood or urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to symptoms you’re experiencing. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety#test
What you CAN do is get help early and SPEAK UP. You are not alone.
Therapy can help individuals gain perspective through discussion and learning coping mechanisms.
Stay active. Participate in activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself.
Enjoy social interaction and your close relationships, which can lessen your worries.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and/or drug use. These can cause or worsen anxiety.
Eat a balanced and healthy diet; this is what you are feeding your brain.
Make sure you are getting enough GOOD QUALITY sleep.
Meditating and mindfulness exercises can help.
If you are diagnosed with anxiety, the right treatment options will need to be explored. These include lifestyle changes, psychotherapy and sometimes medication. Medication is usually only needed in more severe cases to help balance brain chemistry and prevent episodes.
You can learn to live a happy and fulfilled life!