What is anxiety?
Anxiety is something everyone experiences from time to time. It is a normal reaction to stress or a threat and can even be helpful in certain circumstances. Anxiety usually manifests in the form of fearful thoughts.
Various people experience different levels of anxiety. Normal anxiety goes away in no time however serious anxiety stays longer than usual. Many factors are involved in activating anxiety such as medical issues, environment, social issues, speaking or performing in front of people, and having to work within a set time limit with pressure.
Almost all people have dealt with anxiety at some point in their life. Several factors contribute to anxiety, it is also common in people with psychological problems. Three forms of anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder ( panic attacks).
Often people with anxiety will worry about situations and expect the worst to happen, they are pessimistic about everything and will find it difficult to control their instincts. They fear the future and often avoid situations that might trigger their anxiety by preparing beforehand, at times overdoing this.
Anxiety results in constant episodes of panic attacks that would cause them to be scared and uncomfortable. Symptoms can also be physical. Some people also experience physical symptoms like irregular heartbeat, bloating, sweating, and choking. It also causes sleep deprivation and causes a person to feel drowsy or wobbly.
People are mostly unaware of the side effects of having constant anxiety as they have been living with it for a lifetime, without even realising that it is an issue that needs to be treated. It can result in certain chronic issues such as low immunity, heart issues, sickness, headaches, and stomach problems.
Causes of Anxiety
Everybody experiences it differently. The severity of anxiety depends on a person’s genetic predisposition as well as life experiences they have passed through.
Anxiety is often a response to a warning that our body gives us. Acute stress response helps our body to take the required action. Heart thumping, heavy breathing, and tightness in muscles are the signs that we either need to confront the issue or stay away from it – fight or flight. A person experiencing these symptoms might be confused, because they might even occur when the person is not in a difficult situation.
Making sense of anxiety
Worrying in taxing times is nothing to be overly concerned about as we all do it. However, constantly worrying about situations signifies an anxiety disorder that needs to be taken care of. To deal with anxiety, it is important to comprehend the ways anxiety disorders can manifest themselves and the symptoms that may arise.
What do people experience if they have an Anxiety disorder?
A person with an anxiety disorder has negative emotions, related to this problem, lasting 6 months or more; making it difficult for a person to lead a normal life. It affects moods and health. Such people are unable to have an active personal life, social life, and professional life.
Psychological symptoms of Anxiety disorder
Excessively dreading about things that will occur in the future, whether they will turn out right or not. Also, experiencing negative thoughts about the past, and thoughts that run constantly at the back of their minds in general.
Physical symptoms of Anxiety disorder
Sometimes a body gives a false alarm that might trigger a physical response however these symptoms might not necessarily be related to something actual happening. The signs that might trigger a fight or flight response include shaking, heavily breathing, stiff muscles, sweating, headaches, teeth grinding, sickness, upset stomach, and sleep deprivation.
How anxiety disorders can affect people’s lives
People with anxiety orders have mood swings and certain changes in behaviour which eventually affect their daily lives. Such people keep themselves away from situations that might trigger their anxiety, leading to a poor social and work life that might result in isolation.
What are the different types of Anxiety disorders?
Different types of anxiety disorders include:
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
It is a long-term condition that causes anxiety in varied situations rather than any particular situation. People with GAD feel anxious almost every day, about almost everything, from personal life to professional life. It has both psychological and physical effects such as dizziness, sleep deprivation, restlessness, stress, and heart palpitations.
This is an immoderate fear of a particular object, activity, or situation. People tend to avoid confronting the source of their phobia so it may not affect their everyday life. While doing so, they fail to identify that it is a disorder that needs to be addressed or else, this might result in long-term complications, affecting their personal life. Examples include having an irrationally high fear of snakes, heights, storms etc.
Recurring panic attacks at unexpected times are a sign of panic disorder. Usually the thoughts of being trapped and dying are signature symptoms. Some other common symptoms of a panic attack are drowsiness, chest pain, sweating, sickness, thumping of the heart, shortness of breath, trembling, hot flushes, and chills.
While a person is experiencing these symptoms, they might in turn become more anxious, as a result of which they avoid situations where they can be helpless. For example, isolation, or too crowded, and even using public transport.
Social anxiety disorder
This results in extreme fear of being judged by other people in social situations. People who have this order find it difficult to communicate, meet new people, and keep themselves away from being a part of social gatherings.
They fear other people scanning their appearance and criticising them. Such people show symptoms like sweating, blushing, pounding heartbeat, and trembling.
It typically occurs while speaking in front of a crowd publically or at social events but it might expand and affect all other types of social exchanges in time.
Anxiety disorders are closely related to three other types of disorders
People with the following symptoms also experience anxiety as it is related to these disorders.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
It is a psychological illness that makes a person obsessed with certain thoughts that are negative and stressful. People with OCD have this urge to do something repeatedly, for example they might be excessively fond of cleanliness. They are trapped in unwanted sexual thoughts and fear of brutality.
They can also be seen worrying about leaving a certain appliance on, or leaving a door open. They also keep themselves at bay from situations or circumstances that would aid in activating OCD.
It is a disorder when a person collects and stores unwanted items in huge amounts. The way they store the items is messy and often results in heaps of clutter. They feel stressed and anxious whenever they are required to get rid of any of those items.
Trauma and stress-related disorders
These disorders are related to several behavioural and emotional issues of a past event where a person experienced terror and anguish. It is not important that the person witnessed the event directly, sometimes indirect exposure can also cause these disorders.
The symptoms might not show up right when the person went through the situation, they can also gradually start feeling it while having flashbacks, nightmares, and reflection. It is natural for a person to avoid situations that might remind them of the distressful event, such as a person who endured a serious car accident might never be able to drive or sit in a car.
Such people are usually scared whenever they encounter such situations and have a quick response, while others might become unresponsive emotionally. This happens due to a high level of anxiety.
Fortunately, anxiety can be managed through various strategies such as expanding knowledge about the topic and comprehending it by taking on different challenges and having a positive perspective about everything. Try to live in the present and do not think about the future or the past. Anxiety can make you live in a terrible future that has not yet been experienced.
Taking baby steps and facing the situations little by little that trigger anxiety also helps in overcoming it. Moreover, it can also be managed through exercise, meditation, and changing lifestyles. People can lead a healthy lifestyle by keeping themselves active, taking healthier diets, spending quality time with friends and family, and taking healthy drinks. Excluding caffeine and nicotine also aids in reducing anxiety.
Treatment and support for anxiety
People with low-grade anxiety might not need medical support as it stays for a short while. However, some people find it really difficult to manage it on their own when it is a serious case of anxiety and happens frequently.
They might require the help of their therapist or GP to overcome the issue as it might make it difficult for them to lead a normal life. Sometimes, medications may be needed to help in the management of anxiety, but always take them as per the instructions and dosage prescribed by your doctor.
Psychological therapies like exposure therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, psychodynamic therapy, eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EDMR), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have proven to be effective in treating certain anxiety disorders.
All content and media on the HealthEngine Blog is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call the emergency services immediately.