Anxiety is an uncomfortable state of fear or dread, and is related to worry. Each one of us experiences anxiety at some stage – it is a very normal part of being human. However for some people, anxiety can become problematic, and can significantly interfere with well-being.
How anxiety may affect you:
Physical: dry mouth or difficulty swallowing, trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating, tension & headaches, increased heart rate, perspiration, shallow breathing, shaking, stomach upsets
Thoughts & behaviour: chronic worrying, always feeling like something bad is about to happen, feeling very irritably, snappy or ‘on edge’, needing constant reassurance, being a perfectionist, procrastinating or avoiding things that you are worried about
Panic attacks are common manifestations of anxiety. This is a very uncomfortable set of symptoms that can emerge quite suddenly, and easily last for 15 minutes (although it may feel like forever). Symptoms can include heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, sweating, tingling, choking sensations, blurred vision, trembling, chest pains, nausea, fear of losing control/going crazy/dying, feelings of detachment, dizziness, chills or hot flushes.
Panic attacks can occur in specific situations (like being in confined space where escape seems difficult), when you are approaching a scary situation (like public speaking or a confrontation), or they can be can come out of the blue.
Anxiety disorders: when the severity of anxiety is out of proportion to the threat, and impacts on functioning, including relationships, work/study, or other important areas. The most common mental health disorders, they exist alongside depression, eating disorders or other issues.
Anxiety disorders include:
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: a set of anxiety symptoms that follow a traumatic event (or witnessing a traumatic event) which caused feelings of fear, helplessness or horror. Symptoms can include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, and distressing memories.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Debilitating anxiety is experienced in social situations, particular where you may feel judged and criticised by others. This may result in avoidance of such situations, as the anxiety is so intense.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder: involves excessive worry, anxiety and tension that last for longer than 6 months. There may be a variety of sources of worry, including finances, relationships and your health. The worry seems impossible to control.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: a pattern of unwanted, distressing and intrusive thoughts, impulses or feelings. Repetitive & compulsive behaviours are used to neutralise the thoughts, reduce the anxiety, or prevent a feared event from happening. These commonly involve checking, hand washing, hoarding, counting or praying.
Phobia: intense anxiety related to a specific situation or object, to the extent that contact with the situation/object is avoided, or is endured with great distress. Common phobias include fear of flying or driving, injections/blood, heights, storms or animals.
Treatment for anxiety and anxiety disorders are very effective. These involve a range of cognitive, behavioural and mindfulness strategies to reduce the impact of anxiety, and to help you to cope.