What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is going to come. The first day of school, or being nervous before a stage performance, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and anxious. However, we must understand that Fear and Anxiety are different. It's normal to have fears that help you excel, but it turns anxiousness when fears are exaggerated. It's ok to have a fear of death, but it becomes anxiety when that thought makes you dysfunctional. These feelings of anxiety and panic may interfere in daily activities; they are difficult to control, and can be out of proportion to the actual danger and can be lasting long. You may want to avoid places or situations to prevent feelings of the kind. Symptoms may start during early childhood or the teenage years and continue into adulthood.
Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, performance anxiety (social phobia), phobias, and separation anxiety. You can be likely to have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes stress may result from a medical condition that may require treatment.
The severity of an anxious feeling can sometimes be out of proportion to the actual trigger or the stressor. Physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure, sweat, and nausea, may also develop. These responses often move beyond anxiety into an anxiety disorder.
The APA describes a person having anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or fear.” Once anxiety reaches the stage of anxiety disorder, it can interfere with daily function and makes one dysfunctional.
While there are a number of different diagnoses that constitute anxiety disorders, the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often include the following :
- Restlessness, impatience, and a feeling of being “on-edge”
- Uncontrollable feelings of excessive worry
- Increased feeling of irritability
- Loss of attention span
- Concentration difficulties
- Sleep difficulties, falling or staying asleep
While these symptoms could be expected to experience in daily life, people with GAD experience persistent or extreme levels. GAD may present as vague, strange, unsettling worry or severe anxiety that disrupts day-to-day life.
Types of anxiety disorder:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) When a person feels anxious on most days, worrying about many different things, for a period of six months or more.
- Social anxiety
- Specific phobias
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Treatments usually consist of combining therapies like psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication (not necessarily medication).
Depression, Alcohol dependence, or other conditions can have a strong effect on mental well-being that treating an anxiety disorder must wait until any underlying conditions are brought into control.
There are several exercises to help a person cope with milder, more focused, or shorter-term anxiety disorders:
- Stress management: Learning to manage stress helps limit potential triggers. Organize any upcoming pressures and deadlines, compile lists to make daunting tasks more manageable, and commit to taking time off from study or work.
- Relaxation techniques: Simple activities can help soothe the mental and physical signs of anxiety. These techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, resting in the dark, and yoga.
- Exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Make a list of the negative thoughts that might be cycling as a result of anxiety, and write down another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts to replace them. Creating a mental image of successfully facing and conquering a specific fear can also benefit if anxiety symptoms relate to a particular cause, such as in a phobia.
- Support network: Talk with supportive, familiar people, such as a family member or friend. Support group services may also be available in the local area and online.
- Exercise: Physical exertion can improve self-image and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive feelings.