Anxiety

What is Anxiety

Anxiety is perfectly normal feeling and in some situations it can actually be helpful, for example it can trigger the "fight or flight" reaction. Most people feel anxious when faced with a situation that is difficult or threatening such as before an exam. If the anxiety is related to a specific threat such as standing on the edge of a cliff then this is generally classified as fear. However, if you continue to feel anxious even after the threat has gone away or for no apparent reason then this can affect your life significantly. This section is focusing on Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is the term used to describe people suffering from intense feelings of anxiety in unpredictable situations over a prolonged period of time. Anxiety can also be a symptom of other conditions such as Panic disorder, Phobias or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and these are addressed elsewhere.

Video on Anxiety

Symptoms Anxiety

The symptoms of Anxiety vary according to the different types and individuals concerned and can often develop over a long period of time. Anxiety may present itself with one or more symptom and these can include both physical and/or psychological symptoms, the severity of which will be different for different people. Below is a list of some of the symptoms that people suffering from anxiety may have:

Psychological Symptoms of anxiety-

  • Worrying all the time
  • Feeling unusually lethargic or tired
  • Poor concentration
  • Being unusually irritable
  • Poor sleep e.g. taking longer to go to sleep and waking up early
  • Feeling low or unhappy a lot of the time

Physical Symptoms of anxiety-

  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
  • Sweating more than normal
  • Dry Mouth
  • Unexplained muscle aches and tension
  • Frequent headaches
  • Numbness in the extremities (fingers & toes)
  • Hyperventilating (fast breathing)
  • Dizzie spells
  • Frequent upset stomach or Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Frequently feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more than usual

Causes of Anxiety

There are many causes of anxiety and some people may be affected by more than one of these but equally anxiety can occur for no significant reason. The causes of anxiety can be very different according to how people react to different situations or events in their lives. Causes of anxiety can include stressful or traumatic events such as a car accident.

There are also other factors that may make someone more likely to develop anxiety, including:

  • A history of anxiety in your family
  • Previous history of mental health problems such as depression (approximately 50% of people with depression report suffering from panic attacks as well)
  • Physical problems such as thyroid disease can contribute to anxiety
  • Drug abuse

Diagnosis of Anxiety

The diagnosis of anxiety can be difficult due to the complex nature of the symptoms and the fact that anxiety can be a progressive illness. Anxiety can also present itself with symptoms similar to other conditions such as depression. Diagnosis of anxiety is most often conducted by a serious of questions about your personal life including issues such as your environment, family history and life experience. A medical professional may also wish to conduct a physical examination to ensure that there are no underlying physical conditions that may be contributing to the problem.

As mentioned above, anxiety is a common feeling in most people at some time. However, if your symptoms have persisted for more than six months then you may be given a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

How to treat Anxiety

Recommended treatments for anxiety are Psychological Therapy and Medication. Psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) are generally recognised as offering the longest relief of symptoms. Medication such as tranquillisers (drugs such as valium) or antidepressants may also be helpful but it is always best to discuss the options and your personal preferences with a registered health professional such as a Psychologist or GP.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend 6-8 sessions of CBT over 9-12 weeks for mild anxiety and 12-15 sessions weekly for moderate to severe anxiety.

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