What is Anxiety?
Anxiety involves an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and/or fear, often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse and more), doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.
When your worries and fears seem overwhelming and interfere with your daily functioning, it is possible that you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. An anxious person usually ruminates about something that has happened in the past or has future worries, and never lives in the present moment. This can interfere with your quality of life, since most anxiety sufferers don’t enjoy what they have due to racing thoughts.
How it can interfere with the quality of your life
Occasional anxiety in difficult situations is considered normal. However, if anxiety is severe, it can affect physical and mental well-being. Acute anxiety with stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, high blood pressure, palpitations etc. In addition, it can affect ou personally, professionally and socially. Chronic or long term anxiety can increase cortisol, a steroid hormone, which can cause dangerous effects like depression, diabetes, obesity or irritable bowel syndrome. It can worsen or cause illnesses like hypertension, psoriasis, asthma and skin allergies. Chronic anxiety also damages the heart and brain. Lastly, constant anxiety can lower a person’s self esteem and confidence.
Symptoms of anxiety
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder:
- Feeling tensed, worried, restless, listless or on edge often
- Pacing up and down very often.
- When the mind is plagued by fears that one knows are irrational, but can’t process them.
- Constantly feeling that something bad is going to happen.
- Avoiding everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety.
- Experiencing sudden breathlessness, increased heart rate and panic. Some people also tend to suffer from a dry mouth or excessive sweating.
- Feeling sad or helpless in situations.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things. It can result in irritability, difficulty concentrating and even make you withdraw from social contact to avoid feelings of worry and dread. You may also find going to work difficult and stressful, and may take sick leave often. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself, which in turn can decrease your self-esteem. GAD can also have physical symptoms like dizziness, tiredness, a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations), muscle ache and tension, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, stomach ache, headache or insomnia.
How can anxiety be treated
Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help to relieve symptoms. Some patients may benefit from medication while they are undergoing psychotherapy. A more effective and longer term solution is psychotherapy.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help people with many problems including anxiety disorders. Fundamentally, it teaches different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful situations. CBT can also help people learn and practice social skills, should social anxiety disorder be more relevant. Other anxiety disorders also respond just as well to CBT such as obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, panic attacks, stress etc.