What is anxiety?

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like high blood pressure. It is defined as apprehension of an anticipated problem. This article contains an overview of what anxiety is, anxiety disorders, and causes, symptoms and treatment of anxiety.

It is important to know the differences between normal feelings of anxiety, and anxiety disorders requiring medical attention. There are 5 major anxiety disorders – specific phobias, agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Others also include OCD, PTSD and separation anxiety.

Specific phobia- a disproportionate fear caused by a particular object or situations.
Social anxiety- intense fear of social situations that might involve being scrutinized by or even exposed to unfamiliar people.
A panic attack- a sudden attack of intense apprehension, terror, and feelings of impending doom.
Agoraphobia- anxiety about situations in which it would be embarrassing or difficult to escape when anxiety symptoms occurred.
Generalized anxiety disorders- excessive anxiety and worry at least half of the time about certain situations and events. A person finds It hard to control the worry.

Anxiety disorders have a complicated network of causes –
Environmental factors, such as stress from work, school, personal relationships, finances or traumatic experiences.
Medical factors, such as side effects of a medicine, symptoms of a condition etc.
Neurochemical imbalance in brain.

Anxiety is usually triggered by stress of day-to-day living and any combination of the above.

There are several different anxiety disorders, each with different symptoms. But some common symptoms are –
Increased or irregular heartbeat
Back pain
Restlessness and fatigue
Muscle tension
Being easily startled
Recurring and ongoing feelings of worry, with or without known stressors
Avoidance of certain situations that may cause worry, often affecting quality of life

Treating anxiety depends on the causes of anxiety and individual preferences. Often, treatments consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy and medication.

Self-treatment – often anxiety can be treated at home without doctor supervision. This is usually limited to shorter periods of anxiety and obvious cases. A person can try stress management, relaxation techniques, support networks and exercises.
Counselling – a standard way to treating anxiety is counselling. It can include cognitive behavioral therapy, or psychotherapy. Sessions can be used to explore the causes of anxiety and possible ways to cope with symptoms.
Medication – anxiety can be treated using several types of drugs depending on the physical and mental symptoms.

Prevention – although anxiety disorders can’t be prevented, and anxious feelings are a part of daily life, the risk of getting a disorder can be reduced by reducing caffeine consumption, eating a healthy diet, exercising and maintaining a regular sleep pattern.

It is important to see that passing feelings of anxiety are just of worry and that they are temporary, to avoid the risk of getting an anxiety disorder. However, these symptoms should also not be ignored to receive timely treatment. There is a high risk of a person with anxiety to exhibit symptoms of clinical depression. Anxiety is a common feeling but might need addressing if it starts to affect someone’s daily activities.


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