What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, unease, or worry that typically occurs in the absence of an imminent threat. It differs from fear, which is the body’s natural response to immediate danger. Anxiety is part of the body’s natural reaction to stress, so it can be helpful at times, making you more alert and ready for action. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 28 percent of the world’s population suffers from anxiety disorders.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Researchers think that the following may influence whether you develop an anxiety disorder:
Genetics Anxiety disorders are known to run in families.
Traumatic Events experiencing a stressful or traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or childhood abuse, may trigger the condition.
Brain Structure Changes in the areas that regulate stress and anxiety may contribute to the disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Your heart beats fast
Your breathing speeds up.
Your chest may feel tight, and you might start to sweat. If you’ve ever felt it, you know that anxiety is just as much a physical state as a mental state.
Other physical symptoms include sweating, headaches, and insomnia.
Psychological symptoms may include feeling restless or irritable, feeling tense, having a feeling of dread, or experiencing ruminative or obsessive thoughts.
Effects of Anxiety
Physiological Effects of Anxiety
Palpations of the heart
Increase Muscular Tension
Anxiety disorder can cause other symptoms, including:
Central nervous system
Long-term anxiety and panic attacks can cause your brain to release stress hormones on a regular basis. This can increase the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression.
When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. Adrenaline and cortisol are two examples.
While helpful for the occasional high-stress event, long-term exposure to stress hormones can be more harmful to your physical health in the long run. For example, long-term exposure to cortisol can contribute to weight gain.
Anxiety disorders can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations, and chest pain. You may also be at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have heart disease, anxiety disorders may raise the risk of coronary events.
Excretory and digestive systems
Anxiety also affects your excretory and digestive systems. You may have stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can also occur.
Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system.
In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. This prepares you to respond appropriately to an intense situation. Your immune system may even get a brief boost. With occasional stress, your body returns to normal functioning when the stress passes.
But if you repeatedly feel anxious and stressed or it lasts a long time, your body never gets the signal to return to normal functioning. This can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. Also, your regular vaccines may not work as well if you have anxiety.
Anxiety causes rapid, shallow breathing. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be at an increased risk of hospitalization from anxiety-related complications. Anxiety can also make asthma symptoms worse.
Treatment for Anxiety
In some cases, a person can manage anxiety at home without clinical supervision. However, this may be limited to shorter and less severe periods of anxiety. Doctors recommend several exercises and techniques to cope with brief or focused bouts of anxiety, including:
- Stress management:Limit potential triggers by managing stress Keep an eye on pressures and deadlines, organize daunting tasks in to-do lists, and take enough time off from professional or educational obligations.
- Relaxation techniques:Certain measures can help reduce signs of anxiety, including deep-breathing exercises, long baths, meditation, yoga, and resting in the dark.
- Exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive ones:Write down a list of any negative thoughts, and make another list of positive thoughts to replace them. Picturing yourself successfully facing and conquering a specific fear can also provide benefits if the anxiety symptoms link to a specific stressor.
- Support network:Talk to a person who is supportive, such as a family member or friend. Avoid storing up and suppressing anxious feelings as this can worsen anxiety disorders.
Exercise: Physical exertion and an active lifestyle can improve self-image and trigger the release
Counselling and therapy
Standard treatment for anxiety involves psychological counselling and therapy. This might include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or a combination of therapy and counselling.
CBT aims to recognize and alter the harmful thought patterns that can trigger an anxiety disorder and troublesome feelings, limit distorted thinking, and change the scale and intensity of reactions to stressors. This helps people manage the way their body and mind react to certain triggers.
Psychotherapy is another treatment that involves talking with a trained mental health professional and working to the root of an anxiety disorder.
Several types of medication can support the treatment of an anxiety disorder.
Other medicines might help control some of the physical and mental symptoms. These include:
Tricyclics: This is a class of drugs that have demonstrated helpful effects on most anxiety disorders other than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These drugs are known to cause side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and weight gain. Two examples of tricyclics are imipramine and clomipramine.
Benzodiazepines: These are only available on prescription, but they can be highly addictive and would rarely be a first-line medication. These drugs tend not to cause many side effects, except for drowsiness and possible dependency. Diazepam, or Valium, is an example of a common benzodiazepine for people with anxiety.
Anti-depressants: While people most commonly use anti-depressants to manage depression, they also feature in the treatment of many anxiety disorders. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are one option, and they have fewer side effects than older anti-depressants. They are still likely to cause nausea and sexual dysfunction at the outset of treatment. Some types include fluoxetine and citalopram.
Other medications that can reduce anxiety include:
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Stopping some medications, especially anti-depressants, can cause withdrawal symptoms, including brain zaps. These are painful jolts in the head that feel like shocks of electricity.
An individual planning to adjust their approach to treating anxiety disorders after a long period of taking anti-depressants should consult their doctor about how best to move away from medications.
Although anxious feelings will always be present in daily life, there are ways to reduce the risk of a full-blown anxiety disorder.
Taking the following steps will help keep anxious emotions in check and prevent the development of a disorder, including:
- Consume less caffeine, tea, soda, and chocolate.
- Check with a doctor or pharmacist before using over-the-counter (OTC) or herbal remedies for chemicals that might make anxiety worse.
- Keep up a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Regular sleep patterns can be helpful.
- Avoid alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.