Each person will experience anxiety in very different ways, it’s a person’s unique response to stress which typically brings feelings of fear, nerves, or apprehension. Mind (2022) describe anxiety as what we feel when we’re worried, afraid, or tense, especially about things that are about to happen or that we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural response to feeling threatened which is experienced through our thoughts and feelings, in addition to our physical sensations.
Whilst it’s more common for people to experience anxiety periodically in response to a stressful event or changes in their life, some people may live with a level of anxiety at all times which can have a huge impact of their life. If this is the case for you and your anxiety has reached a point where you can’t live your life as fully as you want to, your anxiety may have turned into a serious mental health problem. It’s possible to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder but it’s also possible to experience high levels of anxiety without receiving a specific diagnosis. If you’re experiencing any of the below, we highly recommend seeking out professional support as soon as possible:
- You intentionally avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
- You have strong feelings of anxiety for a very long time
- Your anxiety is making it difficult for you to live your everyday life
- Your worries or fears are out of proportion to the situation
- You feel very distressed or out of control with your anxiety
- You frequently experience symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks
It’s fairly common for people to feel anxious at certain times of their life such as taking a test, starting a new job, or moving house for example. Whilst this type of anxiety isn’t particularly pleasant, it can sometimes help to motivate us along the way. This type of anxiety is fairly normal and experienced by most people throughout their lives, however, when this feeling of anxiety is felt at all times, it becomes much more and has the potential to be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is an integral part of several different disorders including phobia, this is where you feel excessive fear or a certain situation, activity, or specific object. Anxiety is also a big part of panic disorder which is when someone experiences recurring panic attacks; this is a common symptom of anxiety. Some people may feel an extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations in which case they’ll likely be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. When someone has an intense fear of being away from home or away from their loved ones, they may be suffering from separation anxiety disorder.
Another disorder which heavily features anxiety is obsessive compulsive disorder (also known as OCD) where recurring irrational thoughts lead you to repeatedly perform specific behaviours. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can also result in anxiety following a traumatic event in someone’s life. Anxiety is also an integral part of illness anxiety disorder where someone is very anxious about their own health; this was formerly known as hypochondria.
Common symptoms of anxiety
Everyone will experience varying physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, however, there are some symptoms which are common amongst most people who are suffering from anxiety. These symptoms include feeling restless, irritable, having difficulty concentrating, feeling a sense of dread, shaking, excessive sweating, feeling sick, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle aches, insomnia, headaches, tiredness, and palpitations.
When experiencing an anxiety attack, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed with fear, distress, or worry, which usually builds up gradually. Many people confuse anxiety attacks with panic attacks, whilst they share similar symptoms, they’re not the same. Panic attacks usually happen very suddenly and often involve a sense detachment from the world which isn’t a common feeling within an anxiety attack.
Treating symptoms of anxiety
There are many different ways to treat anxiety, from herbal home remedies or prescribed medication to psychological and physical therapies. Some popular therapies include CBT, also known as cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, and relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or autogenic training. Popular prescribed medications for anxiety are anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and beta-blockers which help to control a rapid heart rate.
If you’re feeling nervous about seeking professional support for your anxiety, you may want to begin with some home remedies to see if these will help to alleviate your symptoms. It may help you to practice mindfulness by actively observing your thoughts and sensations without reacting to them which helps you to ground your thoughts in the present. Taking slow deep breaths can also help you to focus and calm down when you’re feeling anxious, concentrate on your stomach filling with air as you inhale, counting down from four as you breath out.
Another helpful tool to relieve some anxiety is to accept what you’re experiencing and recognise that if you’ve already experienced an anxiety or panic attack, you know that the symptoms will eventually pass. Learning relaxation techniques can also be very useful in helping to relieve your symptoms of anxiety, some techniques are aromatherapy, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery.
Making some changes to your lifestyle can also have a great impact of helping you to prevent anxiety attacks and to manage the symptoms of your anxiety. Some useful changes are to improve your diet, exercise regularly, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, get plenty of sleep, quit smoking, meditation, identify your negative thoughts and learn how to stop these whilst managing any sources of stress in your life, and join a support group for people who suffer from anxiety attacks. There are also certain foods you can eat which are known to have a beneficial impact if you’re frequently experiencing anxiety, these include dark chocolate, green tea, salmon, chamomile, turmeric, and yogurt.
Living with anxiety can be extremely challenging, it’s important to know that there is help available and that anxiety disorders can be diagnosed, and thus treated.