What is Anxiety?
Butterflies in your stomach? Constant worry? Sleeplessness? Are you anxious? Maybe you’re feeling worried about work, your health, or what people think about you? Anxiety, worry and nervousness are a normal part of healthy living and for most of us these feelings will come and go and last for short periods of time. Some moments of anxiety may even be helpful, for example helping us to cram for an exam or in carefully weighing up the pros and cons of an important decision.
But sometimes anxiety can become more serious, interfering with our ability to get on with our daily life demands, interfering with sleep and concentration, our social life, our relationships and our ability to enjoy life. Anxiety can last for many weeks, even months or years and significantly impact our life as well as be physically overwhelming. Anxiety, like, depression, has a number of forms and causes and like depression, anxiety and stress has been linked to a number of physical health concerns including gastro-intestinal problems, weight gain/loss, and headaches just to name a few.
Worry, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, all sit under the umbrella of Anxiety. The symptoms may vary slightly between each but there are a number of core symptoms.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
While anxiety symptoms vary from person to person, in general the body reacts in a very specific way to anxiety. When you feel anxious, your body releases adrenaline activating your fight or flight responses. As a result, some common symptoms of anxiety include:
• difficulty focusing or thinking clearly about anything other than the thing you’re worried about
• nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
• feelings of danger, panic, or dread
• rapid heart rate
• rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
• increased or heavy sweating
• trembling or muscle twitching
• weakness and lethargy
• digestive or gastrointestinal problems
• a strong desire to avoid places or situations that trigger your anxiety
• obsessions or fixations with certain thoughts, a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder
• performing certain behaviors over and over again
• anxiety following a particular life event or experience that has occurred, especially if it was life threatening or could have been, post-traumatic stress disorder
If your symptoms are due to anxiety the good news is that there are a number of effective treatment options. Discussing these with your doctor and deciding on the best of course of action for you is a great starting place. Psychological treatments for anxiety have been widely studied and shown to be very effective. Treatment usually involves behavioural and cognitive strategies, such as those found in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and involve learning techniques and skills to manage your physical and psychological symptoms. Exposure and response prevention as well as behavioural activation are also essential components for treatment as they allow you to slowly habituate to your fears so that you no longer experience the same intense reactions.
There’s no reason for you to struggle with anxiety on your own. We can provide you with education, skills, techniques and support to help you overcome your anxiety.