What Is Anxiety And What Are The Symptoms
Lets start with the basics. What does anxiety mean?
Here are some words to describe it: apprehension, fear, dread, trepidation, nervousness, butterflies in your stomach.
There are three anxiety disorders: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
Were going to be dealing with the latter, but just in case you also suffer from panic disorder, be sure to read my article on how to stop panic attacks in their tracks.
Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode. Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
What Makes You Anxious
Because anxiety is a type of fear, the things weve described about fear above are also true for anxiety.
The word anxiety tends to be used to describe worry, or when fear is nagging and persists over time. It is used when the fear is about something in the future rather than what is happening right now.
Anxiety is a word often used by health professionals when theyre describing persistent fear. The ways that you feel when youre frightened and anxious are very similar, as the basic emotion is the same.
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Types Of Anxiety Disorder
There are several different classified anxiety disorders. Each one features different types of symptoms that can, in some cases, be triggered by specific situations.
Panic disorder : This involves at least two panic attacks accompanied by the constant fear of future attacks. People with panic disorder may lose a job, refuse to travel or leave their home, or completely avoid anything they believe will trigger an attack of anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder : This is a constant state of worry about a number of events or activities in the persons life.
Phobic disorder: This features an incapacitating and irrational fear of an object or situation, for example, a fear of spiders or open spaces . Most adults with phobic disorder are aware that their fear is irrational.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder : This condition is marked by unwanted repeated thoughts and behaviors .
The Effects Of Anxiety On The Body
Anxiety is a normal part of life. For example, you may have felt anxiety before addressing a group or in a job interview.
In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain, where you need it. This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation.
If it gets too intense, however, you might start to feel lightheaded and nauseous. An excessive or persistent state of anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.
Anxiety disorders can happen at any stage of life, but they usually begin by middle age. Women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, says the National Institute of Mental Health .
Stressful life experiences may increase your risk for an anxiety disorder, too. Symptoms may begin immediately or years later. Having a serious medical condition or a substance use disorder can also lead to an anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders. They include:
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Where Do I Go From Here
The best first step is always to talk to your doctor. They can help you decide which, if any, of the above treatments would be best for you.
Other helpful resources are:
AnxietyBCVisit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for community resources and lots of helpful information about panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, including strategies to try at home.
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC DivisionVisit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 or 604-688-3234 for information and community resources.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions InformationVisit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about . Youll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems
Resources available in many languages:*For the service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
HealthLink BCCall 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms youre worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may have:
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
- An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
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How Does Psychotherapy Treat Anxiety Disorders
Psychotherapy, or counseling, helps you deal with your emotional response to the illness. A mental health provider talks through strategies to help you better understand and manage the disorder. Approaches include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used with anxiety disorders. CBT for anxiety teaches you to recognize thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. You then work on changing them.
- Exposure therapy focuses on dealing with the fears behind the anxiety disorder. It helps you engage with activities or situations you may have been avoiding. Your provider may also use relaxation exercises and imagery with exposure therapy.
How Do I Get Help
Talking therapies, like counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, are very effective for people with anxiety problems, including Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which takes you through a series of self-help exercises on screen. Visit your GP to find out more.
Drug treatments are used to provide short-term help, rather than looking at the root of the anxiety problems. Drugs may be most useful when they are combined with other treatments or support.
You can learn a lot about managing anxiety from asking other people who have experienced it. Local support groups or self-help groups bring together people with similar experiences so that they can hear each others stories, share tips and encourage each other to try out new ways to manage themselves. Your doctor, library or local Citizens Advice bureau will have details of support groups near you.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at .
How To Control An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks can be difficult to stop after they’ve started, but there are techniques that can help reduce their severity. If you believe you’re having or about to have an anxiety attack, try the following:
Anxiety attacks are very difficult to stop once they’ve started, but by using the above tips you can reduce the severity. The less severe your panic attacks, the less you’ll fear them, and the easier they’ll be to control.
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What Else Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
If you have an anxiety disorder, ask your provider:
- Whats the best treatment for me?
- Do I need medication? What type?
- How long should I take medication?
- What type of psychotherapy will work best?
- What else can I do to manage my symptoms?
- What other conditions am I at risk for?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An anxiety disorder can make it difficult to get through your day. Anxiety disorder symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear. You may also have physical symptoms such as sweating and a rapid heartbeat. But you dont need to live like this. Several effective anxiety disorder treatments are available. Talk to your healthcare provider to figure out your diagnosis and the best treatment plan. Often, treatment combines medications and therapy. Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants, together with CBT, can help you feel your best.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/17/2020.
Focus On Your Senses And Surroundings
When you are having a panic attack, you can feel out of touch with things around you. One way you can feel back in touch with your surroundings is by picking out five things you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. This is called a grounding exercise. You can pick a couple for each sense, or focus on one sense, like finding five things that you can see. This can help you feel connected with your surroundings and in control.
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Why Are You Anxious
Before we can begin to help you get over that constant feeling of dread, trepidation and nervousness, we need to know how and when it started. Then you can be clear about how best you can help yourself.
Have you always suffered?Did it appear out of the blue?Did it start after some kind of trauma?Has it built up over time and you now have chronic anxiety?Does it come on in waves?Do you often feel youre anxious for no real reason?
It makes a big difference whether or not the onset of your anxiety is due to a sudden event.
How Do You Know Youre Having A Panic Attack
An anxiety or panic attack often comes on suddenly, with symptoms peaking within 10 minutes. For doctors to diagnose a panic attack, they look for at least four of the following signs: sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing your mind, fear of dying, feeling hot or cold, numbness or tingling, a racing heart , and feeling unusually detached from yourself.
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Although an anxiety attack is not a clinically diagnosed condition, the term is often used to describe an episode of overwhelming anxiety that can be triggered by fear or apparent threat. The term anxiety attack is often confused with the term panic attack, which is a sudden episode of extreme fear that can result in physical reactions. They are uncontrollable and disabling. The feeling can be so intense that the person experiencing it may feel like they cant breathe or are going to die.
What some people may label as an anxiety attack may be the manifestation of an anxiety disorder or a reaction to a current or impending circumstance that causes anxiety. Knowing how to identify and manage anxiety can help treat the condition.
What To Do During A Panic Attack
There are strategies that you can learn to help you to cope with an unexpected panic attack, including the following:
- As you are likely to hyperventilate during a panic attack, stop whatever you are doing when you feel one coming on , close your eyes and focus on your breathing. During these moments, breathe in for three seconds, hold the breath for two seconds and then breathe out again for three seconds, taking deeper breaths than usual. Getting back in control of your breathing can help you to stop the panic attack from intensifying or lasting longer.
- Learn and use positive mantras such as this is just my anxiety and these feelings will pass to stop your panic cycle. Panic attacks can cause you to think that you are going to collapse, have a heart attack or that you are going to lose control, which can result in you panicking even further. Having positive, factual and simple mantras to hand can help you to address and challenge your anxious thoughts so that you can alleviate the panic attack.
- Distract yourself from your negative thoughts by shifting your focus from your panic attack onto your surroundings. Concentrate on one thing that is in your eye line, whether that is a vase, a plant, or a building. Allowing yourself to think about its colour, texture, shape and size can help you to calm your mind and relieve you from your panicked thoughts.
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Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Much like deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack in its tracks by controlling your bodys response as much as possible.
Consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body.
Muscle relaxation techniques will be most effective when youve practiced them beforehand.
What Is An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes theres an obvious triggergetting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to givebut in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if youre about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people think theyre having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isnt available or you cant easily escape.
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Other Causes Of Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Hyperventilation is not the only cause of anxiety attack symptoms either. Anxiety and stress have a tendency to cause your body to experience very strange sensations – often sensations that differ from person to person. Some people may feel like they can’t lift their head, or that something is wrong with their brain – these are all issues that may be caused by anxiety stress.
In addition, anxiety has a tendency to cause the brain to focus on sensations that would otherwise be normal. This is the result of over-sensitization – your mind is so tuned in to your body that it notices very small sensations that someone without anxiety would otherwise ignore.
Finally, the fear of getting anxiety attack symptoms can also trigger the symptoms. It’s unclear why this occurs, but most likely it is psychosomatic in some way .