Common events or situations that may induce general anxiety
- Exams at school or college
- Applications to Colleges or Universities
- Driving Test
- Dating / First Dates
- Medical tests or procedures
- Job or employment insecurity
- Job interview
- Business issues
- Legal issues
- Financial concerns in general e.g. household costs
- Family / relationship concerns
... and many other situations and phobias.
What is Anxiety ?
There are many definitions of anxiety. Some definitions of anxiety are long and complicated because they attempt to include many different types of situations, causes, and manifestations of anxiety - and do so using technical and sometimes obscure words.
Put simply, anxiety is another word for "worry", i.e. a type of fear.
The word "anxiety" tends to be used to refer to persistent or ongoing worries about fears or uncertainties - rather than the type of extreme fear that one may feel for a brief moment e.g. when about to jump or dive off a high diving board when unused to doing so. In general then, think in terms of anxiety usually being a chronic, rather than acute, condition - although there may, of course, exceptions, e.g. in cases of sudden "panic attacks".
Anxiety Symptoms (General):
The main and most obvious symptom of anxiety is the sensation of feeling anxious.
Different people experience and recognise feelings of anxiousness or anxiety in different ways and may use different words to express their experiences.
Feelings of anxiety may take the form of:
- persistent worrying about something specific e.g. a test or exam,
- a vague sense of not wanting to think about or deal with an issue e.g. preparing for the exam,
- inability to concentrate because the subject of concern e.g. exam and revision keeps coming to mind, etc.
Anxiety can lead to both psychological and physical symptoms.
If the mind cannot find some acceptable level of "comfort" about an issue e.g. recognise how much study is required, plan the time in a revision calendar, then study according to the timetable and not worry about it at other times then the issue that began as low-level emotional discomfort (perhaps called "anxiety" or "stress") may also begin to lead to physical symptoms. That is easy to appreciate by considering the concept of "flight or fight" which refers to situations in which humans or animals suddenly find themselves in a dangerous situation such that in order to protect themselves - and sometimes even their lives - they must take immediate physical action, either to defend themselves or to move away from their present location as quickly as possible. Such situations are common among many species of wild animals and some theories explain human physical responses to stress or anxiety in terms of our distant ancestors also encountering such situations and so evolving efficient physical responses to prepare the body for physical in response to emotional cues from the brain.
It is useful to be able to recognise both types of signs of anxiety.
They can be listed separately as Psychological Anxiety Symptoms and Physical Anxiety Symptoms but it is important to appreciate the association between these two types of symptoms and hence their relevance to each other.
Psychological Anxiety Symptoms:
- inability to concentrate, especially when there is no obvious reason for this (e.g. inability to concentrate due to extreme heat, cold or exhaustion is not a symptom of anxiety).
- general restlessness
- feeling tired, mentally tired or exhausted without an obvious cause (e.g. feeling tired after a very long day or intense exercise is not a symptom of anxiety).
- depression, i.e. feeling "down" and generally pessimistic (note that 'depression' is also a condition in its own right)
- inability to sleep or difficulty getting to sleep (insomnia), especially if due to persistent thoughts/worries.
- disturbed sleep, incl. due to nightmares
- irritability, impatience, increased tendency to lose patience and become angry.
- sense (feeling) of loss of control of oneself or the situation or task one is responsible for.
- in extreme cases - fear of losing one's mind i.e. the ability to reason and perform simple tasks necessary to continue to live normally
Physical Anxiety Symptoms:
- shaking (either whole body or just a part, e.g. hands trembling)
- shortness of breath, taking shorter faster shallower breaths than usual
- dry mouth which may be accompanied by difficulty swallowing
- excessive thirst (i.e. not just due to obvious cause such as heat or physical exercise)
- abdominal discomfort (e.g. stomach ache, "tummy aches")
- nausea, urge to vomit
- increased/rapid heart rate
- irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- "pins and needles" sensation.
- chest pain, tightness in chest area
- missed or painful periods not due to unrelated known cause e.g. pregnancy
- urge to urinate more frequently than usual
- excessive sweating (i.e. not just due to obvious cause such as heat or physical exertion)
Note that some of these physical anxiety symptoms are also symptoms of other and in some cases very serious medical conditions. If you are concerned about any extreme or unusual symptom (including any of the above) seek medical advice or consult an appropriate professional as soon as possible.
How to treat Anxiety Symptoms:
This page is a basic introduction to recognising some Anxiety Symptoms. It is not about treatments for anxiety, though the following comments may be helpful. As with many health issues, it is usually best to deal with the causes of anxiety - not just to treat the symptoms. Anxiety in general may be treated in various different ways according to the severity of anxiety involved, the immediate causes (e.g. reasons for worry) and the resources/funding available for treatment. Possible treatment approaches may include:
- Self-help e.g. planning for situations likely to induce anxiety, adjustments to lifestyle such as more physical exercise, relaxation techniques, EFT.
- Alternative / Holistic Therapies e.g. Bach flower remedies, massage (for muscle tension etc.), acupuncture, hypnotherapy
- "Talking Therapies" e.g. counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Prescribed Drugs e.g. some GPs may suggest benzodiazepines, antidepressants or beta-blockers for the physical effects of anxiety symptoms, though not for the psychological anxiety symptoms.
If you believe that you may be suffering from anxiety issues consult an appropriate professional
- don't just read more about anxiety online and perhaps give yourself even more to be concerned about.