Many of us feel anxious from time to time. Experiencing anxiety occasionally is normal unless it starts affecting our daily life.
Anxiety can make you feel afraid and tense and cause sweating, palpitations (thumping heartbeat), fast heart rate, tremors, increased breathing, and dry mouth, to name a few.
These physical symptoms occur due to the release of a stress hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline affects your heart and various parts of the body, causing these reactions.
Anxiety can help us in stressful situations, such as before a race or if feeling threatened. The burst of adrenaline creates a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Anxiety is abnormal if it’s out of proportion to the stressful situation or persists after the stress event passes. Anxiousness can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder.
What are anxiety disorders?
If the symptoms of anxiety interfere with your normal day-to-day activities, you may have an anxiety disorder. These symptoms are difficult to control and are out of proportion to the actual danger you face. They may start from childhood and continue into adulthood.
Here are some of the common anxiety disorders where anxiety is the main symptom:
- Generalized anxiety disorder – If you feel worried or nervous most of the time, and this condition persists long term, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. You may be affected by minor stresses at work or home; even without stress, the symptoms persist.
- Social anxiety disorder (Social phobia) – Here, you’re very anxious about how others think of you or judge you, making you very uncomfortable in social situations, affecting your day-to-day life. You often fear that people may believe you’re stupid or inadequate. Therefore, you tend to avoid meeting people or social events. It can interfere with work responsibilities and opportunities and even lead to social isolation.
- Panic attacks (Panic disorder) – If you have a severe attack of fear or anxiety that occurs suddenly without any warning or apparent reason, you might have panic disorder. These symptoms occur because of a sudden rush of nervous impulses that trigger the release of adrenaline. That surge of adrenaline can cause you to start sweating, trembling, having chest pain, palpitations, hyperventilation, choking sensations, feeling sick, or dizziness, resulting in a panic attack. These symptoms don’t mean that you have a physical problem with your heart or lungs.
- Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – With this condition, you’ll have recurring flashbacks and memories of a traumatic event that triggers feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Here, you have recurring obsessions or compulsions or both. It’s a common mental health problem in society. Symptoms include recurrent thoughts and repetitive actions in response to these thoughts. For example, if you continuously think that your hands are dirty and full of germs, you’ll repeatedly wash your hands to clear off those germs.
What are Phobias?
A phobia is an intense fear or major anxiety of an event or a thing that’s out of proportion to the reality of the situation or object. People suffer from many different types of phobias that provoke panic attacks. Phobias are twice as common in females as males.
- Agoraphobia – Fear of public places or open spaces
- Claustrophobia – Fear of confined places
- The fear of certain animals like snakes, cockroaches, and rats is so strong that even thinking of these creatures can lead to anxiety symptoms.
- Fear of flying
- Fear of heights
- Substance abuse can cause intense anxiety or panic.
When should you seek help?
- If you feel that your anxiety is interfering with your life, work, and relationships.
- If your symptoms are difficult to control.
- If you think that your anxiety symptoms are connected to a physical health problem.
- If you’re depressed or are struggling with alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication in addition to having anxiety issues.
- If you have suicidal ideas.
What are the treatment options for anxiety disorders and phobias?
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy deals with your thought processors and behaviors. It seeks to change them by creating strategies that deal with negative patterns.
- Counselling – Your counselor will help you learn problem-solving skills and coping strategies.
- You may enroll in anxiety management courses or group therapy – you’ll learn how to relax and improve your coping strategies in an environment of group support.
- A licensed mental health professional may prescribe certain medications if necessary.
Antidepressants – Are used for depression and certain anxiety disorders.
Tranquilizers like Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for short term use but can be addictive if used long term.
Other medications – Buspirone (anti-anxiety medicine), pregabalin, beta blockers like propranolol, can reduce physical symptoms like tremors and increased heartbeat. Please discuss all of your treatment options with your physician and the possible side effects of any medicine to make a healthy and informed decision.
If your symptoms worry you, visit your doctor without delay because these symptoms can worsen with time. If you seek help early, it will be easier to treat, helping you to enjoy a healthy and productive life free from anxiety.
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay