At some point in their lives, everybody will experience anxiety. Normal life events can give rise to anxiety – such as moving to a new house, relationship problems, financial instability, finding/losing a job, etc. It is designed to protect us and is a defence mechanism based on our fight-or-flight responses. But what is anxiety?
In short, anxiety is an emotion that is characterised by a state of internal discomfort and is often accompanied by feelings of fear and nervousness, among other things. It can also lead to physical complaints such as fatigue, muscular tension and restlessness. People who suffer from prolonged symptoms can often allow anxiety to negatively impact upon their lives in various ways. To avoid circumstances which would likely evoke these symptoms, people with anxiety sometimes find themselves withdrawing from certain situations and can eventually lead to angst, an existential crisis, and/or nihilistic feelings.
Normally, most people become anxious about something for only a short period of time before calming down and feeling better. Yet, anxiety can become a problem when the feelings of fear and panic remain the same or, in some cases, get worse – this prolonged uneasiness is known as an anxiety disorder. If you find yourself relating to the latter, you are not alone – it is estimated that around one in six people will suffer from anxiety disorders at some stage in their life.
Types of anxiety
Anxiety disorders can come in many forms and there are several recognised types, the main ones are:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder:
The most common form of anxiety is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, which affects millions of people worldwide. GAD is an ongoing mental state which can be brought on without any specific cause and can lead to feelings of constant fear and physical tension.
You may be experiencing GAD if you have had prolonged feelings of dread which go beyond the normal scope of anxiety and feel like you are unable to take a break from the feelings of angst. The most common symptoms pertaining to GAD are:
- Restlessness, edginess, feeling like you are out of control.
- Muscular tension – usually in the neck, shoulders and back.
- Lack of focus and difficulty concentrating on tasks.
- Low levels of energy and general tiredness.
- Constant and obsessively focussing on negative thoughts and worrying about worst possible outcomes.
- Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is one of many types of phobia-related disorders. A certain degree of social anxiety is normal, but it can become serious when this starts to interfere with your life and the idea of interacting with members of the public and, sometimes, even your friends causes intense fear.
After the initial feeling of comfort provided through avoiding a distressing situation, social anxiety can become increasingly worse and can give rise to prolonged isolation and a debilitating inability to socialise. The most common symptoms of social anxiety are:
- Feeling anxious about the idea of being in a social situation.
- Obsessing about being judged or watched by other people.
- Feeling helpless and scared when in an unfamiliar surrounding or around unfamiliar people.
- Being overly reserved when meeting new people.
- Panic Disorder
People who have a panic disorder are prone to suffering from panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden period of intense dread and fear. They can be both unexpected or triggered by a certain situation.
Suffering from panic disorder often leads to worry about the occurrence of the next panic attack, and this fear can give rise to, or exacerbate, other anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia. The most common symptoms of a panic attacks are:
- Intense trembling or shaking.
- Sweating and shortness of breath.
- Heart palpitations and increased heartrate.
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur after an individual experiences a traumatic physical or emotional event in their life that impacts their psychology considerably.
The symptoms of PTSD can remain with someone for years after the event and people with this disorder must often seek help to counter the feelings of anxiety they get when reminded of the trauma. The main symptoms of PTSD are:
- Reliving the trauma.
- Responding to triggers.
- Irrational fear of the event recurring.
- Emotional numbness.
Anxiety has long been known to be linked with genetics, but a growing body of research suggests that it occurs as a result of both genetic and environmental factors. The risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder can vary across the different types, but some of the general risk factors that are prevalent in all forms of anxiety include:
- Shyness and reserved behaviour in childhood.
- A genetic history of mental illness.
- Exposure to distressing events in childhood or adult life.
- Over consuming certain drugs, such as caffeine and alcohol.
There are many ways to treat and sooth anxiety. This website provides helpful information for people who suffer from anxiety disorders and aims to help lessen the burden it can have on an individual.