What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an umbrella term for, and the main symptom of, a wide range of disorders such as nervousness, fear, apprehension, excessive worrying, panic disorder, and phobias – such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia.
How does anxiety occur?
A person can be said to be suffering from anxiety when he/she over thinks too much about daily duties or is in a state of panic even after a problem he/she faced has dissipated. Feeling anxious about situations such as money, exams, etc are normal. However, after the problem disappears, ideally the anxiety should disappear. Intervention is needed if the anxiety is prolonged.
Anxiety is a common symptom of:
- panic disorder, which can be accompanied by sudden palpitations, and sweating.
- social anxiety disorder, or intense fear of being judged in a social setting.
- certain phobias such as agoraphobia (fear of certain places) or claustrophobia (fear of being enclosed in a small space).
- separation anxiety disorder, which is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that is excessive for the developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
- generalized anxiety disorder that includes persistent and excessive anxiety and a need for worrying, even about ordinary, and routine issues.
Who is prone to anxiety?
There are some people who are more prone to anxiety than others:
- Women suffer from anxiety more than men. Also, the fight-or-flight response is activated more readily in women and stays activated for a longer period than in men, partly as a result of the action of estrogen and progesterone in the brain chemistry.
- People who experience long-term stress, either due to their jobs or relationships.
- People who have had unpleasant childhood experiences, for example, those who faced bullying, or those who have been brought up by parents who taught them to fear a lot of things, or those who have been abused or neglected as children by those around them.
- People who have experienced traumas such as sexual assaults, the death of dear ones, serious accidents etc.
- People who have undergone a big change in their lives.
- People who suffer from chronic ailments.
- People who abuse drugs or are alcoholics.
What are the causes of anxiety?
There can be numerous causes of anxiety, such as:
- Long-term Stress
- Difficult or abusive childhood experiences
- Sudden big change in life
- Chronic ailments
- Difficult relationships
- Drug abuse or alcoholism
What are the symptoms of anxiety? How is anxiety diagnosed?
The most common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Feeling nervous
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling powerless
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
You can visit your family doctor if you feel your anxiety is affecting your daily life, and depending on your condition your doctor can, in turn, refer you to a mental health counsellor.
Before that, however, the doctor will perform some medical tests, such as blood tests and urine tests to make sure that the anxiety is not linked to any underlying medical condition or is the result of taking any medicines such as blood pressure medicines, oral contraceptives, etc.
He will also ask you detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history.
A mental health counsellor will use psychological questionnaires to determine a diagnosis.
What are the complications of anxiety?
The complications of anxiety include:
- risk of heart disease
- respiratory problems
- constant suicidal thoughts
- tension headache, or migraines
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders
- insomnia or disturbed sleep
What is the treatment of anxiety?
Medical Treatment for Anxiety
Depending on your condition the doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs or anti-depressants.
Exercise is vital not only for physical health but also for maintaining mental fitness. It can reduce stress to a large extent and thus reduce anxiety. In fact, a 10-minute walk can be just as good as a 45-minute workout to reduce anxiety and depression. Before deciding on an exercise, however, it is necessary to consult a doctor for a diagnosis that the anxiety is not linked to any medical condition. You can opt for exercises like yoga, swimming, aerobics, or walking.
Did you know?
Anxiety among the Indian population
Anxiety, affects 25% of the population in India, and is possibly the first stage to the serious-to-handle depression.
Every fifth Indian suffers from anxiety disorder
Or so goes the unwritten belief among India's psychiatrists.
Women suffer more
Anxiety disorders also occur earlier in women than in men.
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