What is Anxiety?

It is the body and mind’s natural reaction to threat or danger. Commonly referred to as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline, which in turn results in a number of physiological reactions occurring in the body. These emotions help us to survive by ensuring that we are alert and responsive to the danger.

Feeling anxious is something we all experience from time to time. In the appropriate situation, high levels of anxiousness – even panic – is considered normal and helpful if it prompts us to escape from danger. Anxiety in performance situations such as interviews and exams can help us perform to the best of our ability. The problems arise when people’s response (anxiety) is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or that it is generated when there is no danger present. When feelings of dread and worry are unfocused, overwhelming, recurring, and are not directly linked to stressful events, anxiety can leave a person severely impaired. When these levels begin to interfere with the daily function of our lives, the support of a qualified mental health professional can often be helpful. When anxiety becomes excessive or debilitating then it is considered an anxiety disorder.

The Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

Symptoms and signs include obtrusive, obsessive, worried thoughts, confusion and difficulty concentrating, pacing or restlessness, irritability, frustration, and despair. Those suffering may feel tense, with uncomfortable physical sensations such as trembling, sweating, a racing heartbeat, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Anxiety can also lead to headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, and lightheadedness.

The severe and sudden onset of such symptoms is often indicative of a panic attack.

While anxiety is a natural survival mechanism which allows us to escape from danger or protect ourselves from suffering some people experience a frequent and extreme level of fear and worry that they find difficult to alleviate. An individual’s predisposition towards anxiousness can be inherited or be environmental or even both. Research has shown that many of those suffering from anxiety disorders also often had a parent or parents with a similar or identical disorder supporting the view that these behaviours can be both learned and inherited. Anxious children are likely born to anxious parents and those parents may continue to model tendencies of anxiousness such as super vigilance around what they fear as potential threats, thus instilling the same fear and avoidant behaviours in their children. Growing up in a stressful environment may also predispose children to over-anxiousness as it can keep them alert to dangers and protect their safety.

These disorders can also arise from a traumatic experience or result from an unresolved trauma which has left the person in a heightened state of arousal such as those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)

Therapy Help for Anxiety

Anxiety is a common reason for people seeking therapy and it can be very effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms over a short time, and also allowing those who have been suffering to regain a sense of control over their lives. For those who have not been able to identify the cause of their anxiousness, a therapist can work with them to gradually uncover or establish its source. Part of the focus of the therapy is to unravel and understand the anxious behavoiurs as well as deeper underlying concerns, and then collaborating together, they can then work to develop with ways to alleviate and manage anxiety or to eliminate it completely. This can be very rewarding and of great relief to those who suffer in this way as it can cause great interference in personal relationships, eating and sleeping patterns, work, school, and daily activities. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is often used to treat these disorders however most forms of therapy can work well to address it as it aims to identify and treat the source, rather than just the symptoms.Therapy is often supported by other therapeutic treatments such as meditation, mindfulness or by lifestyle changes and treatments such as stress management and relaxation techniques, self care, exercise, reducing or eliminating stimulants such as caffeine.

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