Most folks have heard about anxiety disorders and have probably experienced some sort of anxiety from time to time. It is our natural response to a situation that we find stressful. For some of us, our performance can be improved by some level of stress while other folks find that experiencing severe anxiety on a day to day basis can interfere with their life. These conditions are known as anxiety disorders and treatment usually involves psychotherapy and counselling, often alongside some form of medication.
For those who feel they have not yet suffered with anxiety, it is a feeling of unease. The vast majority of us experience some form of anxiety when we are faced with a particular stressful event or situation. For example, those jitters that we feel before a job interview or an important exam. We may experience these unpleasant feelings when we are worried about our finances or we have a family member suffering from an illness.
Of course it is perfectly normal to experience some degree of anxiety when we face a particularly difficult situation but one in ten UK people find that anxiety interferes with their normal everyday life. Acute anxiety may be linked to other psychiatric conditions, for example, depression.
Anxiety is not considered normal when:
- it is present even when there is no stressful event
- it interferes with normal everyday activities such as socialising and work
- it is considered severe and prolonged
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Symptoms of anxiety are triggered by the brain which sends messages to different areas of the body in preparation for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Certain organs in the body such as the lungs and heart work faster, whilst the brain releases an increased amount of stress hormones such as adrenaline.
As a result, certain physical symptoms can occur such as:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort.
- Increased/rapid heartbeat and/or palpitations
- Pain and tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Swallowing difficulties
- More frequent urination
Psychological Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
In addition to physical symptoms, there are also psychological symptoms which can include:
- Inability to sleep (insomnia)
- Anger and irritability
- Inability to maintain concentration
- Not feeling like one can control their actions (depersonalisation)
- Feeling unreal
- A fear of madness
There are several different types of anxiety disorders. They are often associated with a physical condition such as a thyroid disorder. The anxiety usually improves when the physical illness is treated. Anxiety is also the main symptoms of mental illnesses which are known as anxiety disorders. It is very often the symptom of a further mental health problem for example depression, alcohol misuse, personality disorder or a withdrawal from a long term use of tranquillisers.
Some sufferers experience what is known as ‘acute stress reaction’ where the symptoms develop quicker following the event. This reaction type occurs usually following an unexpected event such as bereavement. For some, this reaction may occur before the event, for example an exam. This is known as situational anxiety and the symptoms usually disappear fairly quickly and no treatment is required.