What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling we all get in a challenging situation which feels a bit outside our comfort zone or is unfamiliar. The anxiety stops when you get used to the situation, identify ways to reduce the challenge, the situation changes, or sometimes if you just leave. Some anxiety is good as it mobilises our body for action, keeping us alert and helps with motivation and performance.
When is Anxiety a problem and potentially meeting a diagnostic threshold?
These feelings become a problem when they are too strong or when they carry on even when we don’t need them anymore. They can make us uncomfortable, worried, scared and stop us doing the things we want to do and generally make life difficult. If anxiety gets too intense, goes on for too long and cannot be regulated it can make us feel bad, unwell and distressed (physically and psychologically), interfering with our ability to cope in daily life.
Do I need to get help with my Anxiety?
If you find it hard to control your worries and the feelings of anxiety are more constant and affect many aspects of your daily life causing you considerable distress and at times preventing you doing the things you want to do, then you should seek professional help. Anxiety is a symptom and not a diagnosis in its own right. You don’t need to reach a diagnostic threshold in order to get help and getting help early could prevent further deterioration and distress. Getting professional help will allow you to better understand the specific nature of your anxiety. Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, separation anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Anxiety is also a common feature of a depressive disorder and other more severe mental health conditions.
What are the main symptoms of Anxiety disorders?
There are two main symptom categories of anxiety namely physical and psychological. Physical symptoms can affect almost any part of the body and any system of the body. The most common ones are shaking, sweating, heart pounding, difficulty getting a breath or hyperventilating, muscle pains, headaches, feelings of tension. Emotional symptoms are often a feeling of impending doom, dread, loss of control, fear of going mad or doing something inappropriate. Cognitive symptoms could include a racing mind, worry, intrusive, unwanted and disturbing thoughts in addition to repetitive, simplistic and rigid thought processes (rumination), with a tendency to fixate on worst case scenarios.
Anxiety is a very treatable condition and you can improve. You should not suffer in silence and be afraid to come forward to seek treatment. There are two strands of treatment, psychological and drugs. Generally, the first line of treatment is time-limited psychological therapy and in particular using a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) informed approach to initially help you better understand your anxiety, finding ways to relax and achieve a calmer state of mind. This foundation allows you to collaboratively develop alternative behavioural and cognitive coping strategies to manage anxiety and reduce a range of avoidant mechanisms that are likely to at least maintain if not exacerbate anxiety symptoms. During therapy you will be required to take ideas from therapy and practise them regularly between sessions.
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