We all feel anxiety symptoms sometimes. In fact if we never felt anxiety at all there would something wrong with us! Anxiety keeps people and animals alive in dangerous situations, by sharpening their senses and speeding their reactions.
Anxiety only becomes a problem when it is excessive or inappropriate. It is excessive when it stops us dealing with the situation. It is inappropriate when the situation isn’t really dangerous or threatening in any way. In a genuinely risky situation anxiety could sharpen your reactions and help you to keep safe. It becomes a problem when you feel anxious about everything, or when you don’t know what to do to feel more secure.
Excessive anxiety symptoms can prevent us from handling a situation by triggering an extreme reaction that is not what’s needed. Our bodies are built to react to extreme situations like being attacked. This triggers the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. We run away, get violent, or freeze like a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights. Animals fight if they feel there is a good chance of winning, otherwise they run away. If neither fighting nor escape is possible they will freeze, because predators may not see an animal that stays perfectly still.
The problem is that in modern life we face situations where we feel stressed or threatened, but fighting, running away, or freezing are not helpful to us. We need to use our brains to handle these situations. But when the fight/flight/freeze reaction has been activated, our brains have gone offline. We can only think very simple thoughts (“I have to get away!) or not at all.
WHAT IS ANXIETY DISORDER?
Anxiety symptoms include irregular breathing, heart racing, diarrhoea, dizziness, fainting, loss of appetite, nausea or even vomiting, stomach upsets, stomach pain, eyes going out of focus, thoughts stopping, narrowing or closing in of vision, shaking, stuttering, feeling hot or cold, sweating, and flushing, and in extreme cases feeling you’re about to die.
Signs of anxiety can also be recognised in other people. An anxious person may seem preoccupied, forgetful, jumpy, and reluctant to try anything new.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
Anxiety often results from stress which the person cannot handle. A sense of helplessness results from feeling boxed in with no way of escape. Not all stress is bad. If people have good coping skills and confidence, stress can motivate them to great achievements. Signs of stress aren’t always obvious. High blood pressure for instance doesn’t show on the outside, and isn’t even felt till it gets very extreme.
WHAT CAUSES PANIC ATTACKS?
A panic attack is the most extreme form of anxiety symptoms. The person not only freezes but also hyperventilates, over-breathing until they feel dizzy, sweaty, cold and clammy, heart palpitating, and even passing out. A panic attack can feel like you’re going to die or lose control completely. The good news is that these feelings are illusions. You will not die from a panic disorder, and you are not having a “nervous breakdown”. Even severe anxiety can be relieved quite rapidly using effective self help techniques.
WHAT IS A PHOBIA?
A phobia is extreme fear or anxiety in response to something that is not dangerous, or that is highly unlikely to happen. The names of the most common phobias are well known. For instance arachnophobia = fear of spiders, emetophobia = fear of vomiting, agoraphobia = fear of open spaces, and claustrophobia = fear of confined spaces, health related anxiety (hypnochondria). However people could develop a phobia of just about anything. Some people are afraid of buttons! People who have phobias can often be courageous in other situations, even situations that are actually dangerous.
WHAT IS OCD (OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER)?
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a special form of anxiety symptoms where someone feels that something bad will happen if they do, or do not do, a certain thing (usually counting, checking, or washing). Sometimes they have a clear idea of what they think would happen, other times it’s just a vague feeling. From a distance they can see this makes no sense, but when they try to stop themselves from doing the compulsive behaviour they get extremely anxious and the threat of bad consequences can feel absolutely real.
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