Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues and is felt by everyone at some point in their life, it is that feeling of being worried, tense, or afraid, most often when we are concerned about something that is about to happen or could happen in the future.
It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings, and physical responses, and is known to affect both adults and children.
Anxiety becomes a mental health issue when it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you would like.
If your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time, perhaps your worries are out of proportion to the situation causing you concern, or you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks, then it may be time to seek some support.
Some people are not aware that they suffer from anxiety, often because they’ve either felt anxious for so long that they think the feeling is normal, or they can’t pinpoint a reason as to why they would feel anxious, and therefore don’t believe they have a mental health issue at all.
Types Of Anxiety
There are many forms of anxiety including:
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Those with generalised anxiety disorder feel anxious about a wide range of situations and not just one specific issue, this heightened anxiety can often continue for days. New sources of anxiety replace older ones, and sleepless nights, lack of concentration, restlessness, dizziness, and palpitations are common symptoms.
Regular panic attacks with no obvious cause are the primary symptom of panic disorder. The fear of having another panic attack can perpetuate panic disorder, making another panic attack much more likely to happen.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a fear or anxiety triggered by occasions in which you have to see, or interact with, other people, be it in workplaces, events, parties, shops or public transport, for example – triggers can even be as low-key as answering the door to a delivery driver.
People suffering from phobias have an intense fear of – or anxiety triggered by — an object or a situation. For example, agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations or places you might not be able to escape from.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that typically starts after having a traumatic experience. People with PTSD often have flashbacks or nightmares of their traumatic experience, in which they relive the fear and anxiety that they experienced at the time.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder often involves feeling forced or compelled to carry out certain routines or enact certain behaviours as a result of having particular thoughts or urges. There are many types of OCD – some relate to checking, contamination, hoarding, isymmetry, ordering and intrusive thoughts.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Also called body dysmorphia, this disorder means you excessively and frequently worry about specific aspects of your physical appearance, and the obsession with what the sufferer thinks is a flaw ends up affecting their life.
Perinatal anxiety or perinatal OCD
Perinatal anxiety is an anxiety disorder that can begin when you discover you’re pregnant, and last until around a year after giving birth. There are many potential causes for this type of anxiety, including hormonal changes, lack of support, stressful living conditions and previous mental health problems.
People suffering from health anxiety usually have obsessions and compulsions about illness and health issues – like excessively researching symptoms and ailments, believing that they have them.
Symptoms Of Anxiety
These are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety:
- Experiencing panic attacks
- A rapid or irregular heartbeat
- A churning, butterfly-like or “sudden drop” feeling in your stomach
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Having a sense of dread or foreboding
- Being desperate to relax, but unable to do so
- Feeling guilty about something but not being able to pinpoint what
- Going over an unpleasant situation in your mind again and again (rumination)
- Worrying about things that could happen
- Being unable to stop worrying
- Difficulty sleeping, or a greater need for sleep
- Feeling disconnected from your body or mind, or like you’re watching yourself from outside your body (depersonalisation)
- Being restless and unable to sit still or concentrate
- Nausea and dizziness or feeling light-headed
Causes Of Anxiety
Difficult experiences at any stage of your life can be a trigger for anxiety problems, even if the symptoms are not immediately felt. A childhood trauma, for instance, may only lead to anxiety in later life. But, it is often our current life situation that causes us anxiety, such tiggers can include:
- Exhaustion or build up of stress
- Uncertainty and change
- Feeling under pressure
- Being out of work
- Having financial issues
- Housing problems and homelessness
- Being abused, bullied or harassed
- Behaviour of other people or social situations
Anxiety can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health, living with these issues can in turn lead to more anxiety. Alcohol and drug use can also bring about more anxiety for some people, as can certain foods such as sugar and caffeine.
How To Cope With Anxiety
There are steps that you can take to help with your anxiety including:
- Talk to someone you trust about what is making you anxious
- Speak with a Counsellor about your anxiety, talking therapy may help you to understand why you feel so anxious and work with you to develop coping mechanisms (CONTACT US to arrange access to a Counsellor)
- Try to manage your worries by setting time aside to work through what exactly is making you anxious or writing down the things that you are worrying about
- Look after your physical health; try to get enough sleep, think about your diet, and make sure you do some form of physical activity every day
- Try breathing exercises, they can help you feel calmer and more in control
- Keep a diary of what triggers your anxiety, how it felt, how long it lasted for, etc
- Ask your GP about available medication, which some people find useful to help manage symptoms.
Other Relevant Organisations
A charity helping people affected by anxiety, stress, and anxiety-based depression.