Anxiety

What is it? 

Anxiety, along with depression, is recognised as one of the most prevalent mental health disorders. Essentially, anxiety is synonymous with concern or worry. Experiencing anxiety or concern can be beneficial when it serves as a defence mechanism against potential hazards in our surroundings and prevents us from engaging in risky behaviours, such as crossing the street without checking for oncoming traffic. 

However, anxiety or worry can get out of hand, and come to take over our lives, leading us to live in constant dread or fear. The process by which a useful survival trait like worry transforms itself into a debilitating condition causing significant distress and impairment is not entirely clear. 

At a thinking level our ’threat perception and evaluation’ system seems to go wrong, and we start to see threat at every turn, or our response to little threats becomes massively exaggerated.  

Symptoms 

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense 
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom 
  • Having an increased heart rate 
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation) 
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling 
  • Feeling weak or tired 
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry 
  • Having trouble sleeping 
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems 
  • Having difficulty controlling worry 
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety 

Please note that these symptoms can vary among individuals and across different types of anxiety disorders. 

Causes 

The exact cause of anxiety is not fully known, but it’s believed to be a combination of several factors, such as high stress levels, certain medical conditions like depression or diabetes, genetic predisposition, environmental experiences such as child abuse, and substance use. These factors can interact in complex ways, and the causes can vary for different types of anxiety disorders.  

Interventions 

Although there are many forms of anxiety disorder, such as phobias (fear of specific things or situations), general and social anxiety, and related disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, the interventions tend to be quite similar, focusing on both the body and the mind, combining talking and medicine, as well as neurostimulation and lifestyle/ environmental changes. Through teamwork and empowerment, anxiety can be ‘put back into its box’ and we can learn to resume control of our fears and turn our mind to self-discovery and our future.