What you need to know about anxiety and its symptoms

Anxiety is a normal reaction in stressful situations, and it can actually be helpful. For example, most people will be anxious when they face a threatening situation or person, or even before an important interview. The burst of adrenaline and nerve impulses that we experience in response to stressful situations can encourage a ‘flight’ or ‘flight’ response, which can be helpful. However, when anxiety symptoms persist and interfere with you normal day-to-day activities, it can be a problem as it often indicates anxiety disorders.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are serious mental illnesses. People with the anxiety disorders constantly worry and fear. This fear and worry can be overwhelming and cause such distress that it renders a person unable to lead a normal life, or it can even be crippling.

An estimated one in 20 people suffer an anxiety disorder at any one time. You are, therefore, advised to pay attention if anxiety symptoms persist and interfere with your normal day to day activities, or if you find you worry too much about developing anxiety such that it affects your life.

Anxiety is considered abnormal if it:

  • Is out of proportion to the stressful / threatening situation
  • Persists when a stressful situation has passed
  • Is crippling even when the stressing situation is minor
  • Manifests even when there is no apparent stressing situation

Types of anxiety disorders

The most common types of anxiety disorders include: Panic disorder, Social anxiety disorder and Specific phobias, such as fear of choking, fear of being alone and fear of certain animals.

See your doctor if you notice the following anxiety symptoms:

  • You have feeling of panic, fear and uneasiness that causes severe heart thumping (palpitations)
  • You have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning, causing you to breath rapidly (hyperventilation), sweat or tremble
  • You have feelings of worry, fear or terror that causes nausea or dizziness
  • You have excessive, unrealistic worry, fear and tension that is upsetting or makes you nervous
  • You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical or mental health problem
  • You feel depressed and have trouble with drugs and alcohol use
  • You have trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

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Treatment and support

Anxiety symptoms are not all that obvious, given that we all experience some anxiety from time to time. It can, therefore, be difficult to know how much is too much. See your doctor or mental health provider as soon as you start to notice anxiety is interfering with your normal day-to-day activities.

Treating anxiety disorder with medication or otherwise is often easier if you get help early. Your doctor may also be able to put you in touch with a local self-help group that can provide additional support on how to deal with anxiety.

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