What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be emotional, physical, behavioural or a combination of these. Anxiety disorders have shared symptoms and people may experience a range of symptoms across this spectrum of mental health disorders. Symptoms that interfere with your ability to carry out normal activities in life such as concentration, sleep and carrying out ordinary tasks, could point to you suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Emotional symptoms include a sense of impending danger or panic, feeling powerless or apprehensive, difficulty in concentrating or remembering things, excessively worrying about the past, present or future or finding it hard to think clearly.

Physical symptoms include feeling tense, headaches or muscle tension, feeling tired or weak, increased heart rate, trembling, blushing, hot and cold flushes, hyperventilation, sweating, diarrhoea, difficulty in sleeping and experiencing nightmares, dry mouth, choking, feeling wound up and edgy, chest pain or stomach pain, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Behavioural anxiety symptoms include avoiding situations that make you feel anxious or isolating yourself from others.

Types of anxiety

The 6 common types of anxiety are: generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Causes of anxiety

The causes of anxiety are not fully understood. Some level of anxiety helps us to appropriately respond to situations in life to help us grow up safely. When these appropriate responses appear to occur more often in circumstances where they are not helpful, then anxiety becomes a problem.

Some causes of anxiety include family history, ongoing stressful situations, caffeine, physical health issues and substance abuse.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step is to consult with your doctor to get a firm diagnosis. There are many services and health care professionals out there to help you, so you are not alone.

The treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Common treatments are cognitive behaviour therapy, breathing and relaxing techniques, moderate exercise, reducing caffeine, moderating alcohol, quitting smoking and medication.

Pro Psychology SA