You can expect to feel anxious occasionally as a part of life. However, when it’s extreme, and lasts more than six months, you may have an anxiety disorder. It can interfere with your life because you’re excessively and intensely worrying about everyday situations.
We value your wellness both inside and out, and mental health is becoming an increasingly important issue worldwide. Let’s unpack anxiety, its symptoms, side effects, causes and some tips on managing it. If you’re battling anxiety, you aren’t alone. Read on, and be encouraged. There is help!
What is anxiety?
Many people suffer from anxiety without realising it, and those who are aware don’t always know how to manage it. Data in 2018 revealed that one in six South Africans suffers from anxiety, depression, or a substance use disorder. Anxiety can be distressing and even debilitating, causing various physical and psychological symptoms.
Anxiety is a significant part of different disorders, such as hypochondria, separation anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, PTSD, panic, and specific phobias. Anxiety is a normal apprehensive or fearful feeling you have about what’s coming, like before you deliver a big presentation or go to a job interview. It’s the way your body naturally responds to stress. While ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, the feeling of fear in an anxiety disorder may not disappear. You might start avoiding places or situations or stop doing things you like, driving, seeing people or going out at all.
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age, but women are more likely to be diagnosed. An anxiety disorder is the most common form of emotional disorder and often includes panic attacks. These anxious and panicked feelings restrict your daily activities, and can be unbalanced, uncontrolled, unpredictable, and ongoing.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can greatly impact your ability to get through the day. A seemingly small thing like going to the shop can seem overwhelming. Concentration can become a major issue and affect your productivity at home and work.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- breathing rapidly (hyperventilating)
- feeling nervous, restless or tense
- finding it hard to focus
- not being able to complete task
- battling to make decisions
- having an increased heart rate
- experiencing stomach aches, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- struggling to fall asleep
Side effects of anxiety
If you suffer from severe anxiety, you could also battle with depression, digestive or bowel problems, chronic pain, social isolation, problems functioning at school or work and an overall poor quality of life.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms may start during childhood or teenage years and continue into adulthood. Usually a combination of factors, such as brain chemistry, genetics, and your environment play a role in anxiety, but researchers aren’t sure of the exact cause.
It’s tricky to fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. A life experience such as a traumatic event could trigger an anxiety disorder if you’re already prone to anxiety. It could also be due to inherited traits and your personality type or a reaction to built-up stress.
Sometimes anxiety comes from a medical condition that requires treatment. You may have illness stress, or an underlying health issue linked to anxiety such as diabetes, heart diseases, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, and chronic pain or IBS. Anxiety could even be a side effect of certain medications.
When should I seek help?
While some worries go away on their own, others may become worse over time if you don’t seek help. It’s actually easier to treat anxiety if you get help early, so seeing your doctor or a mental health care provider before your anxiety becomes worse is vital.
Seek professional medical help if:
- your anxiety, fear or worry is upsetting you and difficult to control
- your worrying is starting to affect your work, relationships or other areas of your life
- you feel depressed, use alcohol and drugs or have added mental health concerns
- you think your anxiety could be due to a physical health problem
While there isn’t a test to diagnose anxiety, through physical examinations, mental health evaluations and psychological questionnaires you could rule out any possible underlying medical condition that could be part of your symptoms.
How can I manage anxiety?
For some people, a lifestyle change, reducing and relieving stress and knowing how to manage their anxiety better makes a vast improvement. Caring for your body, participating in healthy activities and cutting out unhealthy activities is a helpful start.
You can try some natural remedies, such as:
- avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking
- deep breathing
- exercising and staying active
- eating healthily
- getting good quality sleep
- doing activities you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself
- interacting socially and investing in caring relationship
Treatment through medication and psychotherapy can assist in moderate or severe cases. Antidepressants and sedatives can help balance your brain chemistry and prevent episodes of anxiety, plus fight off the worst symptoms. Seeing a psychologist can equip you with helpful coping strategies and tools.
The good news is that anxiety disorders can be treated, even if your case is severe. There is support to help you better manage your anxiety and stress, and it’s possible to have a lighter approach to life. With better mental health you can take delight again as you spend more time on the things you enjoy and with the people you love.
Date Published: 04 October 2021