What is Anxiety?

Anxiety can be defined as the mind and body’s reaction to certain stressful, dangerous and/ or, unfamiliar situations. It is a sense of discomfort, uneasiness, distress or, dread that one may feel before any significant event. 

Anxiety, to a certain extent, helps us to stay alert, prepared and aware. However, those who suffer from clinical anxiety develops an anxiety disorder which is far from healthy for the normal human mind and body. It is strenuous and tedious and if not checked in time, might lead to serious consequences. Anxiety has the power to be completely debilitating. 

Is Being Anxious the Same As Suffering from Anxiety Disorders?

Being anxious is a normal human emotion and reaction. It is considered as one of our internal warning systems that prepare and alert us for any impending danger so that we can easily fight back and tackle the situation. It is often known as ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response. 

The basic anxiety is rather helpful, for it motivates you to better yourself so that you do not have to encounter any embarrassing situation or circumstance. For example, anxiety may help you be punctual and disciplined. Suppose, you do not want to be late for work, anxiety motivates you to be punctual so that you do not have to encounter the consequences of being late. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it exceeds to an unmanageable or overwhelming dilemma.

Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that can ruin your mental health if proper action is not taken on time. Many people who suffer from such a disorder tend to seclude themselves in order to avoid any unfortunate circumstance and many often feel ‘trapped’ by their intrusive thoughts and emotions. 

Normal AnxietyAnxiety Disorder
It is related to a specific situation or a problem.It is a sudden emotion and comes up abruptly out of nowhere.
Lasts for a limited period of time and fades once the situation is met.Lasts for a prolonged period of time, even when the situation is resolved.
It is related to a specific problem or situation.It is more generalized and may cause abrupt anxiety on any occasion: familiar or not.
It brings about a realistic response to a realistic problem.A patient may suffer from unrealistic anxiety, i.e., fear of an entirely imaginary situation.

What are the different types of Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders can be classified into five broad categories:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or, GAD, is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even in the presence of no provocative stimuli.

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or, what is commonly known as OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or, repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms like repeatedly washing hands, counting, arranging, cleaning or, checking are performed to avoid obsessive thoughts. Performing these ‘rituals’ only provide temporary relief, but often leads to markedly increased anxiety. 

3. Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical disorders like chest pain, shortness of breath, heavy palpitations, dizziness or, abdominal stress. 

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or, PTSD, develops after a traumatic exposure to a terrifying event. Events that trigger PTSD may include violent physical assault, natural or man-made disasters, accidents, military combat or even, exposure to a severe mental dilemma. 

5. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder or, social phobia is marked by intense anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in mere everyday social situations. Social phobia may be limited to one kind of situation only; such as fear of communication, eating or drinking in front of others, etc. In some cases, the symptoms arise suddenly, out of nowhere whenever a person is around another person or a group of people. 

What are the Common Symptoms of Anxiety? 

There are various effects of anxiety on body system. 

  1. Worrying excessively (even about the most promiscuous things.)
  2. Strong feelings of agitation (sometimes even towards the most insignificant things or events.)
  3. Restlessness
  4. Fatigue
  5. Difficulty in concentrating
  6. Irritation
  7. Muscle tension
  8. Insomnia or, oversleeping
  9. Panic attacks
  10. Avoiding social activities
  11. Irrational fears

How does Anxiety Effects Body?

Prolonged anxiety and panic attacks can cause the brain to release stress hormones regularly. The secretion of these hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) increase the frequency of headaches, dizziness and depression. There are also several effects of anxiety on body systems.

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorders

While the hormones are helpful for occasional high-stress events, long-term exposure to such hormones might be harmful to the health in the long run. It affects the cardiovascular system, causing palpitations and rapid heartbeats and acute chest pain. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure and other related heart diseases. It worsens your health condition if you are already suffering from any heart-related disease. 

Anxiety also causes stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea and other digestive problems, affecting the excretory and digestive system. Loss of appetite is another common symptom. Anxiety also leads to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), causing vomiting, diarrhea or, constipation.

Anxiety also weakens the immune system. The excessive trigger of the flight-or-fight stress response releases a flood of hormones into the body which is bad for the health in the long run. Anxiety even diffuses the action of regular vaccines rendering your body harmful.

Anxiety makes respiratory diseases, like asthma, worse. It causes rapid and shallow breathing and in case you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), it increases your chances of hospitalization.  

Does Anxiety affect your daily life?

The anxiety that affects your everyday life must be treated as a disorder. It affects your relationships, your daily work and causes a long-lasting impact on your mental and physical health. 

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety makes one seclude themselves from their nearest and dearest ones and often leads to depression and aloofness. 

The immediate solution to calm down your anxiety:

  1. Make a list of 3-5 activities that are easy and accessible.
  2. Start with the easiest activity and try to concentrate on it for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Rate your anxiety on a scale of 10; it helps you understand your situation so that you can soothe yourself accordingly.

Activities that might help you reduce Anxiety

  • Name and describe 5 objects, out loud.
  • Name out 5 different sounds.
  • Splash your face with cold water.
  • Hold or chew on to a cube of ice.
  • Hug a pillow or caress something soft.
  • Rub your palms gently until it heats up.
  • Hum a song.
  • Exhale slowly.
  • Eat a piece of chocolate.
  • Call somebody you trust.
  • Hug someone.

Also read: Know About Social Anxiety Disorder