WHAT IS ANXIETY ? BY CELINA GREGORY

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Have you ever had that feeling in your stomach that something is about to happen? Might be good, might be bad, you’re not really sure, but you have a sense of nervousness and worry. Perhaps you have that feeling often, perhaps you have it every day. If you do experience this often you may suffer from anxiety.

Anxiety is feeling stressed, anxious and worried on an ongoing basis without any particular reason or cause. Instead of experiencing those feelings now and then in response to an event or situation (which would be normal) anxiety is when those feelings are ongoing, they don’t subside, and are not within your control. This interferes with daily life.

According to Beyond Blue, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. They say one in three women will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.

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Why me?

Why do some people get anxiety and others don’t? The consensus is that anxiety occurs due to a combination of biology and psychology. Scientists say it can be genetics, the environment and/or brain chemistry. It could be due to inheriting an overactive nervous system, or perhaps developing an overactive nervous system from ongoing stress and/or trauma.

People with anxiety often have a family history of mental health issues. Research also suggests that some people with certain personality traits are more likely to suffer from anxiety, such as perfectionists, people that like to control things, those that are easily flustered and those with low self-esteem.

Some people suffer from a lifelong anxiety starting at a young age, and some experience it in shorter periods of time perhaps triggered by a stressful event.

Different factors can lead to anxiety, sometimes in combination. Stressful life events can trigger anxiety such as job stress, relationship problems, divorce, experiencing abuse, pregnancy,childbirth, losing a loved one; as can health problems, substance abuse and a family history of mental health problems.

The symptoms of anxiety are varied and can develop gradually, so for some it may seem to creep up on you. Also, if you come from a family that has a history of anxiety, this condition or associated behaviours may even seem normal to you, until you realise not everyone suffers in this way.

Types & Symptoms

There are different types of anxiety which are:

General Anxiety Disorder: When a person feels anxious and finds it hard to stop or control their worries most days for six months or more. They feel on edge, irritable, suffer from insomnia and fatigue, and find it difficult to carry out everyday activities.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: When a person has intrusive thoughts and fears about carrying out certain behaviours and actions. They usually feel anxious unless they follow these actions and behaviours. These thoughts and behaviours interfere with normal routines.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: When a person experiences a traumatic event that has long lasting negative effects making it difficult to carry out their daily activities, such as repeated flashbacks, nightmares, memory loss of the event. Also, often causing irritability, anger, reduced positive emotion, lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, lack of future planning and insomnia.

Panic Disorder: When a person has panic attacks which are overwhelming feelings of anxiety which cannot be controlled. They are also combined with physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, hot or cold flushes, sweating, shortness of breath, shakes, stomach pains, feeling like you can’t breathe, fear of dying, feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings, and a fear or repeat panic attacks.

Social Phobia: When a person is intensely fearful of being embarrassed, humiliated or criticised in social situations which interferes with daily life and causes of distress.

Specific Phobias: When a person feels anxious, scared and nervous about facing a particular situation or object and therefore avoids them. The fears interferes with daily life.

Treatment: There are various treatments and professional approaches that can help with anxiety, such as psychological therapies, counselling, mindfulness, mediation, relaxation techniques, medication, and so on.

Please ask for help if you recognise any of the signs and symptoms here. Your health practitioner can provide a full personal evaluation for a diagnosis and suggest treatment options.

If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, it’s important to seek help. Contact your health practitioner and for further information visit www.beyondblue.org.au

Celina Gregory. The Mindful Mentor. Wellbeing Consultant

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