Everyone will feel anxious at some point in their lives: feeling nervous with the sensation of butterflies fluttering in your stomach. Feeling anxious from time to time is normal, but for those who suffer with anxiety, that anxious feeling is more frequent and much stronger.
With anxiety maybe more common than we realise and with individuals often not seeking help for significant levels of anxiety, it is important to know when it’s become a problem and what are some of the ways to deal with it.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is described by the mental health charity Mind as what we feel when we are worried, afraid or tense, usually about things that are going to happen or things we think could happen in the future. Anxiety can be experienced through our feelings, thoughts and physical sensations.
The NHS explains that anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions including: phobias such as claustrophobia (irrational fear of confined spaces), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. However, there is also a specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) which is a long-term condition that causes sufferers to feel anxious about a wide range of issues and situations instead of a specific event. Those that suffer from GAD find it hard to control their worries and their persistent feelings of anxiety affect their daily lives.
When is anxiety a problem?
Anxiety can affect both your mind and body, the NHS lists some of the psychological and physical symptoms that can occur.
- A sense of dread
- Constantly feeling "on edge"
- Difficulty concentrating
- A noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Muscle aches and tension
- Excessive sweating
- Dry mouth
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
- Pins and needles
- Stomach ache
- Feeling sick
These symptoms may cause you to withdraw yourself from seeing your family and friends or any social contact, to avoid those feelings. You may also find things like going to work difficult and stressful and may take time off which can cause you to worry more and increase our lack of self-esteem.
Although the occasional feeling of anxiety at certain times is normal, you should see your GP if anxiety is beginning to affect your daily life or causing you distress.
How to deal with anxiety
Mind suggests several steps you can take that might help yourself deal with anxiety:
- Talk to someone you trust – having someone to listen to you and opening up to them about what’s making you anxious can be a relief.
- Look after your physical health – Mental Health Foundation suggests that you get exercise, eat healthily, and avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
- Try to manage your worries – set aside specific times to focus on your worries to reassure yourself you haven’t forgotten to think about them, and write down your worries and keep them in a particular place.
- Try peer support – contact specialist organisations with dedicated support groups, forums and helplines to speak to people who have had similar experiences and support each other
- Keep a diary – keeping a diary of when you get anxious or have a panic attack might help you spot patterns and find out what triggers your anxiety, enabling you to spot the early signs when they are starting to happen. As well as keeping a note of what’s going well; it’s important when living with anxiety to also be kind to yourself and focus on the good things too.
Complementary and alternative therapies – such as yoga, meditation, herbal treatments, massage, reflexology or hypnotherapy could potentially help you sleep better or relax.
Although there are several suggested ways to help yourself deal with anxiety, a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a specially trained and accredited therapist may be needed. CBT is considered by the NHS as one of the most effective treatments for general anxiety disorder (GAD). It can help you better understand your thoughts, beliefs and feelings and how these react with each other and affect you. It can also help you question your anxious thoughts, and help you do things that you would normally avoid because they make you anxious. Always consult your GP and seek help for any illness or medical condition.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.