Anxiety is a feeling of worry and nervousness about something with an uncertain outcome. In mental health terms, it’s a serious nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension – typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks.
If someone is experiencing anxiety over a period of time, they may have an anxiety disorder such as GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).
This means someone is anxious about life in general rather than one particular concern.
It means someone will feel continually tense, struggle to focus, easily get tired and yet suffer from insomnia. This is normally every day.
There are other types of anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder causing frequent panic attacks; various phobias including agoraphobia; OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder); high functioning anxiety disorder, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
There is an internal sense of the world being in chaos, which is why these are known as disorders.
Whatever the anxiety type it feels different for everybody. Much of anxiety comes from how we deal with life on life’s terms, especially stressful things.
Although having some anxiety is a normal emotion that enables us to focus, for some people it becomes so excessive that a normal life becomes impossible.
What can anxiety do to your mind and emotions?
Depending on the severity and how long they’ve been suffering, someone with anxiety may:
- Feel disconnected from their mind and/or body as if they are watching someone else.
- Be unmotivated and indecisive. Decisions that are made are bad ones.
- Have a bombardment of constantly racing thoughts.
- Have concentration and/or memory difficulties.
- Be continually going over bad experiences.
- Feel tense and nervous.
- Be unable to relax.
- Always fear the worst-case scenario will happen.
- Feel as if the world is slowing down or getting faster.
- Develop depression.
- Be angry, irritable and discontent.
- Worry that they’re out of touch with reality and feel disconnected from the world.
- Feel as if they cannot stop worrying and if they stop worrying bad things will happen.
- Be anxious about their anxiety including worrying about having another panic attack.
- Feel always overwhelmed.
- Be worried that everyone can see they are anxious.
- Need constant reassurance from others.
- Be bothered that others are upset or irritated with them.
Alongside mental problems, some people with anxiety say how they’re certain they are dying of an undiagnosed illness.
This is because their physical symptoms are so bad they think they cannot be “only anxiety”.
But anxiety can cause considerable physical conditions. Research shows that anxiety can increase the risk of getting such as stomach ulcers, heart problems and diabetes.
Physical effects of anxiety
It is clear that anxiety affects the body. This is because in the fight or flight mode our blood is redirected to our brain, arms and legs to best deal with the situation.
For people with anxiety this situation is frequently a perceived one. But the body doesn’t know this and so still gets ready for fight or flight.
This means the immune system is suppressed because it’s not so vital at the time as such as dealing with an aggressive dog by running away. The body’s nervous system releases stress hormones such as cortisol to boost blood-sugar levels and blood fats.
They are used by the body for fuel to fight or flee. But these are only meant to be for a short burst of activity.
If anxiety persists it can cause damage to tissues and organs that leads to serious health problems.
What can anxiety do to your body?
Someone with anxiety may have:
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Dizziness and/or light-headedness.
- A dry mouth.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Muscle tension and aches, including backache.
- Rapid breathing and/or shortness of breath.
- Trembling and/or twitching.
- Digestion problems.
- Artery disease.
- Heart attack.
- Stomach butterflies.
- Pins and needles.
- Sweating and/or hot flushes.
- Problematic teeth grinding, especially at night.
- Missed periods.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Fertility problems.
- Low sex drive.
- High blood pressure.
- High blood sugar.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Chest pains.
- Loss of appetite.
How else can anxiety affect someone’s life?
Someone suffering from anxiety may have difficulty with aspects of their life.
This includes such as simply taking good care of themselves or starting and maintaining relationships.
It can negatively impact getting or keeping a job or achieving at college. It may even lead to someone dropping out from their studies.
Anxiety limits or can stop somebody from taking part in hobbies. Many people with anxiety withdraw from their friends and families.
Sometimes anxiety sufferers attempt to mask it by such as trying to over-achieve, perfectionism or controlling behavior. These are unsustainable though. That sets up the person for increased anxiety.
It can prevent someone from trying new things or visiting new places. At its extreme a person might be too anxious about even leaving their house.
Many people try to seek relief through alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs, cigarette smoking or overeating. If someone who’s very anxious does not seek help, it can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
What relieves anxiety?
There are many things anyone can do to relieve anxiety. One of the first things is to look at the way they think.
Being too anxious is usually caused by the response to a situation rather than the actual situation.
It is always advantageous to learn how to focus on positive things – and not to focus on what seems to be lacking. As well to know that most things we are anxious about never even happen.
Also to relax with a book or some comedy, cut down or quit alcohol and drinks containing caffeine, and stop smoking.
Other anxiety-busters include getting to know the triggers and avoiding them, getting into an attitude of gratitude, keeping everything in the day, staying connected to loved ones (yet avoid too much social media and news), and yoga.
Some people find certain medication helps while for others learning to stick to a routine, not taking on too much, practising calm breathing techniques and ensuring a decent sleep works.
A couple of other not so obvious beneficial things to do are to make sure to be kind and of service to other people. Then spend time with animals, such as stroking a pet cat (or dog) as clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson suggests for Rule 12 in his bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
It’s highly likely that taking time out will be of immense benefit too.
Combine this with talking to a therapist who can help someone suffering to realize what thoughts and beliefs cause their anxiety. Then they can work with the person to lessen these.