can take many forms. It is usually experienced as worry,
stress, tension, panic or fear. It may occur in response
to a specific situation or for no apparent reason at all.
it normal to be anxious sometimes?
People normally go through physical and psychological changes
when they perceive a threat. Physically, the heart may pound,
the pulse race, the pupils dilate and the blood flow to muscle
groups that are involved in warding off or fleeing from danger.
Psychologically, people may feel tense, restless, irritable,
on edge, or extra alert. Thoughts may race or repeat themselves
over and over. These are aspects of the "fight or flight" mechanism
that helps us cope with crisis situations.
is anxiety a problem?
symptoms become a problem when people experience them in
the absence of an obvious threat, or when the reaction is
far in excess of what seems justified by its cause. People
should consider seeking treatment for anxiety when it is
frequent, intense or prolonged, or when it interferes with
their daily functioning and enjoyment of life.
are the symptoms of anxiety?
takes different forms, each with its own characteristic
set of symptoms.
attacks are episodes of sudden, overwhelming fear
accompanied by intense physical symptoms such as a
pounding heart, chest pains, nausea, shortness of breath,
dizzyness or faintness. People may feel like they're
having a heart attack or dying. Usually, the symptoms
begin to subside after about ten minutes, but there
is often a lingering fear of having another attack.
- Phobias are
intense, debilitating fears of things that pose little
or no danger. Almost anything can be the object of a
phobia. Some common ones are fear of heights, fear of
flying, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of leaving the
house, fear of small animals, fear of meeting new people,
fear of public speaking, etc.
and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive, unpleasant
thoughts or images that a person "just can't get
out of his mind." Compulsions are a powerful need
to engage in ritualized, irrational behaviors. The
two often go together. For example, a person may be
obsessed with worries about germs or dirt, so they
wash their hands compulsively, over and over.
stress is a response to a violent or frightening
incident, usually one in which the individual experiences
overwhelming feelings of helplessness or fear. The
incident may have happened directly to the person
or they may have witnessed it happening to others.
Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress are frequent
flashbacks to the incident, feelings of emotional
numbness and detachment from other people, sleep
disruption and frightening dreams, irritability and
hyper-alertness. The symptoms may appear shortly
after the incident or long after the incident is
anxiety. Sometimes people suffer from a prolonged
period (about six months) of anxiety and worry that
they find difficult to control. During this time they
may be frequently tense, restless or irritable. They
may have difficulty concentrating and their sleep may
be disturbed. The anxiety might be about one thing
or, more frequently, a number of different things.
is the treatment for anxiety problems?
treatments for the various anxiety problems tend to be quite
specific, and differ depending on the problem. The links
at the bottom of this page will provide more information
on various treatments. In the case of severe anxiety, some
combination of medication and therapy is usually indicated.
For less severe problems, therapy alone may be sufficient.
Relaxation, visualization and meditation exercises can play
an important role both in the treatment of anxiety and in
preventing it from recurring once the symptoms have subsided.
I feel anxious, what can I do to help myself?
anxiety should be treated by a mental health professional,
but there are a number things people can do to help themselves
cope with stress and strain:
Yourself. Catch up on your reading, go to a movie
or go out with friends. Keep yourself busy with constructive
activities. Spend less time alone.
Exercise. If you are in normally good health,
aerobic exercise such as running, biking or taking
a brisk walk can be very helpful. It releases endorphins,
the body's natural relaxants.
a Yoga Class. Yoga is particularly good exercise
for coming back to your center and calming the mind.
Take a meditation class or learn a simple meditation
from a book. Start slowly. Just five or ten minutes a
day can help.
a Body Scan. Sit comfortably in a chair or lie
on the floor. Scan your body slowly from the tip of
your toes to the top of your head. As you scan, tense
then relax each part of your body, starting with the
toes and ending with the top of you scalp. Following
the scan, imagine all the tension in your body draining
down through the floor and into the earth.
Throughout the day, pause and take one good deep breath.
Enjoy the feeling of the air filling your lungs. Picture
the tension leaving your body as you gently exhale. This
can be particularly helpful just before and just after
you engage in a stressful activity.
a List. Write down the things that are worrying
you. Number them in order, from the most bothersome
to the least. Notice how each item makes you feel in
your body, just notice, without trying to change it.
Then, for each item, ask yourself whether the worry
is reasonable or not. If the answer is "no",
quietly note the fact without judging yourself or trying
to get rid of the worry. If the answer is "yes," write
down some things you can do to address the situation.
a Tension Drain. Following a stressful situation,
touch your hand to the wall and visualize the tension
flowing out through your hand and down into the earth,
as if it were electricity grounding itself.
Yourself Sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping,
try drinking a glass of warm milk about one-half hour
before going to bed. But don't get hung up on sleep.
If your mind won't calm down, get up and do something
constructive or enjoyable, then go back to bed when
you feel tired. For prolonged sleep disturbance, get
again, if you have intense, persistent or prolonged anxiety,
consult a mental health professional.
Institute of Mental Health - Anxiety
Association of America