We may experience anxiety when we attend a job interview, do something new or when confronted with something we are scared of. While anxiety is an emotion that we all experience, for some, anxiety is felt at an intensity and duration that significantly impacts their life at a sufficient severity to be considered an anxiety disorder.
There are many types of anxiety disorders including phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety disorders vary depending on what is feared and how one responds to the anxiety. Anxiety disorders are associated with the experience of fear and anxiety which disrupts day-to-day functioning.
Taking note of anxiety symptoms and other signs of anxiety is the first step in understanding how to deal with anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety include a combination of physical, thinking and behavioural signs including:
|– Difficulty breathing
|– Increased muscle tension and muscle aches
|– Pounding heart (palpitations)
||– Repeated negative thoughts or excessive worrying
|– Nausea or abdominal discomfort
||– Intense fear
|– Trembling or shaking
||– Sense of helplessness or impending doom
|– Dizziness or light-headedness
||– Avoidance of feared situations
Risk Factors for Anxiety
There is no single cause for anxiety. Anxiety is caused by a variety of factors. These include:
- Genetic factors: anxiety is more common for people who have a family history of anxiety
- Personal factors: there are certain types of people that may be more vulnerable to anxiety, for example, those who tend to worry, are perfectionists, shy or have low self-esteem are more prone to anxiety
- Biochemical factors: for some people anxiety is related to an imbalance in brain chemistry
- Life Events: experiencing challenging life events like the loss of a loved one may contribute to anxiety
How to Deal with Anxiety
Like managing any emotional response, we can all improve our skills and learn more effective ways of dealing with anxiety. Strategies to managing anxiety include:
- Becoming aware of what makes you anxious
- Learning and practising breathing and relaxation techniques
- Challenge negative or unhelpful thinking
- Engaging in meaningful and pleasant activities
- Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet
Managing anxiety is most effective when we have strong social support. Friends and family play an invaluable role in providing support to those who are trying to manage anxiety.
While some people may benefit from self-help strategies, for others managing their anxiety may require the help and support of a mental health professional. Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment, particularly if identified and treated early.
Treatment and Support for Anxiety
Psychological treatments, particularly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, are extremely effective in treating anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy focuses on teaching people how to challenge patterns of unhelpful thinking that contribute to intense anxiety. It also helps people respond more effectively to anxiety provoking situations. Psychological treatments can assist with developing a range of skills to identify and manage emotions more effectively, including anxiety.
In some cases, medications such as benzodiazepines and anti-depressants may be required to support treatment. Medication may assist to better control symptoms, particularly early in treatment when people are still starting to develop their personal skills to manage anxiety.
Seeking Anxiety Treatment
There are many treatments and support options available for people who may be feeling anxious. If you, or someone close to you, is having difficulties dealing with anxiety, seek help early by consulting your family doctor or refer to the Find Help – Services for Mental Health Support directory.