Anxiety is a common emotion, however, many find controlling these emotions to be difficult. Further assistance such as self-help, therapy and medications can help control the symptoms of anxiety disorders and reduce the likelihood of panic attacks. An estimated 5% of the UK experience anxiety and the number is higher for mental illnesses in general. Phobias, past events or certain situations can trigger anxiety but there are many ways you can combat feelings of fear, apprehension and nervousness.
Anxiety is often used as a term used to describe feelings of worry and nervousness. It is a highly common emotion to have, however, some are formally diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which is classed as a mental illness that can be treated with medications and/or self-help.
There are different strains of the disorders, the most extreme resulting in panic attacks and a continual worry that causes a decline in your standard of living. Whilst it is normal to feel anxious, if you feel your level of anxiety causes mental and physical symptoms that are impacting on your day-to-day life, it is important to seek advice and manage the triggers effectively.
With many levels, here we explain the stages of anxiety, symptoms and how you can treat any appending apprehension.
Mental disorders such as anxiety are increasingly common in the UK with the most common being a mix of anxiety and depression. According to Anxiety UK, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the impact of depression alone was twice as impactful on a person's life than any of the three common physical disorders (heart/angina conditions, asthma and diabetes). Furthermore, only 25% of those diagnosed will obtain treatment - that equates to approximately 8 million UK adults that don't seek any additional help with their mental disorder, which can often be necessary to improve their quality of living.
Whilst a significant number don't seek help for anxiety or other mental health illnesses, figures show anxiety diagnoses are on the rise. It is now estimated that 1 in 6 adults in the UK will experience a 'neurotic health problem'. With many not seeking treatment or diagnosis at all, this figure could be even higher.
Despite the stigma surrounding mental health, these barriers are becoming smaller with charities and NHS support offered, self-help options shared online and medications used to aid your everyday life.
There are many different levels of anxiety. This can make it difficult to establish what is a normal level of anxiety and what is more serious disorder. For example, it is normal for most to feel slightly nervous before a work presentation but if this is crippling fear and a panic attack, this could be a stage of the anxiety disorder.
To have generalised anxiety, you will find yourself worrying about most or any aspects of your life. These worries are often completely irrational and unfounded.
To combat any apprehension about work, family life, money or health, GAD sufferers tend to be quite withdrawn and always think about the worst scenario of any event.
Generalised anxiety is just that, there is no particular cause of the anxiety, but you may find you have certain triggers and Jsituations that can result in intense worry. This could be the commute to work, falling ill or a family occasion.
Experiencing a panic attack can be an unnerving experience. Rather than a continual development of anxiety, a panic attack is an intense build-up of emotion that can develop quickly after a particular experience, or as a result of a lot of stress over time. Depending on the severity of the attack, the comedown of such a high level of emotion can be a number of hours.
Symptoms of panic attacks include shaking anywhere over the body, dizziness, breathlessness, nervousness and nausea. You may also feel confusion. The trigger of a panic attack will vary with each individual.
Phobias are classed as a form of anxiety. They produce similar symptoms such as fear, nervousness and apprehension, often derived from an unnecessary fear.
Whilst phobias are classed as "irrational" or "unnecessary", having an intense fear of a particular animal, object or situation is something nearly everyone can relate to.
Being agoraphobia is often categorised separately to phobias when discussing anxiety as it is the fear of scenarios that you cannot escape.
For example, avoiding phobias is a prevention for anxiety if that happens to be a trigger for the individual, but for agoraphobia, this is seldom an option unless the quality of life is severely affected. For agoraphobics, this can range from a fear of wide-open spaces, or in contrast small crowded public spaces. In both scenarios, this is not 100% unavoidable.
This strain of the anxiety disorder is classified as a fear of judgement from your peers, especially when linked to impulsive actions. The result of social anxiety fear includes common phrasing you will recognise such as "stage fright", the fear of public embarrassment (public speaking, tripping over) and even a fear of intimacy. This can lead to you withdrawing from social events and limiting human contact.
Whilst extroverts can be perceived as more outgoing, social anxiety can affect both introverts and extroverts.
OCD is a common condition affecting approximately 12 people out of every 1,000 in the UK according to OCDUK. It is stereotyped as an issue with cleanliness, however in reality, it can manifest in many forms not related to tidiness and cleaning; just because an individual is tidy does not mean they have an OCD.
Having an OCD is, again, classed as irrational and can involve the following:
Post-traumatic stress is often simple to diagnose in comparison to other anxiety disorders as it manifests through a traumatic event. Whilst during the World Wars, this was relatively unknown, further studies have established that military combat, hostage situations and other life-changing accidents (vehicle incidents for example) can result in PTSD. PTSD is often linked to flashbacks of the traumatic event.
The general symptoms of anxiety are listed below. PTSD has a number of other symptoms in addition:
This strain of anxiety can be linked with children, especially babies and toddlers, that are fully dependable on their parents. This can continue throughout life. Whilst it's associated with families, you can experience separation anxiety of certain places. This is linked to feeling secure and safe.
If you relate with any of the stages of anxiety listed below - as well as any symptoms included on this page - and haven't contacted your doctor to discuss your options, this can be the first step to combating anxiety.
The causes of anxiety can depend on the strain of anxiety you have. For generalised anxiety disorder, it can be more difficult than other forms to pinpoint. Discovering the causes of your anxiety is important when preventing panic attacks and symptoms. It can also be out of your control, especially if anxiety runs in the family or is a trigger directly from the brain.
These can be split into genetics, biochemical (so a chemical issue in the brain) and a result of an event or situation.
Anxiety when triggered by the environment doesn't necessarily mean it is caused by a natural disaster or changes in the air (a lack of oxygen, for example). This can be the following:
Like many mental illnesses, anxiety can be linked to direct family and genetics.
Studies have been conducted to discover a link with anxiety and neurotransmitters. If the neurotransmitters aren't functioning correctly, the communication falters, breaks down and anxiety is more likely.
Medical factors such as medications and other illnesses can trigger anxiety. This also includes pulmonary embolism or a lack of oxygen, side effects of a medication or other symptoms of certain conditions.
There is not much research to suggest that alcohol alone can cause anxiety, however, it can certainly worsen the condition if you already have it. Alcohol also works as a depressive so if you are one of many with a combination of depression and anxiety, this can certainly worsen the condition.
Drug abuse can worsen any condition including mental illnesses. In addition, recreational drug abuse such as cocaine, amphetamines and heroin are also highly detrimental.
Prescription drugs and medications can be detrimental to mental illnesses. This includes Vicodin, barbiturates and some benzodiazepines.
If you are diagnosed with anxiety, you will have had excessive symptoms of anxiety (detailed just below) of a high intensity. This will be present for a few months and you will find the symptoms difficult to control.
Bouts of nervousness differ from being diagnosed with anxiety and other linked mental health illnesses. If you continually experience worry, nervousness or fear, this can be a sign of anxiety as a disorder, especially if it is linked to particular events or activities listed above.
If you wish to speak to a medical professional about anxiety, you can firstly book an appointment with your GP. As they are not strictly mental health professionals, your doctor can refer you to a relevant individual such as a physiatrist. It's important to remember that many cases of mental health illnesses don't necessarily require a physiatrist and there are options offered beforehand such as self-help, group counselling, medications and NHS/charity support.
Upon booking your initial appointment, your doctor may ask you the following:
Diagnosing levels of anxiety can be difficult as everyone experiences this emotion. The key is to recognise the frequency and severity of nervousness. If you find yourself highly concerned about any apprehension you feel, visiting a doctor to pinpoint triggers and the strain of anxiety can help to treat the condition.
Feeling anxious is somewhat different to being diagnosed with anxiety. Whilst we all experience nervousness, fear and apprehension every now and then, anxiety also includes the following symptoms:
Treating anxiety should always be taken seriously. There are prescription medications available, self-help options and counselling. Depending on the type of your anxiety and severity of symptoms, you will be advised appropriate treatment by your doctor.
Identifying and managing anxiety triggers is an initial treatment option. It is often used in conjunction with medications and counselling. Self-help methods for anxiety include:
Using prescription medications to combat anxiety and other mental illnesses is common and extremely helpful. As there is sometimes a stigma when using antidepressants, tricyclics, beta-blockers and benzodiazepines, further acceptance is needed. It is perfectly acceptable to use tablets to manage a mental illness in the same way as physical conditions such as inhalers, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, for example.
Anxiety medications must be used on a continual daily basis, even if you're not experiencing symptoms of the condition. They can significantly improve the standard of living.
There are many options including group therapy sessions, one-to-one therapy and charities you can ring 24/7.
CBT can be highly effective. Its aim is to focus these feelings of anxiety towards certain situations, people and objects and challenges you to change your behaviour.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy works in two ways to pinpoint anxiety. Firstly, the cognitive aspect helps you identify warped emotions regarding your trigger(s) whilst the behavioural aspect focuses on changing the way you respond and react. The good thing about cognitive-behavioural therapy is that it makes you confront the triggers of anxiety instead of hiding or masking them.
If you're interested in CBT, you can talk to your GP and ask for a referral to a therapist. It may take a few sessions. Anxiety should always be treated if you are displaying the symptoms and are struggling to cope with them.
To prevent further anxiety, there are some technique and lifestyle improvements that can end up making a big difference.
Sometimes self-help and prevention alone doesn't make a significant improvement. Counselling and therapy sessions are always on-hand through the NHS or privately. Charities also offer confidential and free calls any time of the day should you need to talk. In addition, using medication are clinically proven for many types of anxiety.
Anxiety is triggered in the brain so any long-lasting feelings of extreme anxiety, or severe bouts of anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your health in the long-term. As fear and stress isn't appropriately filtered, these triggers in the brain can stretch to other areas. The traditional structure of the brain can alter and affect you in other ways.
Continued stress can weaken your immune system by preventing a quick response to other illnesses. This is due to the lessened production of a chemical called cytokines that is used to rally cells together to fight an infection. This is also the reason why stress, a lack of sleep and worry can trigger acne outbreaks, cold and flu viruses and bouts of genital herpes too.
When you are stressed, this can affect your digestive system resulting in stomachaches and quite likely diarrhoea. The quicken of the heartbeat can lead to chronic heart conditions such as high blood pressure and heart attacks. Stress teamed with the lack of exercise, sleep and healthy diet can lead to weight gain.
Prolonged anxiety causes muscle spasms and aches around the body that can result in migraines.