Everyone experiences anxiety at one point or the other of their life. Whether it is when you have an assignment due or make a presentation, stress causes anxiety. People of all ages from children to adults experience anxiety. It is usually in quite short term, that is, for a few minutes or days until the stressful scenario is over.
There are people for whom this feeling of dread and fear associated with anxiety is constant. It just never goes away. You may constantly feel overwhelmed by your emotions and thoughts. This can last for weeks, months, or even years. It can get so bad you are not able to go on with your day to day activities as the impending dread and fear has consumed you. If you can relate to this feeling, then you have an anxiety disorder.
What Causes Anxiety?
There is no one particular trigger or cause when it comes to anxiety. Doctors too haven’t been able to pinpoint a common source. People who experience traumatic experiences tend to be more susceptible to it. Your genetics play a huge role in determining how prone you will be to getting anxiety attacks. These attacks can also be symptoms of more serious physical illnesses.
Anxiety attacks can even occur multiple times one after the other. They can even be symptoms for other psychological disorders like bipolar disorder or depression.
Facts about Anxiety Disorder:
• Can occur at any age, mostly middle age.
• Women are 60% more likely to develop anxiety disorders than men.
• Stressful situations can cause anxiety disorders.
• Traumatic experiences as a child or adult can increase risk.
• Substance abuse history can increase risk.
Are You Anxious?
Everyone experiences anxiety. A normal experience of anxiety is usually connected to a stressor be it a person, event, place etc. But if you have an anxiety condition, you may tend to be abnormally affected by it.
The feeling of anxiousness is more constant and frequent. It does not have to be linked to a stressor. It can deeply impact your way of living life and daily activities. Here are a few signs that might be indicating that you may be exhibiting symptoms of anxiety.
- Having a feeling that there is danger approaching, or of dread, panic
- Feeling sense of tension, nervousness
- Heart rate increases
- Headaches or migraines
- Profuse sweating. That is not normal for you
- Constipation, diarrhoea or any other kind of gastro or digestive/intestinal problems
- Muscle ticks or twitches
- Hyperventilation, heavy breathing or difficulty in breathing
- Feeling tired, weak and lethargic
- Repeating certain behaviors
- Avoiding certain stressful situations.
- Feeling anxious about an incident of the past indicating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessing over ideas, objects, and activities. Exhibiting symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
- Lack of focus and obsessing over problems
When we talk about anxiety it is crucial to talk about panic attacks. A panic attack happens suddenly and is over within a few minutes. If you have had a panic attack you will know that feeling of extreme fear or feeling distraught in a way you can’t see a way out. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks have similar symptoms. Panic attacks have symptoms similar to that of heart disease, thyroid problem, breathing disorders and other illnesses.
So emergency rooms receive a lot of patients experiencing panic attacks as the patients tend to believe they are experiencing a life threatening situation or bodily change.
• Physical symptoms include hot and cold flushes, restlessness racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy, panic attacks.
• Psychological symptoms include extreme and excessive fear, worry, overthinking, or obsessive thinking.
• Behavioral symptoms include: avoiding stressful situations, people, places.
How does Anxiety affect you?
The symptoms of anxiety differ from person to person. But your body tends to act in a specific way as a reaction to anxiety. When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, your body becomes alerted ready to tackle any danger that comes away. This reaction of your body has certain other effects as well. These effects are described in detail below:
1.Flight or Fight Response:
You feel anxious as a part of your body’s response to stress. This releases a flood of chemicals and hormones into your system including cortisol norepinephrine and adrenaline. This helps boost your perception and reflexes. Your entire system shuts down preparing itself to fight any threat that is there. More oxygen is sent to the brain. Your body functioning becomes normal only after the threat passes.
2. Short Term and Long Term Effects:
The effects of anxiety vary. Anxiety tends to consume the person completely. In the short term, it can affect your daily functioning, work or school, relationships etc. During episodes, you may feel yourself losing control or “like you are going crazy”. Long-term effects usually occur with migraines, drug abuse, anorexia, bulimia etc. Many women tend to self-medicate with the help of drugs, alcohol, food etc.
3. Immune and Respiratory System:
If you are under continuous stress you prevent your body from getting a chance to rejuvenate and return to its normal state of functioning. This causes your immune system to become weak. You become more vulnerable to diseases and viral infections. Chronic Respiratory Diseases (COPD) are common for anxiety patients. They tend to visit hospitals more often. Vaccinations can be rendered useless or less effective because of this
4. Excretory and Digestive System:
Anxiety attacks also have an impact on your excretory and digestive system. There is some research conducted which indicate a link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anxiety after you have affected by it once. This can cause diarrhoea, vomiting or constipation.
5. Other Symptoms:
It can even bring down your primary instincts like the feeling of hunger or need for sex. You may experience muscle aches, headache, and sleep deprivation. There is a chance of developing depression if you are constantly anxious. Heart attacks, diabetes are common to anxiety patients. Fear of anxiety attacks increases your anxiety more.
6. Psychological Effect:
All of the above effects described are mainly dependent on one factor. Your psyche or psychological functioning. It all relies on your coping mechanism. It is vital to understand that it is not the stress or anxiety that makes you sick or feel out of control. It’s the response your body has to these feeling or stressors which can make you fall ill. There are a number of activities such as yoga and meditation that you can undertake to change the way your body responds.
If this blog helped you understand what anxiety does, then let us know in the comments below. If you have any tips that can be used to get rid of anxiety do let us know.