Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety is a natural sensation experienced by most of us and a valuable part of our defence mechanism. It alerts us to danger, preparing us to fight or flee. However, as explained elsewhere on this site, anxiety can manifest itself for reasons not appropriate to the situation, for example when a person has a phobia and as a consequence suffers unreasonable anxiety.
Symptoms include a thumping heart, sweating trembling among others.
Symptoms are triggered by the release of adrenaline and other hormones into the body’s system. Such chemicals are there to help us run faster, for example before a race or in a dangerous situation when it is imperative to escape as quickly as possible.
However the release of adrenaline is not helpful when anxiety occurs in situations which should not be deemed stressful.
It is a fact that an anxiety disorder is going to affect a person’s life to varying degrees – from being little more than inconvenient to being utterly debilitating – impinging on everyday activities or rendering the sufferer hardly able to function. Anxiety disorder is a common complaint suffered by about five per cent of the population at any one time.
People suffering such disorders will react to varying degrees and some will have more than one type of disorder.
There are three common types of reactions to stress:
● Acute. Acute stress reaction can erupt extremely quickly, within minutes or develop over just a few hours. It is usually a result of an unexpected crisis such as bereavement or other devastating news. There are occasions, though, when acute stress reaction is a symptom of situational anxiety, occurring for example before an important event such as an exam, or an important sporting event.
More often than not a sufferer calms down relatively quickly, though symptoms can persist for a number of days or weeks. In addition to anxiety, a sufferer might also experience an inability to sleep, irritability, poor concentration and a wish to left alone.
● Adjustment reaction. This is similar to acute stress reaction with symptoms appearing days or weeks following stressful circumstances such as a marriage split or a move to a new property. Symptoms can include depression but general improvement is usually expected over a period of perhaps a few days or weeks.
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is most usually associated with troops returning home from battle zones where they have experienced traumatic events. PTSD also affects people who have been subjected to a non-military but, nevertheless, horrific incident, such as exposure to assault or involvement in serious accident. People who witness such events without being directly involved are also prone to the disorder. Symptoms, of which anxiety is just one, are likely to last for far longer than a few weeks.
Flashbacks to the event, bad dreams and intrusive thoughts. It can be difficult for sufferers to speak about matters that spark memories of their ordeals. Sufferers might feel detached from reality and emotionally distant, unable to empathise with others and they might have difficulty in relationships. They might be irritable, have sleeping difficulties and be pessimistic and depressed.
Read more about PTSD.
This is a common complaint with anxiety arising from a fear of what other people think. As a consequence, sufferers try to avoid situations when they believe people might judge them. They become fearful of having to socialise or deal with strangers. Their anxiety makes them believe they are likely to appear foolish or inadequate in front of other people. Public speaking, for example, is likely to terrify such people.
There are many other phobias of a specific thing or situation. For example:
- Fear of confined spaces or of being trapped (claustrophobia).
- Fear of certain animals.
- Fear of injections.
- Fear of vomiting.
- Fear of being alone.
- Fear of choking.
Panic disorder is a term used to describe recurring panic attacks. It is usual that such attacks occur without warning and without apparent reason. The physical symptoms can be extreme including heart palpitations, trembling, chest pains, a gasping for air and dizziness. Attacks last five to 10 minutes and sometimes come in waves for an hour or two.
People with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) feel fearful and worried nearly every day. It is a long-term condition with anxiety occurring intermittently. Quite often the sufferer is unable to explain why he or she is anxious but it is most commonly concern over what might be considered quite trivial matters. Sufferers often find it hard to sleep well, are easily tired, feel tense and find concentrating difficult. To find more information on General anxiety disorder please click here.
Anxiety can be a symptom of depression. One symptom of depression can be anxiety as well as sleep difficulties, irritability, aching, poor appetite and a range of other complaints.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a term used to describe recurring obsessions, compulsions or both.
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or urges that keep returning causing anxiety or disgust. Common obsessions are fears about dirt, contamination, germs, disasters, violence, etc.
Compulsions are actions that the sufferer feels he or she needs to complete again and again. Repeated hand washing is a common example, which is a response to obsession about germs and dirt.