Anxiety is a common experience and it’s a normal experience. We tend to feel anxious when we are faced with a threat. It’s actually an important mechanism, because anxiety prepares our body to manage the threat and to either fight or flight. Anxiety sometimes can persist and be disabling. And if this persists, the normal anxiety experience becomes an anxiety disorder. Now, depending on what the anxiety manifests as, there are different kinds of disorders. The most common is called generalized anxiety disorder, which happens in about six in 100 people. It’s characterized by a sense of general anxiety, free-floating anxiety, a sense of unease and apprehension, and can be quite disabling to function in daily life. The other kind is called panic disorders, where people can feel an extreme surge in anxiety. So, they experience an acute spike and severe anxiety characterized by psychological and physical symptoms. They might feel that the world is about to end or they’re about to die and it can be quite hard to manage that. In my clinical practice, when I explore anxiety disorders, sometimes they lead back to a traumatic point in the person’s history.
That condition is called PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. People can also have avoidance of things which remind them of the trauma. And they can also be hyper-aware of situations.
Anxiety can manifest in different ways. So, two people having anxiety disorders can have two different experiences. Generally speaking, we can think about symptoms in two broad categories. First of all, there’s psychological symptoms, which include feeling anxious, feeling nervous, a sense of apprehension and unease. There are also a set of physical symptoms, which are mainly due to adrenaline, which is increased in a body at times of anxiety. The physical symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, dry mouth and nausea.
It can affect home life, it can affect work and relationships, and also it can affect productivity. Now, sometimes anxiety stems from a past traumatic event.
For instance, people can have flashbacks and nightmares of the traumatic event and can also avoid triggers which remind them of the trauma. In addition, people can feel hyper-anxious and hyper-vigilant, which means that they’re more aware of what’s going on around them and they’re easily startled by small sounds.
In my clinical practice, I find that there can be an overlap between depression and anxiety. Like I’ve said before, anxiety can manifest in different ways, and the overlap with depression can make it harder to manage. It’s important to remember that depression is not the same as feeling sad.
It’s a clinical disorder. It’s characterized by feeling low in mood, not being able to enjoy things, and feeling easily fatigued.
In addition, if the depression can prolong and persist, people start having difficulties with their relationships and productivity.
These include a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, and pessimism. People can also experience a sense of guilt and the world can look a lot bleaker and more pessimistic. It’s not uncommon for people with depression to experience thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Anxiety is treatable. A good assessment will focus on your individual symptoms. It will also look at what is really going on. For example, is it just anxiety or is there depression along with anxiety, or is something else going on.
And also, sometimes you can learn to use certain substances or alcohol to manage anxiety, and this can actually make things worse. So, the first step is to have a good clinical assessment. There are some general strategies that can be used to manage anxiety. I recommend that people with anxiety try and manage their stress levels and try and manage work/life balance. A good diet and regular exercise can also help. In addition, maintaining a good sleep routine and
avoiding tablets and computers at night can help, and also, having good social contact and good relationships can help.
So, a specialist would recommend these strategies, and I will touch upon briefly, first of all, the psychological techniques. Based on your individual set of symptoms, there are a number of different models of psychological therapy. CBT, also called cognitive behavioral therapy has got good evidence for anxiety and depression. It works on challenging negative thoughts and implementing certain behavioral changes to manage physical and cognitive symptoms.