Anxiety is basically another word for fear and is something that we all live with in our daily lives. Fear is another word for the thoughts and feeling we have that something we value is being threatened.
Anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. Humans never would have survived without it. Anxiety makes us listen more keenly when we hear a strange noise and tells us to check the traffic before we cross the road. The problem with modern day anxiety is that it can become overly sensitive and people can worry excessively about things at home, at work, relationships, money, how we look, whether we will ever be loved, how to loose weight, that promotion and so on ………
The mind looks for problems and solves them and will always find a problem that needs attention. That is what the mind does.
Problems with anxiety occur when the fear grows out of proportion and starts dictating behaviour. Major life events (like natural disasters, experiencing violence) can trigger anxiety. An Acute Stress reaction to extreme levels of anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress may develop in response to major life events.
More commonly, Anxiety disorders come about slowly and develop over time. The slow development makes anxiety difficult to gauge and people often present for treatment further down the track when they realise that their anxiety is creating problems for them in their everyday lives. Many people seeing a Psychologist for anxiety issues present with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which is, as the name implies, an anxiety that is generalised to many areas of life and is or has been causing problems. People suffering from Generalised Anxiety have trouble shaking their concerns and tend to worry all the time about every day stuff.
Fears can become irrational over time and the things people do to avoid anxiety can actually make matters worse. For example, an aspect of Social Phobia is the fear of being humiliated in public so people suffering from this disorder will avoid social events and can often end up being isolated. When someone suffering Social Phobia goes out they can be so crippled by anxiety they may panic and draw attention to them selves through their overly anxious behaviour.
There are also many specific phobias that develop about certain things like the fear of public speaking and fear of spiders for example. These fears may or may not be problematic. Most people are scared of snakes because many are poisonous and fear of public speaking is not a problem for most. However, fear of public speaking would be an issue if work success depended on presentations you regularly needed to make to your colleagues.
Panic occurs when someone becomes scared of their anxiety and experiences intense symptoms that feel like they are having a heart attack. Tight chest, racing pulse and sweating all signal that there is something to be feared so the body prepares to fight or run away. The increase in physical arousal increases worry about the anxiety and feedback loop increases with intensity. Some people develop elaborate rituals to contain their anxiety and these people can sometimes be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
A skilled Psychologist can help teach skills and strategies to deal with the symptoms of anxiety and reduce the impact that it has on everyday life. Dealing more effectively with anxiety is empowering and having greater control boosts confidence to deal with whatever challenges life presents.
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