Anxiety: Symptoms, Disorders, Treatment & Self-Care
It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, particularly during times of stress and pressure. Maybe you have an exam coming up or perhaps you have a job interview tomorrow – these types of situations can make someone feel anxious or nervous, and that’s normal. However, there are those who suffer from anxiety disorders or mental health conditions, whereby their feelings of anxiety can take over daily life and it can be a struggle to get on with day-to-day tasks. If anxiety is affecting your life in this way, then it’s important to firstly, acknowledge this, and then consider seeking out the right support and treatment, as well as finding ways of taking care of yourself and your mind.
What is Anxiety?
At its core, “anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”, which essentially means that it is a natural bodily response to stressful and/or scary situations – something that we will have all experienced at some point in our lives. Feeling anxious isn’t always necessarily a bad thing i.e., this feeling can signal that something’s wrong, which can keep us safe and out of danger.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The mental and physical symptoms of anxiety may vary for each individual as people will experience it differently. For some, the symptoms may be mild and short-lived, whereas for others the symptoms may be more severe, and some may even experience panic attacks.
Symptoms of anxiety can include any of the following:
- Feeling restless/worried/nervous
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Inability to focus
- Inability to sleep
- Inability to relax
- Increased heart rate/heart palpitations
- Stomach problems
- Pins and needles
- Teeth grinding
- Intrusive thoughts
- Obsessive thoughts
- Panic attacks
An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition whereby these feelings of anxiety and fear tend to be constant, persistent, and at times, debilitating. The anxiety doesn’t go away, and it significantly affects your day-to-day life. The anxious feeling will tend to stem from irritational and/or unreasonable thoughts, that probably wouldn’t affect someone else (who doesn’t suffer from an anxiety disorder) in the same way.
There are different types of anxiety disorders. For example:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- This is a condition that involves constantly feeling anxious and worrying about many and/or different aspects of everyday life. These worries are usually uncontrollable, excessive, and irrational.
- This is when you regularly have panic attacks or feel anxious randomly and/or for no clear reason.
Social Anxiety Disorder
- This is an anxiety disorder that is linked to feelings of fear and anxiousness surrounding social situations.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- OCD is a cycle that involves obsessive thoughts, that are typically unwanted and intrusive, and repetitive compulsive behaviours that are done in an attempt to relieve the feelings of anxiety stemming from the obsessive thoughts.
- There are many different types of phobias – this is when specific situations or objects induce extreme feelings of fear and anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- This is an anxiety disorder that may develop after having experienced something traumatic or scary in life.
Treatment for anxiety will depend on the severity of the condition, but if it is significantly affecting your day-to-day life and you feel constantly distressed, then it's important to speak to someone about it and see your GP, who will be able to offer diagnosis and treatment.
Treatments for anxiety disorders may include:
- Psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) typically involves talking to a specially trained therapist about your anxieties, thoughts, and feelings, so that they can help you cope with your anxiety better.
- Your doctor may prescribe you medication to help ease the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety. E.g., Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which is a type of antidepressant.
Whilst it’s important to receive the right treatment, it’s also important to make an active effort to take care of yourself, and find ways of coping with anxiety that work for you.
Here are some tips for self-care that may help you cope with your anxiety better:
- Speak to someone that you trust about your worries and anxiety
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake
- Stress management techniques e.g., meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Try an online anxiety self-help guide
- Grounding techniques
Grounding techniques can help you in times of anxiety attacks as they redirect your focus away from your anxious thoughts. Here’s 1 that you could try:
- Name 5 things you can see
- Name 4 things you can feel
- Name 3 things you can hear
- Name 2 things you can smell
- Name 1 thing you can taste