What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural human response to a threat or fear. Most people will feel anxious at some point in their lives. When anxiety begins to affect a person’s everyday activities or day-to-day life, it is considered an anxiety disorder [4201]. There are several types of anxiety disorders. These include generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic disorder and panic disorder. With the correct treatment, people can recover from an anxiety disorder.

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Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most common forms of anxiety. A person suffering from GAD has trouble relaxing and controlling thoughts of worry and stress. This state of mind usually continues for many months [4203]. GAD may also cause a person to change their day-to-day activities based on their anxiety. People with GAD often do not realise that their worries are excessive or irrational. For example, a consistent worry of being attacked in the home, even though there has been no history or related event in the past and the house is secure.

People with GAD often exhibit symptoms such as [4201]:
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscular pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

Specific Phobia

Man adjusting tieCredit: Val Lawless from stockvault.netPhobias are another type of anxiety disorder. When exposed to or anticipating a certain situation or object, a person may feel intense anxious feelings indicating a phobia [4203]. A fear of social situations such as meetings or parties may indicate a social phobia. Claustrophobia is a well-known fear of small spaces. Feeling very fearful of dirt and germs can indicate mysophobia. Research suggests that women are twice as likely to experience a phobia at some point during their lives [4201].

When exposed to their trigger situation or object, a person with a specific phobia may have symptoms similar to a panic attack. These include [4203]:
  • A racing heart
  • Fear
  • Apprehension
  • Blushing
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feeling faint

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

People with Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) usually experience obsessions and compulsions. An obsession such as a fear of becoming sick from germs may lead to a compulsion of constantly washing hands and clothes. Performing these compulsive rituals may alleviate anxiety in the short-term, but is not a long-term solution [4201]. People with OCD sometimes hide their compulsions from family, friends and medical professionals because they know that their thoughts are irrational [4203].

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually occurs after a traumatic or stressful event in a person’s life. The person may have witnessed or experienced the event. People often feel stressed when affected by these types of events however if the symptoms continue to last, it may be an indicator of PTSD. As with most anxiety disorders, PTSD can affect factors in day-to-day life such as relationships, work, education and health [4203].

Flashbacks relating to the incident are a symptom of PTSD. Some people suffering from this type of anxiety disorder may have nightmares and be fatigued from broken sleep [4201]. Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating, irritability and avoiding trigger situations [4203].

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks describe a sudden burst of anxiousness. Experiencing more than four panic attacks in a month is considered to indicate a panic disorder. The affected person may also have anxiety about when their next attack will occur [4201]. Panic attacks often occur from feelings about the present such as a fear of approaching danger or being helpless [4203].


worry(103809)Credit: Val Lawless from stockvault.netWithout treatment, anxiety disorders can affect a person’s general health as well as their relationships with others. A doctor may suggest a visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist depending on the severity of the anxiety disorder. Specialist medical professionals can provide support and recovery strategies for anxiety. The professional works with the patient to change thought patterns that cause their anxiety [4201]. Sometimes medical supplements are necessary for treatment.

Thought management exercises can be beneficial in managing anxiety where a person is distressed by the thoughts they are having. A person can learn to distract themselves using positive thoughts, taking their focus off the negative thoughts in their mind. Coping statements such as “I have done this before and managed fine” can also be used to alleviate anxiety [4202].

Lifestyle factors may influence an anxiety disorder and as such, they can be changed to help the condition. Finding an enjoyable hobby can sometimes take your mind off the anxiety problems you experience. Exercise allows the body to release stress and can also help to clear the mind. Substances such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all have negative effects on the body relating to anxiety. Reducing the consumption of these substances may help the condition. If the anxiety is related to stress and a busy lifestyle, managing time and finding time to relax is absolutely necessary [4202].