Anxiety

We all feel anxious sometimes and anxiety is a healthy, normal human emotion.  Anxiety is our alarm system and keeps us alert for dangers that may be around us.  However, this “alarm system” can sometimes become out of control and many people start to feel anxious or nervous for no real good reason.  It may not make sense to them why they can not control their anxiety, and although they are often told and tell themselves that their fears appear unrealistic, they cannot turn off the feelings and thoughts associated with anxiety and worry.

Some of the feelings associated with anxiety are:

  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Tense muscles (stomach, jaw, hands etc.)
  • Pounding heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Shakiness
  • General unease or dread
  • Unreal feelings or ‘depersonalisation’
  • Irritability and tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nightmares
  • Sexual Problems

 

Generally, when we talk about anxiety that is out of the person’s control, the two general types of thinking the person is experiencing are:

  1. An over estimation of the likelihood of negative events occurring; and,
  2. An over estimation of how bad an event will be

 

Depending on the type of anxiety (see below), these over estimations will be about different things. For example, in social anxiety, people over estimate the likelihood of others judging them negatively and/or over estimate how bad certain outcomes in social settings will be (e.g. stumbling over a word during a conversation, not knowing someone at a party etc.)  So, as you can probably see, anxiety involves the normal human “alarm system” going into over-drive and setting off many “false alarms”, causing the sufferer much personal anguish as they perceive danger where there often is none.

Types of anxiety include:

Generalised Anxiety: involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about a number of different areas, such as school, work, friends, health, family, world events. People with this problem are often considered “worriers” and report that they have been this way for a long time.  It is often accompanied by muscle tension, headaches, sleep difficulties, among other physical symptoms.

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder: Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear which are often accompanied by a range of distressing physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart, dizziness, sweating, among others.  The person may fear that they are dying or are about to lose control and “go crazy”.  Panic disorder is when these attacks occur frequently and the person develops a fear of them reoccurring, causing considerable distress and interference for the sufferer.

Agoraphobia: is anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing if an individual has a panic attack.  It usually leads to avoidance of certain places and situations.

Social Anxiety: involves fears about how we are perceived by other people.  Most of us worry from time to time about how we appear to others and whether we are liked, but with social anxiety disorder, this fear is extreme and causes marked distress during interactions with other people.  Sufferers may avoid social and/or performance situations (e.g. speech making) or will endure these situations with much distress.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): is a type of anxiety disorder that involves obsessions (repetitive unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (behaviours or rituals that are very difficult to stop doing.)  Compulsions often involve the belief that the repetitive act must be completed or something bad will happen.  Compulsions thus reduce anxiety in the short term, but often need to be repeated several times, interfering in the sufferers’ day to day life. Examples of obsessions include: the fear of contamination/germs/dirt, fear of harming others, intrusive sexual images or thoughts, religious or moral intrusions, and fears of illness/harm (amongst others.) Examples of compulsions include: repetitive washing (hands or items) ordering, counting, repeating actions or phrases and hoarding (amongst others.)

Claustrophobia: involves the fear of being in enclosed or confined spaces.  Sufferers may fear having a panic attack, or experience panic in situations such as lifts or other enclosed spaces.

Insomnia: can include difficulty falling asleep (initial insomnia) staying asleep (middle insomnia) or waking too early and an inability to get back to sleep (late insomnia.) Some people suffer all three. Sleep difficulties which are chronic can lead to much distress for sufferers and become a difficult cycle to break free from. Unfortunately, many sufferers decide to use medications or other drugs and/or alcohol which often worsen the problem. There are many causes of insomnia, some of which include stress and anxiety, depression, lifestyle factors (drugs, alcohol, lack of exercise etc.)

Hypochondriasis: involves a fear of becoming seriously ill.  Sufferers often become preoccupied with scanning their body for signs of impending illness, and because of this, often believe that benign bodily symptoms, such as random aches or pains, are signs of something much more serious. They DO NOT make up symptoms as has been portrayed in popular culture, but truly believe that may be suffering from some serious condition. Frequent visits to the doctor may be a sign of this condition, particularly if the doctor reassures the person that there is nothing wrong with them, however the sufferer finds this hard to believe.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): is a type of anxiety disorder which follows a traumatic incident, in which the person felt their life or integrity was at threat (e.g. rape, assault, car accidents, natural disasters etc) or they witnessed an event in which this was the case. Sometimes sufferers only need hear about a traumatic incident to suffer from this condition. Symptoms include; not being able to get the event out of their mind (“reliving it” via flashbacks and intrusive thoughts/images), poor sleep and nightmares, feeling depressed, anxious or irritable, avoiding reminders of the event, using drugs and/or alcohol to block out memories of the event.

Specific Phobia: as the name suggests, this involves an intense fear of some specific object (e.g. spiders) or situations (e.g. flying). These objects and situations are often avoided or endured with marked distress. If in the situation or presence of the object, sufferers will report experiencing panic attacks or other debilitating anxiety symptoms.

For help with anxiety or to find out whether you need assistance due to your anxiety, please contact our clinic and speak with our Principal who can help you to understand what has been bothering you.