What is Anxiety?
There are many ways you can describe the feeling of anxiety:
- "being wired"
- "feeling uptight"
They all describe the same experience, of apprehension, agitation, and uncertainty that appears when we feel threatened, in danger, or out of control. When we are afraid of something we know what it is. When we are anxious, however, we often don't know why. We sense that something is wrong or about to go wrong, but we don't even know what it is.
Anxiety, like all emotions, has both physical and psychological features. Physical reactions include:
- msucle tension
- increased heart rate
- higher blood pressure
- changes in breathing rate
- decreased appetite
- sometimes dry mouth
- and diarrhea
If anxiety persists these symptoms can get worse and lead to more severe illnesses.
Psychological characteristics of anxiety include:
- feelings of helplessness
- decreased attention span
- a constant need of reassurance
Anxious people are often "on the alert" and are very sensitive to any situation that could be dangerous or threatening. Sometimes there is insecurity, reluctance to try anything new, and even a fear of leaving home or going to work.
Why do we get anxious?
Anxiety is very common, so there can be many causes. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was happening in my life before the anxiety began?
- When did I first notice the anxiety?
- Is there any sinful behavior in my life that might be related to this anxiety?
- Is there anything about my neighborhood, home, work, school or some other place where people might be making me feel threatened, worried or tense?
- Do I ever experience intense panic for no apparent reason?
- How do others respond to my anxiety?
- Am I getting exercise, rest, and a balanced diet (without too much caffeine)?
Other related problems
People who suffer from anxiety may also experience phobias or feelings of terror, dread or panic when confronted with the feared object, situation or activity. Social phobia is a fear of a situation in which you can be watched by other people, like when eating in public or giving a speech. Simple phobia is the fear of specific objects or situations that cause terror, like the fear of snakes or the fear of closed spaces. Agoraphobia is the fear of being alone or in a public place that has no escape route like a crowded store or a public bus.
Panic disorders are related to anxiety in that you may experience intense, overwhelming terror for no apparent reason. The fear is accompanied by at least four of the following symptoms:
- feelings of things around you being unreal
- tingling of the arms and legs
- fear of losing control, dying, or going crazy
- chest discomfort
- shortness of breath
- choking or smothering feelings
- hot or cold flashes
- heart palpitations
Sometimes people experiencing panic attacks for the first time rush to the hospital convinced they are having a heart attack.
Obsessive-compulsive disorders involve the repetitious performance of some type of ritualistic act such as repeatedly cleaning the house to rid the environment of all germs or repeated checking of doors to insure that you locked the house after you have gone out. These behaviors are chronic and become severely limiting to your daily functioning.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur in anyone who has survived a severe and unusual physical or emotional trauma. People who are war veterans, survived a life-threatening crime or who witnessed a natural disaster involving deaths all might suffer from this illness. People who experience PTSD may reexperience the event that traumatized them through: nightmares, flashbacks from the event, emotional numbness, excessive alertness to real or imagined dangers, highly sensitive startle reaction, general anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, lack of sleep, survivor's guilt, and poor memory.
What can you do about it?
Any of the anxiety and related disorders can be successfully treated through counseling and medication. This emotional problem is very amenable to treatment in a relatively short period of time. The counselor will discuss with you the patterns of the anxiety symptoms and the things in your life that might trigger them. Once you have understood the basis for the anxiety different methods such as relaxation therapy can be learned to manage the symptoms. The goal of such treatment is to help you cope with these problems and find greater peace and serenity. Contact Campus Counseling Services for help with these problems.
Check our additional resources on anxiety