What is Anxiety?

Anxiety in simple words may mean ‘to be anxious’ or ‘to worry’ about an uncertain thing. In ‘Anxiety’ the cause may be unknown; for example the case of a student who is appearing for his exams and is nervous as to how the question paper will be, easy or tough. Anxiety refers to a feeling of unrealistic fear, feeling of uneasiness or worry, which is generally not specific in nature. When a person is always unnecessarily worrying and feeling anxious for unknown reasons and this state of mind is always there, then it can be termed as ‘ANXIETY’.

How are Fear and Anxiety different?

Fear and Anxiety are two different feelings, and the basis is as follows:

Fear is a definite feeling of threat from an identified source. Whereas Anxiety is vague and not definite in nature and the source is also not indentified.

Fear is temporary in nature; in the sense that as long as the ‘fear’ inducing element is present the fear is there, but Anxiety is a general feeling that is always there for no specific reason.

Fear is known and can be overcome if the fear causing element is successfully eliminated whereas, Anxiety is unknown and caused by many things.  The wiping away of one source will not relieve you of Anxiety; in fact some other element can create a feeling of Anxiety.

What are the causes of Anxiety?

There are many causes of Anxiety. Some of them may include, long term stress, hereditary factors, chemical imbalance in the brain, unfamiliar surroundings and environment and trauma and accidents.

What are the symptoms in Anxiety and why is it called a Disorder?

Normally, every person experiences certain emotional disturbances in life and it is normal. But when the same behavior becomes aggressive and starts to affect and interfere with daily routine, then it can be called an Anxiety Disorder. In Anxiety Disorder, a person may feel the following behavioral changes:

  • Feeling of panic, fear and uneasiness
  • Uncontrollable thoughts
  • Repeated flashback of traumatic experiences of the past
  • Difficulty in sleeping and nightmares
  • Repeatedly washing hands over and over again
  • Sweating of the palms and perspiring on the forehead
  • Nausea, stomach ache, muscle pain
  • Palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Inability to stay calm
  • Dry mouth and feeling of numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • Dizziness


What are the different types of anxiety disorder?

The different types of Anxiety Disorders are:

  1. Panic Attack:Symptoms include sweating, chest pain, irregular heartbeats [palpitations], choking and a feeling akin to having a ‘heart attack’.

  2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD]:People with OCD suffer from a constant feeling of fear of just about anything and that makes them perform certain ‘act or rituals’ again and again; like fear of germs and bacteria, forcing them to wash their hands repeatedly. The obsession is the ‘thought’ and the compulsion is the ‘act’.

  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]:This condition usually follows a physical attack or sexual abuse with assault or a terrifying or traumatic event like death of a loved one or any natural calamity. People having this Disorder have frightening thoughts about the event and become emotionally insensitive.

  4. Social Anxiety Disorder:Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia essentially involves a overwhelming feeling about being judged, ridiculed and criticized by others and is about self consciousness in a social gathering and feeling about avoiding ‘embarrassment’.

  5. Specific Phobia: This is an intense fear about a specific object or activity like fear of [phobia] heights, water, flying, darkness etc.

  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder:Can be about anything and not related to a particular event. The worry and Anxiety may be unreal, even if there are no factors that are likely to trigger such a behavior.


How is Anxiety Disorder diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Anxiety normally falls under the purview of your General Practitioner. He may ask you questions about your behavior and family history and any stressful situations that may trigger Anxiety or give you reason to be anxious and worry. As there are no specific tests to determine Anxiety and its causes, the doctor may look for any underlying physical illnesses. In the absence of any physical illness, the doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist and mental health professional that are trained to deal with mental diseases. Such experts have a method of assessing the mental behavior by evaluating the symptoms, intensity and duration of such behavior.

The expert will determine the extent to which the person’s daily life is affected and then he will determine whether the symptoms and degree of dysfunction indicate a case of Anxiety Disorder.

What is the line of treatment for Anxiety?

Much progress has been made in the field of medicine for the treatment of mental illnesses including Anxiety. Though the exact nature of the Disorder will determine the treatment, a combination of medication and therapies is the suggested course. Treatment may include:

  • Medication and drugs

  • Psychotherapyis a type of counseling in which the emotional and disturbing issues of the patient are addressed by the trained professional. Mostly by talking to the patient and developing a strategy for understanding and dealing with the type of Disorder.

  • Cognitive Behavioral therapy in which the patient participates is where they learn to recognize and change their pattern of thinking and behavior which leads to worries and troublesome thinking.

  • Healthy lifestyle and balanced Diet goes a long way in maintaining the mental health.

  • Habit to Relax: Relaxation and Meditation helps a lot in curbing Anxiety Disorders.


How common is Anxiety Disorder? How can it be prevented?

Anxiety affects millions of people the world over, including men, women and children alike, but women are the most likely to be affected. Children are also affected, largely due to intense competition in their studies and exams. Physical assault and sexual abuse at an early age can also result in this type of Disorder. Separation of parents, change of familiar surroundings, new school, all affect children for a duration of time but slowly disappear with the passage of time.

Anxiety Disorders cannot be prevented, but it can be minimized by the following:

  • By reducing the intake of coffee, tea, colas and energy drinks which contain caffeine which can trigger Anxiety.
  • Avoid taking certain medicines which contain chemicals that may produce Anxiety symptoms.
  • Counseling and support after a disturbing event or trauma.


A perfect example of Anxiety Disorder conquered?

Michael Jackson or the King of Pop as he is famously known suffered from social Anxiety Disorder. Difficult to believe, isn’t it? But it is true.

Michael was born into an African American working class family comprising of 10 children. MJ was the eighth child and had a troubled relation with his father who regularly beat him as a boy. MJ also faced physical and emotional abuse in his childhood, during rehearsals attended by his father who had a band. MJ would cry in loneliness and feel nauseated on seeing his father who would taunt him for his physical appearance, but at the same time credited his father with his strict upbringing for his success!

MJ was very conscious of his appearance and suffered from anorexia nervosa as well as Social Anxiety Disorder but went on to become the King of Pop and entertain his fans with unmatched music .His popularity is unmatched and even after his death Michael still rules.

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