Living in an age of anxiety

Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common concern in the 21st century. In the UK, 19% of people suffer from depression and anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the ‘flight or fight’ response. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems arise when this response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or indeed is generated when there is no danger present.

The physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Dry mouth
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Nausea
  • Urge to pass urine/empty bowels
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Pins and needles

The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Inner tension
  • Agitation
  • Fear of losing control
  • Dread that something catastrophic is going to happen (such as blackout, seizure, heart attack or death)
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of detachment

According to Laura Whitehead, the partnerships manager of Anxiety UK, anxiety becomes a problem when it is disproportionate to the risk or obstacle that causes it. She advises observing when worry begins to interfere with daily life. “If you start to lose interest in what you would usually be doing, if you’re noticing physical pain or rapid heartbeat, if you’re finding excuses not to go places because you’re worried about certain things occurring …” The physical manifestations include trembling, headache, pins and needles, sweating, stomach ache, muscular pain, excessive tiredness or awakeness and a change in appetite.

These symptoms seem common enough for most people to claim a few. But begin to look for them and you might spur a hyper-vigilance which itself induces anxiety, causing more symptoms to present. It is east to see how anxiety spirals.

Anxiety is a normal emotion and as such is not something that can really be “cured”. In fact, there are many occasions where anxiety is helpful and useful. There are a number of techniques that can help you to control your feelings of anxiety and a combination of counselling, medication and self help strategies can help anybody affected by anxiety overcome their disorder and reach a point where they control their anxiety rather than the anxiety controlling them and affecting their quality of life.



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