What is anxiety? It’s a feeling, a worry, that something isn’t right, or it may be a fear or panic that something bad is going to happen. Sometimes you may know what you’re worried about, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes there may be something that you identify as causing your worry—but anxiety is not always as it appears.
Of course, we all have had anxiety at one time or another. Anxiety can serve an important and useful purpose in our lives. If it’s working as you’d want it to, the feeling of anxiety is like one of your car’s warning lights. When you see a flashing warning light on your dashboard, you know you’re getting a signal that there is a problem that needs to be taken care of. Though it can be annoying for the light to come on, you’re probably glad to be able to take action, so that a little problem doesn’t turn into a big one.
Anxiety can be a signal, too. There may be something we need to take care of to protect our safety or well-being, and the anxiety will bring your attention to the matter so that you can do something. But what happens if you have no idea what the anxiety is trying to tell you? What if you take action to fix a problem, and the anxiety continues. This is when anxiety becomes the problem itself.
There are several different types of anxiety, e.g.,
- Fear about a particular situation,
- Fear of a specific thing (like spiders!),
- Fear of being observed,
- Fear of humiliation,
- Fear about nothing in particular, etc.
Anxiety also has a physical component. No only your mind but also your body can be affected. The anxiety may get so intense that you have a panic attack.
You might experience:
- Palpitations (heart pounding), or very fast heartbeat
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feelings of shortness of breath
- Feelings of choking
- Feeling nauseated, or other feelings of abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Fears of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Feelings of unreality or detachment
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flushes
You may also experience anxiety about being in places or situations in which escape might be difficult, or help might not be available. It can get so bad that a person won't be able to leave the house or be in a crowd, stand in line, be on a bridge, or travel in a bus, train, car, or airplane.
Fortunately, there is hope. It is usually possible to get help for relief from anxiety. Often through a combination of psychotherapy and medication treatment, most people are able to obtain relief. After an assessment to help pinpoint the cause, a plan of treatment for anxiety can be developed and begun.