What You Need to Know About Anxiety (guest post)

by Caz Hannah, author of Mental Health 360° | October 21, 2020

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel anxious about sitting an exam or a job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal but some people find it harder to control their anxieties. Their anxiety is more constant and can often affect all areas of their daily lives.

Anxiety lets you know when you might be in danger, at risk or under threat – like a car hurtling towards you and you get a shock but manage to jump out of the way, quickly! However, anxiety disorders occur when our fears and perceptions of danger are greater than they need to be.

This next brief section comes from the NHS website, and is about one specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.

Symptoms of anxiety

GAD can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. These can also occur in all other anxiety disorders but for brevity, we’ll just talk about GAD. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:

  • feeling restless or worried
  • having lots of negative thoughts, feeling guilty, angry, or shame
  • having trouble concentrating or sleeping
  • dizziness or heart palpitations
  • feeling like you’re having a heart attack – if you suspect it’s a heart attack, seek urgent help
  • loss of humour, confidence
  • sweating, sticky palms
  • shaking
  • fidgeting or pacing
  • feeling faint or nauseous
  • feeling like you can’t breathe, choking
  • fingers or toes tingling (this happens when the blood runs from your extremities to your heart and muscles, where it’s needed to prepare for fight or flight

What causes anxiety disorder?

The jury’s out on this one. The exact cause is not fully understood, although it’s likely that a combination of several factors play a role. Research has suggested that these may include:

  • over-activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
  • an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • hereditary – you’re more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if you have a close blood relative with the condition
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying, and so on
  • a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis
  • having a history of drug or alcohol abuse

However, many people develop anxiety disorders for no apparent reason.

Who is affected by anxiety?

Absolutely anyone. You might’ve noticed someone constantly drumming their fingers or nervously tapping their foot annoyingly? Maybe you’ve seen that irritating CEO who constantly fidgets during meetings or spits out the nails she’s chewed on for the last half hour?

Anxiety in me

I’ve experienced mental health problems, including anxiety and I know how horrendous it feels. The dread when going to watch my sons’ swimming galas because of the steep seating area! I hated all those stairs looking over the pool and had a terrible fear of tumbling down them all. I’d start to sweat in fear, and my heart would be pounding through my heart and in my ears. It was the same in the cinema, those damn stairs, and in the dark!

Tube stations soon became a problem too; the further down the escalator went, the more anxious I got. I’d feel like I couldn’t breathe, my mouth was dry, my heart was bursting, and I imagined falling down all the stairs or stumbling blindly onto the train tack.

Vicious circle of stress and anxiety

See, the thing with an anxiety disorder is that once you’ve had a panic attack, you get anxious about being anxious. You only have to think about, let’s say, upcoming exams, and your anxiety levels shoot through the roof. And then it becomes a vicious circle of thoughts, feelings, behaviours.

You might think “I’m dreading these exams,” and you begin to feel anxious, afraid, or even angry, so you might choose to go out on a date instead of studying (behaviour). After this, you might think “I’m so stupid, I won’t pass them anyway,” and feel sad, alone, angry and so on.

It becomes a vicious cycle of worry, anxiety, fear, anger at self, inability to cope, avoidance, withdrawal — you get the picture.

Anxiety in men close to home

My two now-adult sons have experienced anxiety and a few panic attacks in the past. They’re both black belts in Karate, they’re club swimmers, they surf, attend the gym, and play football each week. So, although they both claim to be geeks in a science-type way, they’re not weedy or wussie; nor do they come across as lads who’d have anxiety.

Some family and friends were shocked, like “Wow, I didn’t think they’d have mental health problems.” Younger lads in the family or friends were encouraged by this and sought support themselves, with some having gone into talking therapy. They’ve all said they’re so glad they did.

So, what I’m really saying here guys is, it doesn’t mean you’re a weak person, anyone can experience anxiety. It doesn’t care where you’re from, what class, faith, creed, race, gender you belong to or what job you do.

As you might know, anxiety and depression are closely linked so if you have one, you’re more likely to be experiencing the other. You might also find that some form of agoraphobia, a fear of doing certain things, or going to certain places quite often occurs with anxiety.

How is anxiety disorder treated?

Anxiety disorders can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms. These include:

psychological therapies – you can get psychological therapies like cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS; you do not need a referral from a GP and you can refer yourself for psychological therapies service in your area

medicine – such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

lifestyle changes

With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels and lead normal lives. But some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.

Self-help for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

There are also many evidence-based activities you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as:

  • see some Tips to help with your anxiety and panic attacks here
  • attending a self-help course in person, or online
  • use muscle relaxation techniques. Try it now. Let your shoulders slump down from your ears, wiggle your neck side to side, unclench your jaw and give it a little wiggle. Uncross your legs and unclench your fists, lay your palms and fingers gently on your thighs and remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time. You can practice this on the bus, at work, at home, practically anywhere. Just make sure you do it regularly throughout the day and this will help to calm you down when you most need it. 
  • put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale long and slow through your mouth then slowly breathe the scent in through your nose.
  • try mindfulness or other forms of meditation.
  • exercise regularly or do something fun with family, friends or your partner.
  • go for a long walk, get in touch with nature.
  • try to stop smoking.
  • cut down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink
  • try some of the free mental health apps and tools online.
  • adjust your lifestyle to make it less busy, hectic, and rushed.
  • take part in activities that give you pleasure, make you feel competent, or give you a chance to take a break from other, more stressful activities.

Over to you

Of course, the above lists are not all-inclusive, and you’ll find loads more information online, in blogs, and so on. What do you think about anxiety, the effects and impact it has on our daily lives? I look forward to your thoughts and comments, and of course, I’ll answer any questions.


Published by andrea137

Content writer by day, masked and caped Super Lifestyle and wellness blogger by night, painter, author of short story erotica. Craves attention, loves to engage, all around creative

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