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What is anxiety?


Anxiety is a feeling of unease. At some time, everyone will experience anxiety when faced with a stressful situation such as an exam or an interview, or during a worrying time such as illness. It's normal to feel anxious when facing something difficult or dangerous and mild anxiety can be a positive and useful experience. However, for one in 10 people in the UK, anxiety interferes with normal life. Excessive anxiety can sometimes be associated with other psychological problems, such as depression. Anxiety is only considered to be a psychological problem when it is prolonged, severe and is interfering with everyday activities.


What are the physical symptoms of anxiety?


When you're anxious, you may experience a range of physical symptoms. These symptoms occur because of the bodies' so called "fight or flight" response, which is caused by the release of the stress hormone adrenaline. The symptoms can include:


  • abdominal discomfort

  • diarrhea

  • dry mouth

  • rapid heartbeat or palpitations

  • tightness or pain in chest

  • shortness of breath

  • dizziness

  • frequent urination

  • difficulty swallowing

  • shaking Psychological symptoms can include:

  • insomnia

  • feeling worried or uneasy all the time

  • feeling tired

  • being irritable or quick to anger

  • an inability to concentrate

  • a fear that you are going "mad"

  • feeling unreal and not in control of your actions (depersonalisation), or detached from your surrounding (derealisation)


What are the causes of anxiety disorders?


Anxiety can occur as a result of 'life overload'.  When there is a culmination of a number of issues that come together this can sometimes trigger extreme anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety can also be a symptom of other psychological problems, such as depression or alcohol dependence. It can also be caused by substances such as ecstasy or caffeine, or by withdrawal from long-term drugs like tranquillizers. Sometimes anxiety can be associated with a physical illness, such as thyroid disorder. It is always important to consult your GP if you suffer from anxiety to rule out a physical cause.


There are various forms of reaction disorder anxiety;


Acute stress reaction


Acute means that the symptoms develop quickly, minutes or hours after the stressful event. This type of reaction typically happens after an unexpected life crisis such as bereavement. Sometimes symptoms occur before an event, such as an important exam. This is called situational anxiety. Symptoms usually settle fairly quickly and treatment may not be needed.


Adjustment reaction


This is similar to acute stress reaction, but the symptoms develop over days or weeks after a stressful situation, for example as a reaction to a divorce. Symptoms tend to improve over a few weeks or so.


Post Traumatisation Stress Disorder (PTSD)


This can happen after you experience or witness a traumatic event, such as a major accident or military combat. Anxiety, which may come and go, is only one of the symptoms. Others include recurring thoughts, memories, images, dreams or distressing "flashbacks" of the trauma. It's normal to react with anxiety to a frightening experience - the PTSD is only applied if symptoms persist. It may develop years after the triggering event. There are many ways to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, such as self help, through support groups, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, counselling and relaxation.

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