Anxiety is the feeling of fear and worry we all experience when faced with threatening or difficult situations. But if we start to respond irrationally to things or the anxiety doesn't go away, sometimes it could be the anxiety itself which is the problem. When these feelings become too strong, they can stop us from doing the things we want and affect our whole lives.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety commonly involves physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include a pounding heart, sweating, knots in the stomach, fatigue, insomnia, shaking, hot flushes, muscle tension, dry mouth, feeling sick and tension headaches.
In addition to the basic symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include trouble concentrating, irritability, anticipating the worst and thinking that you may lose control and/or go "mad". Sometimes individuals may experience episodes of severe anxiety referred to as panic attacks.
The most common behavioural symptom especially in those who suffer panic attacks is avoidance.
Can anxiety be treated?
There are many things you can do to reduce your anxiety to a more manageable level. Treatment options will depend on what condition you have, and how severely you are affected but often include a mix of medication and talking therapies. Facing up to the cause of your anxiety will ultimately reduce the cycle of fear.
A variety of medications, including benzodiazepines, beta blockers and antidepressants, can be used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. They are usually only used short-term to relieve severe anxiety symptoms whilst other forms of therapy are pursued.
Benzodiazepines work by affecting the way certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) transmit messages to certain brain cells. In effect, they decrease the excitability of many brain cells which has a calming effect on various functions of the brain.
Beta blockers are usually used to treat high blood pressure but can be used, in low doses, to control the physical shaking of anxiety.
Antidepressants work well but can to start off result in side-effects thereby causing one to feel a bit more anxious. The benefit though being that these medicines can be taken safely for longer periods.
Counseling & Therapy.
Talking through your problems with a counsellor may help you to understand and control your anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps to challenge negative thoughts, feelings and behaviour and is particularly suitable if you have problems such as phobias or panic attacks.
Exposure therapy which encourages you to confront your fears in a safe, controlled environment is also commonly used for anxiety disorders. Through repeated exposures to the feared object or situation, either in your imagination or in reality, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.
Group therapy and Day Care.
It can be easier to talk to people with similar problems in a group, they understand what you are going through and may be able to suggest ways of coping. Day care group therapy focusses on learning about the root causes of anxiety and how it is affecting you and how best to cope with the condition, using, for example, behavioral techniques. Additional individual therapy sessions can also supplement these sessions to facilitate recovery.
In Patient Care.
Sometimes anxiety can be so severe that patients benefit from regular, intense treatment in a caring environment. Here patients have access to daily treatment which can include both medications and talking therapies to help the individual achieve a less anxious and more functional mood state.
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