What Is Anxiety?
- Anxiety can make you feel worried or scared.
- Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat or sweating.
- It is a normal human response to be anxious in certain situations. You may have an anxiety disorder if you feel anxious all or most of the time.
- You can recover from anxiety disorders.
- Treatment and support is available for you.
- Your doctor can offer you treatment. What you are given will depend on your symptoms and how severe they are.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
We all have feelings of anxiety, worry and fear sometimes. These can be normal responses to certain situations. For example, you might worry about a job interview, or about paying a bill on time. These feelings can give you an awareness of the risks and what you need to do in a difficult or dangerous situation. This reaction is known as ‘fight or flight.’
Your brain responds to a threat or danger by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Even if you have imagined the danger, these hormones cause the physical symptoms of anxiety. Once the threatening situation has stopped, your body will usually return to normal.
But if you have an anxiety disorder these feelings of fear and danger can be ongoing and interrupt your daily routine long after the threat has gone. They can make you feel like things are worse than they actually are.
Everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different. Not everyone who has an anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms.
Psychological symptoms of anxiety can include:
- racing thoughts,
- uncontrollable over thinking,
- difficulties concentrating,
- feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom’,
- feeling irritable,
- heightened alertness,
- problems with sleep,
- changes in appetite,
- wanting to escape from the situation you are in, and
(If you dissociate you might feel like you are not connected to your own body. Or like you are watching things happen around you, without feeling them.)
What causes anxiety disorders?
We don’t fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety.
- than others. You may get anxiety through your genes.
- Life experience. This could be bad experiences such as being bullied or losing a loved one. It could also include big changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.
- Drugs. Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs can also have an effect.
- Genetics. Some people seem to be born more anxious
- Circumstances. Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your anxiety.
Your GP will ask you questions about your symptoms, and might ask you to fill out a questionnaire. This will help them find out how anxious you feel in social situations. They may refer you to a mental health specialist on the NHS. Alternatively, find a local counsellor who can support you.