Anxiety is a common problem. We all know the feeling of anxiety, the fear that something unpleasant is about to occur. Often it happens when we face difficult or new situations. Because it is so common, serious anxiety go unrecognised and so untreated. It can cause you a lot of distress, and, for some people, the anxiety can become so bad that it is disabling. This could be what has happened to someone who has anxiety when they are in social situations. Then you may have a panic attack. Panic attacks may happen seemingly out of the blue with no apparent reason, and if this happens you might feel as if your mind has gone totally out of control and you are going mad (which is not true).
When you have anxiety symptoms can be psychological or emotional or you might experience physical effects. We are all different, so can our symptoms be, although there will be common recognisable signs. Sadly anxiety has a way of mentally reinforcing itself because the physical symptoms, can be so distressing you may become even more anxious. These symptoms are a part of what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reflex and causes a surge of the chemical adrenaline which creates many of the sensations you experience. Sometimes we can ‘freeze’ as well, it’s all part of the same mind & body reaction. This is useful for protecting you against physical dangers. It is not so useful when there is no physical danger, but your body reacts in the same way to situations that you find mentally or emotionally threatening, or are anxious about. You can’t deal with these times by fighting or running away. Situations like this may include having a baby, or feeling you are being criticised, or looked at.
There is no single cause for anxiety. It might be that something distressing happened to you in the past. If you found then you couldn’t cope with your feelings, you may become anxious about meeting a similar situation again in case the same feelings of distress recur. Sadly this can cause you to stop doing things and you may start to close things and people out, which means your life becomes more and more limited.
So, if having anxiety varies from person to person, being helped needs to be planned individually. There are some common ways to help yourself that you might want to think about and perhaps try, to see if they suit you. Think about what things you like doing, are you a physical person in which case doing physical things may help, are you someone who would enjoy relaxation or meditation, do you enjoy listening to music or watching films? Whatever you choose to do, make sure you do it when you feeling ok. Starting when anxiety or panic is happening won’t work if you haven’t practised. One of the first and easiest things to do is breathing slowly, drawing your breath down so that your belly expands, then slowly letting it out. This reduces the surge of adrenaline which will be flooding your body. Do remember though, taking control of your anxiety can take time. There are many self help books you might find useful, or pamphlets from organisations like Mind. Don’t become disheartened if you are not instantly successful. You may be having an even more difficult time if your anxiety is mixed with depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For some this can show as intrusive thoughts that constantly loom in the forefront of your mind like a stuck record. If you have thoughts that concern you it will help you to discuss these with your doctor so that the right diagnosis can be made. That way you can be told about what might be the right therapy for you. There are a wide range of therapies, so don’t frighten yourself thinking there is only medication, that is one of many options. Nor should you worry that you will be sent into hospital for treatment. That is the most unlikely of all options. Mainly you will be offered talking therapies, sometimes with the offer of medication for a while, particularly if your anxiety is mixed with depression. Also you can look at complementary therapies as many of these have good effects on anxiety.
If you are suffering from anxiety hold on to the thought that no matter how awful things feel, people with anxiety can get better, and stay better. There may not be a magic wand, and it will take some effort on your part, however once you are in the frame of mind to make that effort you can be helped to change your life.