You have a test tomorrow or a big presentation at work, and just thinking about it makes your heart race a little. It’s a little harder for you to get to sleep because you’re thinking about how this could affect your future. These are common sources of stress and anxiety.
When people talk about anxiety, they usually mention stress as well. Stress is a change of events that causes fear, nervousness or worry, which the body responds to in different ways, like a faster heart beat and sharper senses, according to the website, Helpguide.org.
Anxiety is defined similarly to stress. It is considered a reaction to stress, and it can be normal at manageable levels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. It is thought of as fear of future events, with physical reactions like sweating and tension, as well as doubting one’s capabilities to handle the future, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. An article on Medical News Today also states that “it feels a bit like fear but whereas we know what we are frightened of, we often don't know what we are anxious about.”
Anxiety can also progress into a disorder that can affect everyday life and functioning. Multiple anxiety disorder has five main types according to the NIMH website, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social phobia/social anxiety disorder. In general, anxiety disorders are defined as “an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations.” However, each disorder is individualized.
For example, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – IV –TR), social phobia or social anxiety disorder is characterized by “a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur,” along with more specific criteria. If a person is exposed to this situation, it “almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response,” even if people with this disorder know the fear is unreasonable or excessive.
An article on Helpguide.org states some general symptoms of anxiety disorders, including feeling tense, worried and on edge, feeling dread, being irritable and restless, having issues concentrating, planning for the worst to happen, having an upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, muscle tension, diarrhea, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy and sweating.
Some people with anxiety have panic attacks as well, which are episodes of extreme fear and anxiety, according to the article. If you have an anxiety or panic attack, you might feel like you’re losing control, have problems breathing, hyperventilate, have hot flashes, have a rapid heart beat and tremble.
Fortunately there are treatments available for anxiety disorders, including different therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, according to the article. There are also medications for anxiety disorders, and exercise and relaxation techniques can help as well.
Smith, Melinda; Segal, Robert and Segal, Jeanne. Understanding Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects. HelpGuide.org. Web. August 24, 2011. http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm
National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH – Anxiety Disorders. Web. August 24, 2011.
Merriam-Webster. Anxiety – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Web. August 24, 2011.
Nordqvist, Christian. What is Anxiety? What Causes Anxiety? What To Do About It. Medical News Today. Web. August 24, 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/7603.php
Smith, Melinda and Segal, Jeanne. Anxiety Attacks and Disorders: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment. Helpguide.org. Web. August 24, 2011. http://helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder: Fourth Edition: Text Revision. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Reviewed on August 25, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith