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Anxiety is a persistent feeling of stress, worry or fear.
It’s not the same as being a bit nervous or feeling worried about a one-off event. Nor is it about having an occasional moment of overwhelm. These feelings are a form of anxiety – but, they’re temporary and potentially motivating. Short bursts of occasional anxiousness, like when sitting an exam, are normal. It can be a useful form of stress that inspires or protects you from future harm.
Anxiety, as a mental health condition, is different though.
It’s when feeling stressed, worried or fearful predominates how you feel. It exists despite there being no threat or harm. The intensity of these feelings may vary throughout the day. But, a key factor of anxiety disorders is that feelings of unease are always there.
If you’re feeling stressed, worried or fearful most of the time, it’s possible that you have an anxiety disorder.
The 5 main categories of anxiety disorders are:
Involves persistent, excessive and potentially disabling worry about life in general. Anxious feelings could relate to work stress, family concerns, health problems, or all three. The worry feels uncontrollable and usually impacts daily activities and relationships.
It may relate to common situations like public speaking. But it can also be more obscure, like having a fear of your clothing being judged.
Involves an intense fear of a particular situation or object, e.g. spiders. A clear anxiety sign is that just the thought of this ‘thing’ is terrifying and that everything must be done to avoid it.
Occurs when anxious feelings become so uncontrollable and consuming that it triggers panic attacks. It involves internal distress and physical anxiety signs and symptoms. Shortness of breath, dizziness and heart palpitations are common.
Involves persistent, unwanted thoughts or fears. The patient often recognises their fear as silly, but still engages in extreme behaviours or rituals to feel better.
Psychologists specialise in helping people who feel anxious. During an appointment, they’ll ask you a series of questions and use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to assess, diagnose and categorise your condition. Naturopaths and Ayurvedic Practitioners can also help. They can recommend herbs, nutrients and dietary changes to support anxiety.
If you’re getting anxious just thinking about your anxiousness, that’s okay. In fact, it might help to know that Mental Health Day is observed every October. It’s when anyone who’s feeling anxious about any aspect of life is encouraged to seek help. It aims to destigmatise anxiety so that seeking support is easier.
Having anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed about. And it may help to know that many celebrities are dealing with anxiety disorders too.
Lady Gaga has spoken publicly about her battle with anxiety and depression.
Whoopi Goldberg is open about her phobia of flying. She used to hire a private bus to travel interstate, rather than book a plane ticket.
Each anxiety disorder is associated with different symptoms. However, the main symptoms of anxiety include:
Physical: shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, poor sleep, restlessness.
Psychological: Feelings of stress, worry or fear that won’t go away, obsessive thoughts.
Behavioural: Avoiding situations and items that cause anxiety. This often has a negative impact on work, school and/or social routines.
Mild anxiety is often treated using dietary and lifestyle changes. If this doesn’t help, or the anxiousness is extreme, the following treatments may help:
The cause of anxiety is different for each person. It often relates to many factors, including:
Here are some natural, drug-free ways to minimise anxiety signs:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can treat anxiety signs and symptoms. It involves working with a Psychologist to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Then, help strategies are designed to replace them.
Acupuncture can help lower anxiousness. It stimulates the release of feel-good hormones and lowers cortisol (stress) levels.
Herbs that support the nervous system can help lower anxiety levels, calm the body/mind and improve sleep. Popular choices include Passionflower, St John’s Wort, Chamomile and Lemonbalm.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, release tension and ground an overactive mind
Mindfulness Meditation can help you feel more calm, relaxed and clear of mind.
The following health experts can help treat, or manage, anxiety:
Here are 3 things you can do to support someone with anxiety:
Have a chat. Find a relaxing moment to chat with your friend, both about things that bring them joy and how they feel. This provides the opportunity to distract their busy mind. It also lets them know you’re there to listen and support them through their journey.
Be patient. Having an anxiety disorder can be physically and emotionally draining. Understanding anxiety means remaining patient if your friend:
Ask if they need help. Your friend may be screaming out for help internally, but be too embarrassed to ask for it. You could check if they need help finding an anxiety specialist, want an exercise buddy, or need some other kind of support.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety signs and symptoms include:
How do I cope with anxiety?
Is anxiety a mental illness?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders. It impacts approximately 30% of people at some point in their life.
Can I heal from anxiety?
It is possible to heal from anxiety if you get the support you need. Seeking help from a Psychologist is the best place to start. Then, you can consider natural therapies for supportive treatment. The best options include Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Acupuncture.