What is Anxiety
Anxiety is an uncomfortable word to say, yet it is a common emotion that almost everyone will feel at some time in their lives. The human body releases a flood of emotions as its natural response to a stressful situation. Anxiety disorders begin to be discussed when these overwhelming emotions last longer than six months and begin to negatively affect an individual's life. Feeling anxious before a big job interview, the first day of school, or at the altar of marriage are all situations in which the body can respond with anxiety.
How Common is Anxiety Globally?
Mood disorders are very popular in the population, and anxiety is fast becoming one of the most treated disorders globally. In the United States alone, anxiety affects about 18% of the population. In the United Kingdom, about 1 in every ten people will eventually be diagnosed with anxiety. Globally, the number of people leaving with anxiety is fast increasing even in Asia and Africa. Anxiety impairs the normal daily activity and productivity level of many people. In severe cases, there might be a diagnosis of cognitive impairment as oxidative stress damages the patients' neuronal cells. Whether negative or positive, people living with anxiety have trouble sleeping at night without interruptions and sudden awakenings. The feeling of fear and worry can also stop others from living a normal life.
Anxiety: Positive or Negative
Many medical associations refer to two types of anxiety: common and disorder. Both of these labels can feel overwhelming and scary. Unfortunately, it took many years of my own therapy appointment to realize that my anxiety is not always fear-based despite having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety, even as a word, often brings a negative feeling. While anxiety is the body's natural response to stress, the stress does not have to come from a negative source. Situations can be anxiety-inducing, even while being a positive event. A marriage day can be one of anxiety but with no negative connotation. Common anxiety and anxiety disorders can be broken down with similar internal feelings. The difference is how long and how interfering the symptoms are between episodes.
Common anxiety is also misleading in the idea that it has individuals believe that what they are feeling and going through should be something to "just handle it" themselves. Many times individuals with an anxiety disorder will struggle until something dramatic happens, thinking that what is happening is "normal." Anxiety does have a list of symptoms that are true for both common and anxiety disorders. Symptoms include, but are not limited to;
- Breathing rapidly
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense.
- Increased heart rate
- Avoiding things
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Feeling weak or tired.
These symptoms are not limited to what is listed; each person has a combination of different symptoms.
Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by a health professional and should be taken seriously. If you think that you are someone you know is experiencing anxiety for six months or longer, and it is affecting daily life, talk to a health professional. Types of anxiety disorders include, but are not limited to:
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
How Does Anxiety Start in Patients?
Whenever it is diagnosed, anxiety sometimes presents as a case that requires prolonged medical supervision. A mental health therapist might be needed to routinely conduct evaluations and report on clinical outcomes for the patient. Most patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression have a long history of stress or trauma. In the United States, it is estimated that about 18% of the population has a diagnosed form of anxiety disorder. In third world countries, especially in Asia and Africa, the burden of anxiety and depression is higher. In many patients, the exact causes of anxiety might be unknown. In itself, anxiety has multiple risk factors that can ultimately contribute to its onset in many people. For now, the most widely studied causes of stress and anxiety disorders in humans are centred around different hypotheses on molecular dysfunction, genetic predisposition, and early life exposure to risk factors.
Many studies suggest that an abnormality in the normal function of the endocannabinoid signalling can also contribute to the onset of anxiety in many people. Another most studied cause of anxiety is focused on environmental. Many times, when people suddenly change their lifestyle patterns, there can be a proportionate disruption in the mental health index. Once the mental health is negatively affected, the affected individual can present with some forms of emotional disturbances that are diagnosed as an onset of anxiety. The symptoms, as already stated, are numerous but are, however, not peculiar to individuals. A mental health professional might be required to assess the patient and make an accurate diagnosis.
The onset of anxiety has been linked with a complex interplay between the brain functions and the sensory systems on the molecular level. The brain is naturally trained to evaluate stress sensations and respond with a series of reactions that change the body's normal metabolic rate. Research evidence also suggests that a complex interaction between the limbic system and the hypothalamic paraventricular system leads to the release of the stress hormone. Currently, there are many theories explaining the onset and progression of anxiety in people, and the cause of anxiety can be very different in many people. However, the symptoms observed in anxiety patients, as needed for a correct diagnosis, are largely similar in nature.
Anxiety and Self-Care
Anxiety, even the everyday stressors, can be debilitating and should always be taken seriously. As your best advocate, yourself, you know your body best. Even when I believed my anxiety was something to push through, I did know that something did not feel right before my diagnosis. As individuals, we should take more time to listen to what the body is trying to say. Using self-care techniques can make your world seem a little less overwhelming. Calming or comforting edibles, such as chocolate or teas, can be reliable for the end of the day and before bedtime routine. For others, such as I, the anxiety hits hardest at night. I will lay in bed, ruminating over my worries and fears. A night time relaxing tea and a warm bath can often help these feelings coming so strong. In reality, anxiety makes people feel as if they are not in control, an unwanted thought itself. Learning mindfulness techniques and planning a self-care routine will help with anxiety.
Quality of Sleep
Many people with anxiety have a poor history of sleep. Nigh time sleep in many patients is short and interrupted with awakenings at different sleep cycle periods. In other patients, the disruption in sleep has even caused a confirmed diagnosis of insomnia. While asleep at night, a patient with anxiety might start thinking about the fears and worries associated with a past event or with the next day. This observation happens in many anxiety patients. In fact, one of the diagnostic criteria for anxiety in the patient is to assess the frequency of sleep disruptions, if any, and to assess the overall quality of the sleep cycle. In older patients, anxiety symptoms are almost always linked with poor sleep quality and sleep interruptions.
If not properly managed, these symptoms can significantly reduce the patient's quality of life and negatively affect many organ systems in the body.
Cognition in Anxiety
People with anxiety can become emotionally disturbed. Sometimes, if trauma contributes to the onset of anxiety, these patients can become deeply attached to the event to the extent that they think about it every time. This affects the cognitive ability of these patients. Also, there is much research evidence suggesting that oxidative stress can contribute to anxiety and depression disorders. If left unchecked, oxidative stress can damage neuronal cells and other functional cells of the central nervous system. Once oxidative stress causes damages to neuronal cells, patients with anxiety might find it hard to perfect a complete task that demands a normal cognitive ability.
Anxiety Treatment Goals
In all anxiety treatment schedules, the therapy goals are generally to reduce symptom frequency and improve the overall quality of life of the patient. In modern medicine, anxiety patients are normally placed on drugs, including benzodiazepines, anxiolytics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. These drugs are effective. However, they are not completely safe for these patients. In many cases, too, some patients might not tolerate these drugs as the side effects can be complex.
Please note that this article is an opinion formed from research but does not offer medical advice. If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety symptoms, you always recommend that you visit a healthcare professional.
Anxiety is not something to just push through and hopes it goes away. It is real and overwhelming. Some anxiety stems from the trauma that may not be remembered at first or stem from an everyday worry. Understanding and getting help can assist you in figuring out the root cause of your anxiety. You are not your anxiety, and your anxiety does not define you. Be the best version of yourself.
Please note that this article is based on opinions derived from research. It does not offer medical advice. Any questions or concerns about your health need to be discussed with a healthcare provider.