Anxious, Are We?

The dictionary defines anxiety as distress of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. It is also described as a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder. It is usually described as the feeling of uneasiness caused by anticipation of future events, be it planned or otherwise.

Everybody, at one point in their lives, has experienced some form of anxiety. Common events like an upcoming exam or thesis presentation; or when a loved one gets sick; or when you go to unfamiliar places — all these may cause you to feel fidgety and worried. However, extreme distress over the littlest things may be considered as a disorder and needs to be treated. Other symptoms of anxiety can include palpitations; shortness of breath; sweating; trembling; sense of choking; chest pain; nausea or stomach upsets; dizziness; numbness or tingling; and chills or hot flashes.

So what causes anxiety disorders? Scientists attribute it to a lot of factors, four of which are genetics, personality, brain chemistry, and environmental factors. Researchers theorise that family history contributes to a high likelihood of someone developing an anxiety disorder. If one was brought up around a household of worriers, the chances of a person growing up to be a worrier too will be very high. Personality plays a big part as well. People who have low self-regard and have poor coping skills are also likely to develop anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are associated with high levels of brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit impulses. An imbalance on certain neurotransmitters may alter the way the mind would react to different situations, leading to anxiety.

Any form of trauma or stressful situations such as abuse, accidents, or death may lead to anxiety disorders. Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. Anxiety levels heighten with constant exposure to extreme stress. Also, the constant use or sudden withdrawal from addictive substances like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine may also worsen anxiety.

Oftentimes, worrying too much leads to anxiety panic attacks. These are surges of overwhelming fear that come out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. It affects not only the way the brain functions, but it also triggers changes in our body’s major glands. The glands produce different kinds of stimulants and hormones double-time, flooding body cells simultaneously, causing the sufferer to feel the need to either run, get out, or hide. This is far worse than the regular anxiety that people feel when they’re stressed out as this is based on irrational fear.

Stress management may help prevent anxiety disorders from developing. One good way to manage stress is to improve your lifestyle. Get adequate amount of sleep, making sure that the body is well-rested after a full day’s work. Intake of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine containing products should be decreased as they would not help alleviate your stress, and may even aggravate your condition. Performing relaxation exercises will also help you during stressful times as it will relieve tense muscles. Last but not the least, don’t forget to take a breather. Relax. Anxiety is our body’s natural reaction to stress. It’s up to us if we let it take over our lives. To keep it short and simple, when you’re feeling anxious ñ stop, take a deep breath, count to ten, and relax.

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