Anxiety is defined as:
A state of uneasiness, apprehension; as about future uncertainties, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning. In other words, anxiety occurs when we behave (think and act) in an apprehensive manner, such as when worrying about an event or situation.
With this in mind, anxiety is not a force or ‘thing’ in itself. It’s a state of uneasiness that results when we worry. More about this in a moment. Because imagining the future in an apprehensive manner is a behavior, it’s not caused by a biological, chemical, or genetic problem with the brain. Anxiety results from a certain style of behavior.
What Is Anxiety Disorder
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This is normal. This is why anxiety is not a medical, biological, chemical, or genetic problem. Anxiety turns into a ‘disorder’ – disruption to normal functioning – when anxiety and its sensations and symptoms interfere with a normal lifestyle.
It’s important to keep in mind that anxiety disorder should NOT be equated with a medical condition or serious mental illness (when there is a medical, biological, chemical, or genetic cause). While you may have or have been diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, this means you have overly anxious behaviors (tendencies). It doesn’t mean you are somehow mentally deficient or have something medically, biologically, chemically, or genetically wrong.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can have both psychological and physical symptoms. Psychological symptoms can include:
- feeling worried or uneasy a lot of the time
- having difficulty sleeping, which makes you feel tired
- not being able to concentrate
- being irritable
- being extra alert
- feeling on edge or not being able to relax
- needing frequent reassurance from other people
- feeling tearful
When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These cause the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating.
Physical symptoms can include:
- a pounding heartbeat
- breathing faster
- palpitations (an irregular heartbeat)
- feeling sick
- chest pains
- loss of appetite
- feeling faint
- needing the toilet more frequently
- “butterflies” in your tummy
Anxiety can also be a symptom of another condition, such as panic disorder (when you have panic attacks) or post-traumatic stress disorder, which is caused by frightening or distressing events.
Is anxiety bad for you?
A little anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety may cause more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension). You may also be more likely to develop infections. If you’re feeling anxious all the time, or it’s affecting your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.
Help for anxiety and panic
There are effective treatments available for anxiety and panic disorders, so do talk to your GP if you think you may benefit from them.