What Is Anxiety?

November 3, 2006 9:56pm CST
Anxiety is a complex combination of negative emotions that includes fear, apprehension and worry, and is often accompanied by physical sensations such as palpitations, nausea, chest pain and/or shortness of breath. Anxiety is often described as having cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. The cognitive component entails expectation of a diffuse and uncertain danger. Somatically the body prepares the organism to deal with threat (known as an emergency reaction); blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, bloodflow to the major muscle groups is increased, and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited. Externally, somatic signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and pupillary dilation. Emotionally, anxiety causes a sense of dread or panic and physically causes nausea, and chills. Behaviorally, both voluntary and involuntary behaviors may arise directed at escaping or avoiding the source of anxiety. These behaviors are frequent and often maladaptive, being most extreme in anxiety disorders. However, anxiety is not always pathological or maladaptive: it is a common emotion along with fear, anger, sadness, and happiness, and it has a very important function in relation to survival. When anxiety becomes overwhelming and interferes with your daily life, it is not normal. Anxiety can cause both physical and emotional symptoms. Physical Symptoms Trembling Twitching Shaking Lightheadedness Dizziness Feeling of fullness in the throat Feeling of fullness in the chest Muscle tension Muscle aches Restlessness Fatigue Insomnia Breathlessness Rapid heartbeat Cold, clammy hands Emotional Symptoms Feeling keyed up Feeling on edge Excessive worrying Fear that something bad is going to happen Poor concentration Irritability Agitation Constant sadness Phobias and panic disorders are two common anxiety-related disorders. Phobias are irrational, involuntary fears of common places, objects or situations. Panic disorders occur during a panic attach include chest pain, feelings of choking or suffocation, nausea, shaking , sweating, pounding heart and dizziness or faintness. Self-care, often combined with professional treatment, can be effective in managing anxiety. Home Treatment Recognize and accept your anxiety about specific fears or situations then try to deal with it. Relieve tension with vigorous exercixe or massage. Practice relaxation. Get enough rest. Avoid alcohol. Avoid caffeine. Avoid chocolate. Avoid nicotine. Get out and do something you enjoy. Plan your day. Having too much or too little to do can make you more anxious. Keep a record of your symptoms. Discuss your fears with a good friend or clergy. Get involved in social groups. Volunteer to help others. When To Call A Physician If you are seriously considering harming yourself. If you are seriously considering harming another. If anxiety interferes with your daily activities. If you have sudden, severe attacks of fear or anxiety with intense physical symptoms. If intense, irrational fears of common places, objects or situations interfere with your daily life. If symptoms of anxiety are still severe after 1 week of home treatment. If you suffer from nightmares. If you have flashbacks to traumatic events. If you are unable to feel certain about things (like did I turn stove off) no matter how many times you check. If repetitive actions that you cannot control interfere with your daily activities.
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