July 31, 2013 by lauralovelock
Anxiety is a hard concept to define.
You may often use the word in your day to day life to describe how you are feeling about a situation.
‘I am anxious about this exam.’
‘This TV programme is making me anxious.’
But anxiety can become an altogether stronger and lingering feeling. Imagine feeling anxious as soon as you woke up in the morning but having no idea what it was you were feeling anxious about.
This is when anxiety is classed as a mental health problem.
Normally, this kind of anxiety is classed as GAD or ‘General Anxiety Disorder’. It manifests itself in both mental and physical ways.
Some of these symptoms may seem familiar to you:
– Feelings of dread
– Difficulty concentrating
– Easily distracted
– Pins & needles
– Muscle aches
– Shortness of breath
– Stomach ache
– Constipation/ diarrhea
– Dry mouth
Anxiety is a very draining condition. You are on edge constantly which is tiring for your poor body that always has excess adrenaline coursing through it and also for your mind which is unable to stay still and rest; it is always assessing the situation and looking out for dangers.
Back in the old days when we were cave men it was really handy to have an active ‘fight-flight’ response. This response is described as how you respond to a threatening situation. Do you fight the threat or do you run away from it? For example:
You are sitting with your family playing with a pile of rocks when you see a lion out of the corner of your eye. Suddenly your body tenses and your senses sharpen and your brain has to make the quick decision of whether you should stay where you are and start throwing rocks at the lion or whether you should quickly pick your family up and run into the safety of your cave. Your body needs to have the fight/flight response so that when you are in danger, you have the energy and speed to get out of the situation.
You may have experienced this before and have memories of how it felt to have your whole body on high alert. Luckily, once the threat has passed, the adrenaline levels start to return to normal and you can carry on the rest of the day in your cave without any problems.
But, what happens if your adrenaline doesn’t start to lower and you continue to remain on edge all day? Looking over your shoulder for another lion and not feeling able to relax in case something scary happens again and you need to make a fast getaway?
Then you have an anxiety disorder.
Luckily, in the modern world, we don’t have lions wandering the streets but our bodies still have that evolutionary mechanism in place to still protect us which can be extremely handy, but, likewise, it can also be unhelpful if your mechanism starts to perceive the environment around you as scary. This is how panic disorder and panic attacks can start…
Click here to read about Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder