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What is Anxiety?


Anxiety is a survival instinct that has evolved over millions of years in order to protect us. It is a series of reflexes and responses that affect our mind and body as we become pepared to avoid or deal with dangerous situations.


How anxiety works.

... Imagine you're lying on a beach. It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze wafting over your body. Sounds of nature fill the air as you chat and laugh with family and friends. You are surrounded by people that you love and respect and who love and respect you. You feel warm, contented and happy, totally relaxed, anxiety-free.

Now imagine a very different scene. It's the dead of night, you are walking alone down a dimly-lit alley. There are doorways on either side – who knows what's hiding in them, waiting to pounce?

You are scared, your senses are heightened. Your sight and hearing have become more sensitive, able to pinpoint the slightest movement or sound. Your breathing and heartbeat have become more rapid, you feel light-headed and dizzy, want to go to the toilet or throw up, your limbs feel shaky and your whole body is now charged with energy, full of anxiety, ready to fight or flee, possibly for your life.


These two scenes represent either end of the anxiety scale. In the first we feel warm, secure and safe, we are fully relaxed. In the second we are really anxious, prepared for danger – highly alert and scared.


Anxiety protects us in 2 main ways:-

blue button It helps to prepare our body for action, making us more alert and ready to fight or flee from any imminent threat to our survival. This is responsible for the direct physical sensations (such as rapid heartbeat, fast breathing, being jittery and on-edge, trembling etc.) that we feel when anxious. In real danger we can go from being totally relaxed to extremely anxious in an instant which is panic.

This aspect of anxiety forms the basis of problems such as general nervousness, social phobias (in fact, almost all phobias) and panic disorder.

blue button It causes us to plan ahead for any potential dangers and how to deal with them – an excellent survival strategy (it's better to deal with a danger or avoid it before we get into the situation) but an unfortunate effect of this is that we can get anxious / nervous just thinking about situations.

A main ingredient in many anxiety problems, this relates to symptoms such as excessive and obsessive thinking, planning and worrying. It underlies anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and also plays a major role in severe depression.


The preparation to avoid danger completely or deal with it by fighting or fleeing gives rise to a multitude of symptoms.


Symptoms Caused by Anxiety

Anxiety can cause a large range of symptoms that affect our body, mind and behaviour.

Body:

point Our heartbeat speeds up and breathing becomes faster and more shallow. This
   may lead to feelings of tightness across the chest.
point We start to feel shaky, dizzy and light-headed; our legs feel like jelly and we often
   start to sweat.
point The mouth feels dry and it becomes hard to swallow.
point We might feel sick, our stomach churning.
point And need the toilet more often.            The reasongo

Physical anxiety symptoms and the fight-or-flight response


Mind:

point We may feel frightened (for no apparent reason) and begin to worry about things
   more and more.
point Or start to believe that we are physically ill, having a heart attack or sroke, or
   going mad.
point We may feel that other people are looking at us more.
point And worry that we may lose control or make a fool of ourselves in front of others.
point Often there is an overwhelming urge to escape and get to a safe place.


Behaviour:

Depending on what we find stressful...

point We may begin to make excuses to avoid going out or doing certain things.
point And rush out of places or situations where we feel anxious.
point Often we start to avoid things and situations that make us feel anxious.
point And may have a drink or take a tablet before doing something we find stressful.


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Everybody has anxiety; it is a part of being alive. Although we may not realise it, it is with us all at varying strengths throughout our lives:-

point Without anxiety (over the fear of being knocked down) we wouldn't be careful
  when we crossed the road.
point Without anxiety (over not having food and shelter) we wouldn't go to work each
  day.
point Without anxiety over failure and humiliation the performances of athletes,
  entertainers, executives, students etc. would be nowhere near as good.


To have anxiety is to be human. Mild threat or danger makes us nervous and slightly anxious. In times of real danger anxiety comes to us more quickly and much stronger for we need to take action. When the threat is imminent it becomes panic and all of the symptoms (racing heart, fast breathing, trembling etc.) happen almost instantly ... this is how anxiety works.


Anxiety Problems:

Problems with anxiety arise when we start to feel anxious more often and more intensely when there is no (real) danger and it seems to happen without reason.
It is this persistent, unexplained anxiety that can give rise to a whole host of related problems and disorders.

›› Learn more about anxiety problems and disorders

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Anxiety Definition:-

The Collins English Dictionary describes anxiety as "a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible misfortune, danger etc." and to be anxious is to be "worried and tense."
Origin:
Latin anxietas gave anxiety in English; the base is Latin anxius, from angere 'to choke'

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Help for Anxiety Disorders and Depression

Free Anxiety Ebook

More Resources:
Anxiety & Depression
Association of America

The Royal College of
Psychiatrists (UK)

Scientific Journals Anxiety Articles
Anxiety Videos
Anxiety News

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Help For:-

Anxiety

Depression

Generalized Anxiety
Disorder (GAD)


Nervousness

Obsessive Compulsive
Disorder (OCD)


Panic Disorder

Phobias

Social Anxiety
Disorder

(Social Phobia)

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Help for Anxiety and Depression
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