Anxiety, like depression, is a universal human emotion. It is only when it is severe and persistent that it may be regarded as mental health problem.
Anxiety can be described as an overwhelming feeling of discomfort or unease. At the same time that you feel anxious you may also experience physical changes such as sweating, a racing heart, palpitations or rapid breathing. Although anxiety can be unpleasant, it rarely lasts long and most people manage to cope with it.
For one in ten people however, the anxiety doesn’t seem to go away. They experience anxiety all the time or feel that anxiety is ruling their lives. They may try to avoid the situations that cause them anxiety and they may feel OK in the short term but it limits what they can do and the anxiety returns when these situations arise again. For example, they may decide that they cannot go to certain places or do things that they previously enjoyed.
It is important to get help and to learn how to tackle anxiety by understanding what kind of anxiety it is. This is because there are important variations in the different forms of anxiety and the ways in which they can be treated. For example, some forms of anxiety may have physical causes, such as an overactive thyroid gland, hormonal disturbances or withdrawal from drugs.
Main types of anxiety:
- Phobias: a specific type of anxiety, defined as out-of-proportion fears. For example, a fear of heights or small spaces.
- Panic attacks: characterized by a sudden and intense sensation of fear and impending doom.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Obsessional thoughts are distressing, repetitive thoughts which you cannot ignore.
- Compulsions are ritual actions or mental processes which you feel compelled to repeat in order to relieve the anxiety and stop the obsessional thoughts.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): the after-effects of an unusually frightening or horrifying experience, for example seeing someone killed or losing your home or family.
- Personality Disorders: some forms of anxiety are so severe that psychiatrists categorise them as personality disorders. For example, the condition Avoidant or Anxious Personality Disorder
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