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Do I feel anxious, or do I have anxiety?

Mental health awareness has become, an increasingly significant, societal concern and a wide conversation since the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately, between 1/5 and 1/10 people suffer from mental health every single year. It is something that we are all likely to contend with at least once in our lives.

To help other people, we must educate ourselves!

As a society, we need to make meaningful steps, to improve levels of mental well-being.

Do I feel anxious, or do I have anxiety?

Picture this, it is exam season, you must sit 5 exams within the space of 2 weeks. These exams really matter, they dictate what grade you will graduate with. For the past month, you have been studying intensively, however, the stress and pressure have been causing you to feel overwhelmed and anxious. A thought crosses your mind… do I suffer from anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.

Everyone can have feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. Let’s say, an important interview, presentation, school exam, or the start of a new job, these are all examples of someone feeling worried or anxious. However, these feelings are perfectly normal, it displays signs that you care about the situation and sometimes it is beneficial to push yourself outside your comfort zone.

Now picture this… It is the middle of Covid-19 lockdown, you are stuck in your house all day, alone as you are unable to travel to the office. The unprecedented times have skyrocketed your anxiety levels, to worse than they have ever been. You cannot help but feel lightheaded and dizzy, there is a churning feeling in your stomach, and you cannot seem to catch a breath and your heartbeat can feel very irregular.

It is completely different right?

As a society we need to be able to recognise when to ask for help, personally or helping a friend. Managing mental wellbeing is crucial to living a successful and fulfilling life.

What is anxiety?

Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal for many people. However, people who have anxiety disorders have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear concerning everyday activities.

A person is often in fear that something bad may occur, even though this is out of proportion to the actual danger, which makes it difficult to control their worries. The feelings of anxiety are more constant and suffering with severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating.

What are the types of anxiety disorders?

The U.S department of mental health and human services states that there are, five major types of anxiety disorders. These include:

1) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is a long-term condition that causes anxious feelings regarding a wide range of situations, rather than a specific event. People who suffer from GAD often find it hard to recall the last time they felt at ease due to feeling anxious most days.

2) Obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD)

People who suffer from OCD, have reoccurring, unwanted thoughts and/or repetitive behaviours. People perform rituals to prevent unwanted thoughts, but this is only temporary relief. Not doing the rituals causes increased anxiety.

3) Panic disorder

This disorder causes unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear, which often comes with physical symptoms.

4) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This disorder can develop after exposure to a terrifying event. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include military combat, accidents, or personal assaults.

5) Social Phobia (social anxiety disorder)

Social anxiety disorder is a feeling of overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social settings, when around other people.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety can differ from one person to the next, however, there are a few common signals that someone is suffering from anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can be displayed in psychological or physical terms.

Some psychological effects are, feeling tense, nervous, or unable to relax and the person may fear the worst happening in any situation. Whereas some physical effects of anxiety are, a churning feeling in the stomach, feeling light-headedness, abnormal breathing or sweating. There are many other symptoms, but these are just a few to look out for!

What causes anxiety?

There are many reasons anxiety can occur, depending on what type of anxiety disorder. In some cases, people develop anxiety for specific reasons, for example, traumatic experiences, an imbalance in the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, or genes. However, in other cases, many people develop some types of anxiety for no apparent reason.

Treatment of anxiety

Contact your doctor to find out your next steps

In the meantime, here are three self-help methods to use if you are feeling anxious:

1) Practice breathing exercises- slow, deep breaths will calm the nervous system.

2) Tell yourself calming affirmations – such as “I am safe”.

3) Go outside, breathe in the fresh air, and stand barefoot on the grass, this is called grounding.

Learning about anxiety will enable our society to help the people who are suffering, but also understand that well-being is not just physical, it is also mental and emotional.


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