Anxiety is a very common reaction to stress. In its mildest form it is excessive worrying. It can progress to panic attacks and severe physical symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, palpitations, sweating, chest pain, trembling and breathlessness. In its severest form, anxiety can paralyse you and stop you functioning at home and at work.
There are different types of anxiety. These include:
Generalised Anxiety – There is a pervasive sense of impending doom and a feeling that something bad is going to happen to you or your loved ones. It can be accompanied by the physical symptoms mentioned above and by muscle tension.
Panic attacks – These are distinct episodes of anxiety which start suddenly and can last from a few minutes to over an hour. They are often accompanied by shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, sweating, tingling in the hands and dizziness. The person suffering from these often feels as if they are having a heart attack or they are about to die. These panic attacks can occur randomly or in certain situations
Social Anxiety – There is a fear of social situations and a fear of negative evaluation by others. These situations can include speaking in public, eating out in restaurants, using public toilets, attending dinner parties or just going out in groups. These stressful situations can be accompanied by panic attacks
Health Anxiety – This is a severe form of anxiety where the sufferer has severe worry about their own health. This can either be an excessive worry about having certain illnesses like cancer, or it can manifest as medically unexplained symptoms
Phobias – These are situations where the sufferer has extreme fear which is specific (for example spider phobia or flying phobia). Exposure to the object of phobia can result in panic attacks.
The activity or substance consumes increasing amounts of time and effort and often results in less time for other activities and inattention to relationships and activities of daily life.
Treatment: There is effective treatment for anxiety and the vast majority of patients improve and are able to function effectively once again. Treatment can include either psychotherapy (talking therapy) or medications or both. The most common form of treatment is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and requires 8-10 one-hour sessions.
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