This year Mental Health Awareness week focussed on anxiety. How anxiety aware are you?
‘Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now.’ (Mental Health Foundation)
Anxiety is a normal part of life that can affect us all in different ways and at different times. It is different from stress, which is something that comes and goes depending on the external factors causing it. Anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear.
It can lead you to imagine that things are worse than they really are, and prevent you from confronting your fears. It is important to recognise that anxiety is normal and is a mechanism to protect against danger. How we react to anxiety is usually referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response because the body prepares you to either deal with a situation or run away from it. Once the danger has passed the feelings normally subside. We all feel anxious from time to time, for example when we experience a traumatic event or in the lead up to a job interview or exam. However, if you are experiencing anxiety that you can’t link to a specific cause it may be that there is an underlying issue that you need to tackle.
There are many different anxiety disorders that are now recognised and include:
- exam stress/anxiety
- chronic worrying or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- separation anxiety
- selective mutism
- social phobia
- panic disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- specific phobias
But not all anxiety is this serious. Often it can be managed by understanding and recognising the symptoms and developing your own strategy for dealing with it. There are lots of simple ways to help yourself through anxious times such as looking after your wellbeing, using mindfulness and relaxation techniques, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and talking through your situation.
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety that people experience are:
- sleeping difficulties
- feeling tired
- feeling irritable
- being unable to concentrate
- fear that you’re ‘going mad’
- feeling out of control of your actions, or detached from your surroundings
- discomfort in your abdomen
- dry mouth
- rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- tightness or pain in your chest
- shortness of breath
- needing to urinate more often than usual
- difficulty swallowing
If you are experiencing these or similar symptoms and feel you could use some support there are a number of organisations that can help like Mind, Anxiety UK and Mental Health Foundation, or you may find it useful to contact our Listening Friends helpline on 0808 168 5133.