Anxiety information page

General Information About Anxiety: 

Whether you or someone you know has anxiety, there are some general things that it can be good to understand about anxiety. The term anxiety is often used interchangeably with fear and worry, but really, anxiety is when the feelings you have are persistent over time. Anxiety is commonly understood as feeling persistently overwhelmed with fear and where you want to avoid situations where you feel that way. It’s important to understand that anxiety does not always have a specific cause. It can be a long-lasting, everyday concern. It is characterised by changes in your body, your thoughts, and your behaviour. Anxiety is very common, but it can be treated. It can co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as depression

I think I have anxiety and want to get help: 

If you are struggling with any mental health problems, whether you have a mental disorder or not, you are not alone and help is out there. It’s ok to ask for help  – this page lists several sources of help, for general and specific mental health issues. Common treatment options for anxiety and panic include therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy, or medication. 

What is Anxiety? 

Not all anxiety is bad – it can sometimes be protective, for example, it can motivate you to act in a particular situation. Feeling anxious is a normal response to stress. However, it can also be overwhelming and interfere with our daily lives. There are a number of different anxiety disorders. The most common one is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, where feelings of anxiety are there most of the time for no apparent reason, and where this affects everyday life. 

What can cause anxiety? 

Anxiety can sometimes be present for no specific reason, but there are also things that can increase our anxiety levels. In new or challenging situations it would be expected that a person would feel some anxiety. Some other things that can increase our anxiety include: 

  • Lack of balance between work and the rest of our lives 
  • Major life events 
  • Genes 
  • Experiences growing up 
  • Relationships 
  • Loneliness 
  • Health 
  • Money 

What are the symptoms of anxiety? 

Symptoms of anxiety can manifest in either physical (in our body) or psychological (in our mind or our behaviour) ways. Some of the physical symptoms include: 

  • Feeling hot, sweaty, or flushed, or having hot and cold sweats 
  • Feeling like your heart is beating fast or irregularly (having palpitations) 
  • Feeling your heart beating in your ears, or hearing a ringing in your ears 
  • Finding it hard to breathe, or breathing faster or more shallowly 
  • Feeling like our chest is tight or uncomfortable 
  • Feeling sick or like there are butterflies in your stomach, feeling like you need to use the loo, or feeling unable to eat 
  • Headaches or dizziness 
  • Generally feeling tense, or feeling like your muscles are weak 
  • Feeling frozen to the spot 

Some of the psychological symptoms include: 

  • Worrying about the physical symptoms 
  • Feeling like something is ‘off’, or feeling uneasy 
  • Worrying that someone bad might happen, or is about to happen 
  • Having negative thinking patterns, or looking for problems in things 
  • Feeling agitated, out of control, or detached from the world 
  • Having difficulty concentrating or sleeping 
  • Having low self-confidence 
  • Feeling low or irritable, or feeling worried all of the time 

Anxiety and self-esteem: 

Anxiety can affect how we think and how we talk to ourselves. As a result, it can make us tell ourselves that we cannot cope, or that we are not good enough, and we believe it. This can lead to us being very critical of ourselves. 

What can I do? 

If you think that how you are feeling is getting in the way of your ability to live your life day-to-day, please seek help of some sort.  Try to remember that you are not alone – anxiety is very common. Learn to recognise any negative thinking – are you giving yourself a hard time? If you are, try and speak to yourself the way that you would speak to a good friend, it might help you to be a bit kinder to yourself.  Talking about anxiety is important because it can help to counter that negative self-talk if you involve someone else in the conversation. Learning about anxiety can be helpful because it can empower us to better understand how it might be affecting us. Try writing your experiences down to help you identify triggers that you might not be aware of. Set small, achievable goals for facing your fears. Use support in doing this if it helps – for example, get someone to go with you, practice beforehand. Celebrate all of the goals that you meet, but be kind to yourself if you don’t meet them. It takes courage to even try.  Make a list of things that help when you get anxious, and keep it with you to use or hand to someone else if you need to. 

Other things that might help 

This might feel like a frustrating thing, but sometimes accepting anxiety can help disempower the hold it can have on our minds. It can help to remember that some anxiety in certain situations is natural, normal, and necessary, so even if you have an anxiety disorder, not all anxiety is necessarily disorder-related.  In feeling anxiety, our bodies and minds are trying to tell us something. It can help, either during or after the anxious feeling, to work through if there is a reason we might be feeling it.  Try not to avoid things – it can be really hard to as the feeling of anxiety can be so unpleasant that we would sometimes rather not do things or go to places. However, this can become a spiral whereby we might end up not doing or going to much of anything, and we might end up missing out on good things too. It can feel better in the short term to do this, but it might cause things to be harder in the long term.  Relaxation techniques can help to bring an anxious mind and body back to the present – anxiety is all about the future. That’s why activities such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can help – it includes the body and the mind, and focuses on the present.  The advice to eat well, sleep well and exercise can sound like your mammy hassling you, and while extra vegetables won’t cure an anxiety disorder, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help our bodies and minds to work with us instead of against us when we are struggling with our mental health. Exercise has been shown to help alter the chemicals in our brain, and sugar and caffeine have been shown to have a direct impact on anxiety levels.   When we are struggling with our mental health, it’s understandable that we might feel an urge to just ‘switch it all off’ for a while, and that’s why drugs and alcohol can seem appealing. However, they also impact on our brain chemicals, and so while they might feel like they’re helping initially, they are what is known as maladaptive coping strategies, and can make things much worse in the long term.  

Information on types of anxieties: 

Panic: 

Panic is often associated with anxiety – usually in the form of a panic attack. This is a sudden feeling of intense fear, and can feel very overwhelming. Panic attacks can happen in certain situations that trigger them specifically for you, but they can also occur for no apparent reason. They are usually short lived, although they may not feel that way during one, and they can recur. You can feel quite distressed for a period of time after a panic attack has passed, and sometimes people can become anxious about having another panic attack. Panic disorder is where a person has repeated sudden and unexpected panic attacks.  

Symptoms of a panic attack: 

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Thumping heart 
  • Sweating 
  • Shaking 
  • Chest pain 
  • Choking sensation 
  • Nausea 
  • Belief you are going to die 
  • Feeling faint 

Phobia: 

A phobia is an intense and irrational fear of an object or situation, where the person will often go to great lengths to avoid facing it. There are many phobias, but some of the most common ones include agoraphobia, the fear of places from which escape is difficult, social phobia, the fear of social situations, and arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. The symptoms of a phobia when faced with the object or situation can be similar to panic. 

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