Anxiety can be really distressing and colour your everyday experiences with tension and make life generally uncomfortable. Anxiety is fast becoming the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder.

What is anxiety?

Somatic Indicators of Anxiety

Sometimes the cause of your anxiety is clear and at other times it is less obvious. Imagine you have just run up several sets of stairs. You probably wouldn’t normally notice what is happening in your body. However, you are likely to be experiencing several physiological reactions such as, a rapid heartbeat, sweatiness, flushing, numbness, tingling, nausea, dizziness rapid breathing, tremor, shortness of breath and so on [1].

You know that these uncomfortable feelings in your body are related to the fact that you have just been extremely physically active. In this case you do not worry about having those sensations. When you are anxious you experience very similar physiological reactions. When you do not recognise these somatic experiences as being due to anxiety you can end up thinking that something is really wrong. Such thoughts then serve to increase your arousal and heighten your experience of anxiety symptoms. [1]

Psychological Indicators of Anxiety

Anxiety often includes distressing thoughts and feelings. You may experience feelings of terror, apprehension and tension and/or have thoughts of impending insanity, or think that something is physically or medically wrong with you. It is possible to experience some level of dissociation with the world around you so that is appears unreal. Your memory or general level of awareness may be impacted. [1]

Intellectual Disturbances and Anxiety

It is possible that you also have trouble concentrating, find it difficult to think or experience a sensory meltdown. You may find that you are so overwhelmed that your fight or flight mode kicks in and you end up acting out in some way for example, yelling, lashing out, running away or actively avoiding certain triggers (for example, avoiding a place, an activity, or being with other people).

Anxiety can be a normal instinctual response to an event

Anxiety is a basic human instinct. When we were cavemen (and women) it was really useful to react quickly to danger. This is the body’s way of preparing us to either run away (flight) or aggress (fight). If we didn’t respond appropriately to threats in the environment, either real or imagined, then we would not have survived as a species!

What is the problem then?

The issue we have as humans is that we react to threats that may not always be real. When these threats are not real often they are unhelpful thoughts that serve to increase our physiological response. It is, however, very difficult to stop or control these thoughts from occurring. It can be scary when you don’t realise that you are feeling anxious.

In general, when you find that you are having trouble functioning in daily life or your close relationships are being impacted by your experience of anxiety it may be time to seek help from a professional.

There are several mental health conditions grouped according to manifestations of anxiety [1] including:
• Generalized anxiety disorder
Social phobia/anxiety and other simple phobias
• Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
• Adjustment disorder with anxious mood
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Post-traumatic stress disorder

Depression may be also be present with symptoms of anxiety.

Present Moment Psychology can assist you to better support yourself in dealing with your anxiety and take action towards living a “rich, full and meaningful life” Dr Russ Harris (of The Happiness Trap). [2]

Call us today to see how we can help.


[1] Psychiatric Presentations of Medical Illness: An Introduction for Non-Medical Mental Health Professionals. Ronald J Diamond M.D. University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry 6001 Research Park Blvd Madison, Wisconsin 53719
[2] The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling and Start living. Dr Russ Harris. Exisle Publishing 2013

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