Anxiety can range from being mildly discomforting to severely debilitating.
Anxiety can be described as a state where one experiences symptoms that are bodily, emotional, behavioural and cognitive (involving thought and mental processes). Tension, worry, nervousness and apprehension are some of the words commonly used to describe anxiety.
We have all experienced anxiety, be it in the form of nervousness before going up on stage, tension for exam, apprehension about a decision, worry for our kids or stress for an office presentation. Anxiety can range from being mildly discomforting to severely debilitating and if not dealt with properly can manifest as disorders that negatively affect your daily lives.
The purpose of Anxiety
If anxiety can be this harmful, why do we experience it at all? As we progress on our evolutionary journeys, the human body keeps what works for it and discards what doesn’t. So by that argument, anxiety must be serving some purpose. As explained in the article on General Adaptation Syndrome, the essential function of anxiety is a protective one. It makes one more alert and thus more careful and vigilant and enables you to take proactive action. So while anxiety essentially serves as an alarm clock to save you from danger or careless mistakes, an overdose of the same anxiety can also be dangerous and affect your mental, physical and emotional health.
Symptoms of Anxiety:
You know you are feeling anxious when you see the following symptoms in yourself:
1. Physical Effects:
When anxious, one may experience any or many of symptoms like shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, exhaustion and fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, stomach aches, sweating, dizziness and giddiness, trembling, restlessness, fidgeting, psycho-motor agitation, becoming pale or cold and even fainting. Sleep, bowel movements and appetite may get disturbed. Persistent anxiety can lead to stress-related diseases.
2. Emotional Effects:
Nervousness, worry, fear, being high strung, hypersensitivity and hypervigilence, pessimism, low confidence, sadness, irritability, crying spells and anger outbursts are common emotional effects of anxiety.
When anxious a person is easily confused, may have difficulties with focus and concentration, be preoccupied with problems, ruminate about possible misfortunes, may find it difficult to be objective and rational about situations, misinterpret and misunderstand frequently, have scattered excessive thoughts or just go blank.
4. Behavioral Effects:
An anxious person may avoid situations or objects which provoke anxiety, may be unable to relax and enjoy activities he previously would, be unable to relate or connect with people comfortably and might be unable to perform efficiently at school or workplace.
Here we have seen both the basic protective function and the possible harmful effects of anxiety. In another article coming soon we will learn to deal more effectively with anxiety before the medicine becomes the poison.
Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Post contributed by: Mahima Gupta (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-2012)