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What is anxiety?


Anxiety is a normal part of all human processes. It exists for most people in situations that are new, challenging, dangerous, etc. If our anxiety level increases enough, we may become apprehensive and notice physiological effects like increased heart rate. In most situations, anxiety is normal and healthy, and not something that needs to be treated. However, sometimes healthy anxiety in situations such as giving speeches can rise to unhealthy (painful) levels. In situations such as those, the anxiety can be reduced to more tolerable levels with therapy, which can be used to release or reduce these kinds of anxious thoughts and feelings.

However, some people suffer from an anxiety disorders which can reach higher levels of physical discomfort. Some side-effects that may develop from anxiety might be heart palpitations, shortness of breath, perspiration, racing thoughts, sometimes a desire to flee, inward shakiness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, faintness, chest pain, gastric cramps, headaches, and many more physical side-effects. Many of these symptoms can be part of a generalized anxiety disorder, but if you have them severely enough, they’re called panic attacks. But always remember to consult medical help first when having these kinds of severe physical side-effects.

In some people, anxiety can become such a frequent feeling that it becomes the regular way to feel, and goes unrecognised by themselves and others. This ongoing anxiety can damage relationships, and lower self-esteem.

Is a panic attack different than an anxiety attack?

Anxiety attack is really not the proper term to use. Proper terms involve describing the various degrees of anxiety (such as mild, moderate, or severe), or to use the clinical term panic attack. Sometimes, people feel a sudden surge of anxiety; if the surge is strong enough it is referred to clinically as a panic attack. Panic attacks are much more than the anxiety that most people feel. They can produce gastric distress, nausea and shortness of breath, palpitations and so forth. Repeat panic attacks can create a fear of getting close to whatever is associated with the panic attack.

What can I do when I’m feeling anxious?

There are many self help books which teach strategies to ease anxiety. Some of these basic strategies involve slowing down breathing, monitoring physical side-effects, visualizing a relaxing or successful image, and others. Many of these can be learned on your own or we can work with them in therapy.

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