What’s the Idea?
Anxiety is a debilitating condition which can make you nervous, worried or uneasy, or cause panic attacks. Learn to recognise the symptoms.
What’s the story
I have suffered from both anxiety and depression in the past.
In some ways I found anxiety symptoms the harder of the two to deal with.
This is because anxiety sent my mind racing with no ‘off’ button, to the extent that I couldn’t sleep, sometimes for days on end.
I was exhausted and burned out, and constantly ‘on edge’.
It feels to me as though people now understand depression pretty well, but anxiety not as much (certainly I didn’t when I first experienced it).
By helping people recognise the symptoms of anxiety, I hope to be able to help them understand more about this difficult condition, and what they can do about it.
People should do this because…?
Anxiety symptoms can range from mild to severe, but either way they can have a long-term detrimental effect on your health.
If you think about it, being constantly worried or nervous means your body is constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
And if it persists it can also lead to all sorts of physical illness, such as:
- Digestive tract disorders, e.g. IBS
- Chronic respiratory disorders
- Heart disease
So it’s really important to recognise the symptoms of anxiety early on, and take steps to manage it.
You can find out more about the physical impact of stress and anxiety here.
How do you do it?
The first thing to say is that there is more than one type of anxiety disorder.
On this page I will be mostly talking about ‘GAD’ – ‘General Anxiety Disorder’.
That’s where you feel worried or nervous most of the time without being able to attribute it to any particular cause, to the point where it is affecting your ability to live your life normally.
Examples of other types of anxiety disorder are:
- Phobias: an irrational fear of a specific thing, like heights, or snakes;
- Social Anxiety Disorder: extreme fear of social situations and interacting with others, often coupled with feelings of shame, or embarrassment;
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (‘OCD’): obsessive thoughts coupled with repetitive actions and rituals, like repetitive hand washing, or checking doors are locked multiple times;
- Panic Disorder: repeated, unprovoked feelings of terror accompanied by physical symptoms like dizziness or rapid heart rate.
It’s not uncommon to experience more than one type of anxiety disorder at the same time.
For example, when I went through my main episode of anxiety some years ago, I also developed OCD symptoms and experienced mild panic attacks.
The good news is, if you use anxiety management techniques, it will benefit all types of anxiety, and your symptoms should recede and eventually (hopefully) disappear.
Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder:
- Feeling on edge or restless
- Having a constant sense of dread
- Constantly fearing the worst is going to happen
- Lack of concentration
- Mind racing with intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding situations which worry you
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Shaking physically
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sweating or hot flushes
- Dry mouth
- Headaches / Nausea
In some ways anxiety is easier to spot than depression.
If you’re frightened of doing things because you think something bad will happen…
Or if you’re experiencing the physical symptoms of fear on a daily basis, with no real reason…
Or if your mind is racing and preventing you carrying out your usual activities, sleeping or eating…
You are showing symptoms of anxiety.
What to do if you’re showing anxiety symptoms
First of all try some anxiety management techniques.
These could include:
- Talking to a sympathetic friend or family member
- Breathing exercises
- Mindfulness or meditation
- Yoga or Tai Chi
- Gentle exercise, like going for a walk
- Grounding techniques
You can find some ideas on our Stuffer page: ‘Manage Your Anxiety’.
You should also try to avoid doing things which can make anxiety worse.
- Drinking alcohol
- Taking certain drugs
- Obsessively researching things you are worried about
- Avoiding contact with friends and family
- Not sleeping properly
- Eating poorly
In particular, I have found that drinking alcohol has a particularly detrimental effect on my mental health – and unfortunately when we’re feeling out of sorts, we tend to reach for the bottle!
If you are feeling anxious and still drinking alcohol, even if you only manage to cut down a little bit, it should improve your anxiety symptoms.
Also, if you can try to keep broadly to your routines, and make sure you are eating reasonably well and getting at least a little sleep, it should help.
If your anxiety is overwhelming it’s really important to talk to a professional – for example:
- Your GP surgery
- The NHS by dialling 111
You can also contact The Samaritans 24 hours a day on: 116 123
The NHS has some fantastic general resources for anxiety which you can find at the link below:
I know it probably feels impossible, but try not to worry too much.
Anxiety is actually very treatable once you learn some management techniques.
And of course there are medications and talking therapies available.
If you are worried you are suffering from anxiety, please take a look at our other Stuffer pages:
Take an anxiety test
Manage your anxiety