The human existence of the modern world is tense, chaotic, and rushed. We have to run against the crowd in an increasingly competitive world just to make ends meet. Increasing standards of living mean that our lives are fraught with unmet and unfulfilled desires and needs, and we are constantly trying to do even better. Relationships are becoming more and more strained as we devote less and less time to them, and health- both mental and physical- is being affected. We are bombarded with devastating news from all across the globe, and most of us feel powerless to change anything. We are afraid of being embroiled in a bitter feud, being run down by a car, or a loved one falling prey to a terrible illness. All of these contribute to a building feeling of anxiety, which has become part and parcel of modern existence.
What is anxiety and anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is the feeling associated with worry and stress. All of us feel anxious periodically; be it prior to an examination or an interview, or while waiting for a lab report. Its onset is normally characterized by an increased heartbeat, cold or clammy hands and feet, rapid and shallow breathing, and restlessness, among others. This is a very common situation all of us face now and then. Yet, anxiety disorder is one of the commonest groups of mental illnesses in the world today, affecting ages- to various degrees- 6 to 60 and above. In this high strung world, it seems natural that we would feel anxious about something or the other on a daily basis; however, how do we know that our anxiety levels have crossed the normal range and turned into a disorder?
Symptoms of anxiety disorder
If you feel that your anxiety levels are reaching unusual proportions, look out for the following symptoms:
- You are avoiding certain situations because the trigger the feeling of anxiety, and this is affecting your normal life.
- You cannot shake off a persistent worry or the feeling that something is about to go grievously wrong.
- You feel unusually restless most of the time, affecting your concentration, relationships, and quality of work.
- You get very easily agitated by even mildly stressful situations.
- You have experienced panic attacks on more than one occasion, with or without a trigger.
- The feeling of anxiety is accompanied by highly irregular heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, and nausea, and occurs out of proportion to the trigger event.
- You are almost always tired and often suffer from muscle and joint pains, punctuated by sweating spells.
- Your eating habits and sleep patterns are heavily disrupted; you may either have a complete loss of appetite and indulge in binge eating, and find it difficult to fall or stay asleep.
- You suffer from chronic poor digestion.
There are many other symptoms that are specifically associated with the specific types of anxiety disorders. There are many different types of anxiety disorders- such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. More often than not, anxiety disorders are accompanied by or are a byproduct of, depression and other stress-related disorders.
How to manage anxiety
Feelings of anxiety are extremely stressful; along with the trigger situation that causes genuine worry, it is also worrisome to be feeling anxious as our minds threaten to run of our control. While medications and therapy can help in handling the situation in the most stressful of times, there is a lot we can do to bring the anxiety under control as well.
- Meditation is one of the most useful practices that have known effects of anxiety. Meditation helps us to focus on the bigger picture by calming our minds, and it relaxes the mind and the body by temporarily emptying the mind. Other relaxation techniques such as exercises and deep breathing also help a lot.
- Stress management is crucial to handling anxiety. By setting achievable goals and deadlines, avoiding procrastinating, and making lists of tasks to do, it is possible to make the most apparently impossible tasks less daunting and more manageable.
- Confiding in people around us is crucial to keeping our anxiety levels down. In stressful times, it helps to confide in a trusted person regarding the situation. Sharing the worry helps in freeing the mind to a certain extent, and it also helps to gain a fresh perspective on the issue.
- The need for professional counseling and therapy cannot be undermined in any health disorder. If the self-help techniques do not significantly reduce your anxiety, or only keeps the anxiety at bay for a short time, it is time to seek professional help. Counseling and some medications help immensely.
Anxiety is not just common, it is necessary for survival. It is the feeling through which our brain lets us know that danger is imminent and has lived on from prehistoric times. Sadly, with the trails of modern life, many of our minds have become too prone to sensing danger, triggering the onset of anxiety disorders. It is a highly common, and highly curable, condition, and while medication and counseling will do their bit, our personal efforts to control anxiety will do the lion’s share.