What is anxiety and what causes it?

We’ve heard it floating around a lot, I’m anxious, I’m feeling anxious, I have anxiety, but what is anxiety really?

Anxiety is a normal human experience. Yep, that’s right, it’s normal. We all feel anxiety. In fact, it can actually be helpful when anticipating frightening situations. This is because the physical symptoms of anxiety are coming from your body’s nervous system response, which is a natural reaction to a feeling of fear or worry about what’s to come.

If anxiety is normal and common, when does it become problematic?

As we go through life, there will be many important life events, both good and bad, that cause different levels of anxiety. The main difference between normal anxiety and problematic anxiety is if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. This is not a time to ignore it, because if left untreated, anxiety can start to impact on your school grades, behaviours, and relationships with others.

So you are probably wondering what causes anxiety?

Well, anxiety can be caused by a number of things. Would you believe that some people experience it for absolutely no reason. Others are triggered by tests, studying for your VCE, being on stage, or being around other people. Some people develop anxiety after a traumatic event or negative life experiences like bullying for example.

Suffering from anxiety can make you want to avoid certain situations and places.

So what should you be looking out for to detect symptoms?

Anxiety Symptoms

While anxiety symptoms can be experienced differently for each person, in general, the body reacts in a very specific way to anxiety. So when you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight, flight or freeze responses. As a result, some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Worrying a lot
  • Feeling very nervous and afraid
  • Trouble breathing
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling very weak
  • Sweating
  • Headache or stomach ache
  • Heart beating really fast
  • Muscles feel really tight
  • Having a lot of thoughts going through your head

The good news is there are things you can do to treat anxiety!

Treating anxiety

Coping with anxiety can be a 24–7 task. Some people find talking with a mental health professional really helpful, for some people, medical treatment might be necessary. Sometimes, lifestyle changes may be enough to cope with the symptoms. There are lots of ways you can be supported to manage your anxiety. Below are some things you can try.

You might want to consider one or more of the following treatments:

Counselling and Therapy

Talking with a therapist can help treat anxiety. A therapist can help someone suffering from anxiety learn how to better cope with their symptoms so that they are not as intense. It can also be helpful to talk about the triggers to see why they cause anxiety for that person.

If you have seen a therapist before and it didn’t work, or you didn’t find it helpful there are a number of things you can try.

Directories for finding mental health professionals:

 

Remember that mental health is complex and there are many different kinds of treatment are available. Even if it takes some trial-and-error, it’s important to remember that it’s possible for you to find the right support.

Medication 

With discussion with your GP, medication may be suggested as a part of your treatment plan. Taking medication can help to decrease the symptoms. Medications typically used to treat anxiety include antidepressants and sedatives. They work to balance brain chemistry, prevent episodes of anxiety, and ward off the most severe symptoms of the disorder. If you have questions about your medication needs,  speak with your GP or Psychiatrist.

Self help

Someone suffering from anxiety can help lessen some of their symptoms by doing certain things on their own. Simple lifestyle changes you can make at home to help further alleviate your anxiety such as:

Defusing from your thoughts.  When we have thoughts like I’m useless and worthless or I’m stupid, it can really drag us down  Sometimes our thoughts become so invasive that we believe them with latch onto them we struggle with them, we fuse with them. Our minds can tell us lots of things that can really make us feel low, sad, or even helpless. Taking a step back and simply noticed them, rather than believing them can be a really powerful tecnique.

Get exercise. Setting up an exercise routine to follow most or all days of the week can help reduce your stress and anxiety. If you are normally sedentary, start off with just a few activities and continue adding more over time. This can be walking with a friend, taking the dog to the park, skateboarding, yoga, paddleboarding, really anything that gets your body moving is going to be really helpful in managing anxiety.

Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Using alcohol or drugs can cause or increase your anxiety. If you have trouble quitting, see your doctor or look to a support group for help.

Stop smoking and reduce or stop consuming caffeinated drinks. Nicotine in cigarettes and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks can make anxiety worse. Where possible reduce the number of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as this only makes anxiety worse. If you need some help with this, chat to your GP or therapist they may have some strategies that you can use to help you

Try relaxation and stress management techniques. Breathing techniques & meditation can be very helpful, repeating a mantra, practicing visualisation techniques, and doing yoga can all promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can increase feelings of restlessness and anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, see your doctor for help.

Self-care tips. Here are some quick and easy self-care tips. Self-care is really important, whether you only have 5 minutes or a whole day, there are lots of different things you can try.

Mood tracking. Tracking your mood can be a valuable way to see any patterns in your behaviour, what you do each day and the impact it has on your mood.

If you feel like your anxiety is more than it should be, or it starts affecting certain areas of your life, talks to your parent, school staff, or family doctor. For more immediate help, contact: Kids Helpline:  1800 551 800 or Lifeline: 13 11 14

To book an appointment with one of our friendly therapists contact us on (03) 09958 8772

 

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