Posted: June 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Anxiety is a normal feeling that people have when they are faced with something that could be dangerous, difficult, embarrassing or stressful. Exams, job interviews, talking in front of a group, learning a new skill (such as driving), all make people feel anxious. Your pulse rate might go up and you may have butterflies in your stomach.

Feeling anxious at these times is normal, and can actually be helpful because it motivates you to focus. But people who suffer from strong anxiety find these feelings interfere with lots of normal daily things, like shopping, meeting with friends, going to the movies… lots of stuff.

When you are in a situation where you feel threatened or uncomfortable, you experience things like:

  • your heart beats faster
  • your breathing speeds up
  • your palms sweat
  • your muscles tighten
  • your stomach tightens
  • you feel like going to the toilet.

These are all signs of the ‘fight or flight’ response. This response has been around for a long time and was helpful when humans had to avoid large predators. Now it is helpful to get you motivated and take action (fight) or walk away (flight).

Sometimes people’s fight or flight response becomes stronger. This can be due to many factors and is usually due to a number of them together. Things like:

  • violence and abuse
  • trauma, like being in a car accident
  • relationship problems
  • feelings of isolation
  • personality
  • genetics
  • brain chemistry.

Anxiety disorders are when anxious feelings are present much of the time, even when there is no obvious cause for them. A person may be continually uncomfortable and tense. Anxiety disorders are likely to be diagnosed when the anxiety and feelings of panic get in the way of normal life and stop people doing what they want to do.

The feelings that go with high levels of anxiety are divided into several different patterns or ‘types’. A diagnosis of one of the types of disorder can help work out the most useful way of trying to manage the anxiety.

The causes vary and it’s not always easy to work out. Some things that are known to contribute to whether a person has an anxiety disorder are:

  • Heredity: anxiety disorders tend to ‘run in families’ which may be due to genetics, and may be because a child learns anxious behaviours from their family.
  • Personality: people who are easily upset, very sensitive and emotional, who are shy and inhibited as children are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
  • Biochemical differences within the brain may play a part.

Often people who have an anxiety disorder are very reluctant to seek help because they are embarrassed. They may feel that they will be judged as unworthy. They may not have developed good skills at talking about their feelings because they have been shy or have avoided being with others.

Seeking and accepting help can make a lot of difference. You could talk to someone on the phone, go to your doctor, or meet with a counsellor.

Learning more about anxiety disorders can give you greater understanding, but this will probably not be enough to help you manage the feelings you have.

Remember that your friend cannot just choose to be less anxious. Saying things like ‘don’t worry so much’ and ‘you don’t have to be perfect’ will not be useful.

Encourage your friend seek help just as they would for a physical problem, such as asthma or a broken bone.

Maybe you could read this topic with them, or encourage them to read some other topics.


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