Anxiety may build up over many years or occur quite suddenly. Anxiety symptoms can be present in various ways, often unrecognised or masked by normal ways of coping. Symptoms of anxiety include:
Significant life stressors often cause anxiety. Common stressors include bereavement, relocations, health issues, breakups, work or financial pressures, and family problems. While a certain amount of stress in our lives is inevitable, continual stress is bad for health. Stress is also likely to impact on relationships in the form of irritability, withdrawal or neediness. Unaddressed stress can lead to increasing anxiety problems and even trigger panic attacks or agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house).
Traumatic events to oneself or a loved one often trigger anxiety. It is normal to be anxious after a traumatic event. Examples include physical injury from a car crash, work accident or natural disaster. A recent event can also retrigger trauma from long ago. For some people the anxiety does not pass with time. This is PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).The body and mind continue to react as if the traumatic event is ongoing even if the danger is not longer present.
Anxiety is often co-present with some level of depression. The fear feelings of the anxiety plus the sad feelings of depression can reinforce each other and become quite overwhelming. This combination can be very distressing and lonely.
Anxiety sufferers often turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping. As this 'solution' temporally masks the anxiety, it may seem helpful. However in the long term it will worsen things and put you at risk of dependence or addiction. Research also clearly shows that alcohol worsens depression.
Anxiety can take many different forms with physical, mental and emotional aspects. The common thread is feelings of fear. Collectively, these are referred to as anxiety disorders. While these may sound scary, these disorders are natural responses to stress and variations of normal coping mechanisms. Below are some links to further information on the more common anxiety disorders:
Learning new coping strategies and relaxation techniques is a good place to start. However, for many this does not go far enough and they need more involved treatment. Therapy can help in many ways including: