Here’s decoding the different symptoms through which anxiety manifests itself.
In times when being productive without losing our jobs, affording a decent living without losing our mind has become a necessity, anxiety seems to be no friend of ours. We all have got umpteen number of personal reasons to have our cortisol rise. Most of us wake up in the morning to survive the day; not live.
Stress has become our constant companion where our expectations are increasing in leaps and bounds while we toss a nonchalant look at our potential. And when this is backed by our rational knowledge of uncertainty, we are overwhelmed with the urge to respond in a faulty manner to everyday situations. That’s how we invite stress and anxiety.
“The presence of unpredictability, uncertainty and uncontrollability, all provoke anxiety pretty automatically,” says Sally Winston, co-director of the Anxiety & Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland (ASDI). “It’s a signal of either an internal or an external threat.”
What exactly is anxiety?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Anxiety may arise in response to apparently harmless situations or may be out of proportion to the actual degree of the external danger.
However, anxiety, in small doses, is a naturally adaptive emotion that occurs in response to danger and prepares an organism to cope with the environment, playing a critical role in its survival. For example, it is very natural to feel a bit apprehensive and anxious during a job interview. And it’s beneficial too as it prepares us to be more presentable and cautious about ourselves during the interview, increasing our chances of performing better.
So to say, we are technically not preparing ourselves to be devoid of anxiety all together.
The different ways anxiety presents itself:
Apart from the general symptoms of apprehension and worry, anxiety has several other ways to manifest itself through symptoms.
Physiological symptoms of anxiety:
These are the symptoms which we experience in our bodies due to the activation of our sympathetic nervous system as a response to perceived danger.
- A feeling of restlessness, feeling “on-edge”
- Dyspnea– Shortness of breath, choking feeling
- Sweaty palms
- Feelings of tightness in the chest.
- Muscle tension, trembling, feeling shaky
- “Butterflies” in the stomach;
- Dizziness, or feeling faint;
- Hot flashes
- Cold flashes, or feeling chills
- Numbness, or tingling sensations in the extremities of the body like palms and feet;
- Sleep disturbance
Behavioral symptoms of Anxiety:
Behavioral symptoms of anxiety include the ways people behave when they are anxious or a person’s responses to cope with the unpleasantness of anxiety.
- Escaping from anxiety triggering situations – for example, running away from dogs
- Avoidance – Avoiding anxiety producing situations like exams, stage performances, presentations or job interviews.
- Engaging in unhealthy, maladaptive and self destructive behaviour – alcohol or tobacco abuse to get rid of anxiety.
- Limiting one’s own potential to avoid situations which might invariably produce anxiety like avoiding going to work or attending important meetings.
- Getting overly attached to comfort or safety object like avoiding separation from a person.
Emotional symptoms of anxiety:
Anxiety also evokes in us certain feelings. The ways we describe the feelings of anxiety include words such as:
- Feelings of doom
- Feelings of dread
- Overwhelming feelings
Cognitive symptoms of anxiety:
When we feel anxious, we often experience a number of thoughts. Although the content of the thought a person has may vary individually based on context but a few common themes include:
- “I am going crazy”
- “I am going to die.” (accompanied by physiological symptoms like tightness in the chest, dizziness and dyspnea)
- “Something really bad is going to happen.”
- “I won’t be able to escape.”
- “Am I having a heart attack?”
Other cognitive symptoms include:
- Poor decision making,
- Lack of concentration,
- Difficulties in remembering things.
When does normal anxiety take a turn to anxiety disorder?
Anxiety which is occasional and short lived are experienced by everyone of us. When the stimuli generating anxiety in us is removed, normally every individual returns back to function at their optimal level.