ANXIETY? STRESS? WORRY? DEPRESSION? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
This short article is basically about anxiety and not the differences between them. These “states” cannot be underestimated as millions of people suffer from one or more than one of them in Spain. Doctors and scientists affirm that at least one in four of us will suffer anxiety and depression at some time in our lives. Obviously, most would say that depression is the most debilitating and while a vast majority know what stress and worry are (due to daily situations generating them), anxiety can have painful consequences for the sufferer and their families.
Anxiety is an emotional state of inner turmoil. It is often accompanied by nervous behaviour and somatic complaints. It is associated with a feeling of imminent death and fear or dread about future events. Frequently accompanied by muscular pain, tiredness, lack of attention and sleeplessness. Anxiety can be appropriate to particular future situations but when experienced regularly, it becomes a serious disorder requiring treatment and therapy. Some people withdraw from situations which have caused anxiety in the past. We shouldn’t confuse fear and anxiety. The former is a necessary emotional response to a possible threat which is instinctive. Without feeling fear, we would probably live a very short time. However, anxiety is very different and related to defensive or evasive behaviour to specific situations. As most of us are unaware what the future might bring, this puts us in a state of mind which makes it difficult to cope with possible negative events. Whereas fear is a response to more immediate circumstances, anxiety is more broadly future-focussed, which can drastically reduce one’s quality of life.
Symptoms can range in number, frequency and intensity and in many cases, can require psychiatric attention. The emotional effects may also include irritability, watching for signs of danger, going blank, feeling trapped in your mind and nightmares, to mention just a few. The physical signs might be headaches, vertigo, digestive problems, being short of breath, palpitations, fatigue or itchines amongst others.
There are various types of anxiety:
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as a “dizziness of freedom”. Otto Rank affirmed it was due to a “psychological trauma at birth” while Paul Tillich defined it as “a feeling in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing” and Viktor Frankl in his famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning” talks about our extreme mortal dangers and the desire to find a meaning to life to counteract “the trauma of nonbeing” as death approaches.
Test and evaluation.
Some level of arousal -not anxiety- is necessary before an exam or competition, but when in excess, it can result in a decline in task completion. This can also occur at work. A certain amount of nervousness is normal even desirable but becomes anxiety when a person shows symptoms such as headaches, racing heartbeats, feeling a loss of control, etc. Recent research points to achieving relaxation and other methods to counter and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety in social situations is common, especially among young people and first meetings. Symptoms can vary from feeling discomfort or awkwardness to a fear of interacting with unfamiliar people.
Choice and making decisions.
Decision making is an increasing cause of anxiety. There are two forms: firstly, when you have to take a decision with several possible outcomes and known or probable results. Secondly, when a decision causes uncertainty and where there are several possible outcomes with unknown results.
The cause of anxiety is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Family predisposition, abuse, punishment, poverty, to name just a few, are thought to be behind the disorder. Recent research also suggests that the foetus can detect and feel anxious and stressed mothers which can influence a future adult’s possibility of suffering from anxiety. Depression, personality disorder and alcohol/drug use also accompany anxiety disorders.
About 25-30% of people are affected by anxiety at some point in their lives, to a greater or lesser degree. Far more women suffer and the first signs can usually be felt before the age of 25 and is higher in USA and Europe.
Treatment is absolutely essential because anxiety just doesn’t disappear. Changes in lifestyle, attitude to life, counselling and therapy as well as medication usually ease or remove the symptoms. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, moderate exercise and outdoor pursuits are also effective.
However, as we say, “prevention is better than cure”. A stable, loving family environment from birth is not a guarantee that one’s life will be anxiety-free but it certainly puts one in good stead to confront life’s difficulties and stressful lifestyle with a more positive and realistic outlook.
Happy English learning!!