Anxiety can feel like a tornado in your mind. But if you thought anxiety was like stress, you were wrong. We give you a low-down on what triggers anxiety and what an anxiety disorder can feel like.
Anxiety took a spotlight in recent years where Bollywood celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma have opened about their struggles with mental illness. And it is not just the rich and the famous who are suffering from the condition. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in India, affecting everyone in five people, with women being twice as likely to be afflicted than men.
And even though anxiety is so common, there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition. We often tend to confuse anxiety with stress. We’ve summarised some key facts to dispel your doubts about anxiety – don’t worry, anxiety does not equal crazy and can be treated.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is a condition characterised by an extreme or inappropriate fear or anxiety. The fear can cause an increase in the sympathetic activity response our body makes to certain situations. Sympathetic activity is the “fight or flight” reaction often expressed as thoughts, feelings or behaviours to situations that are perceived as dangerous or threatening.
What Is It Like to Be Anxious?
Sometimes anxiety may also feel like weak knees, shallow breathing, and heart pounding. Anxiety can make you feel like you are not getting enough air coming to your lungs. And just when you think that you have conquered fear finally, it can sneak up on you. Something as silly as excessive noise in your workplace can give you a significant panic attack. You may also find convincing yourself of ridiculous things based on ambiguous situations. For instance, you may worry about the car crashing every time you travel. All of these put together can make you question your reality.
What Causes Anxiety?
Several factors, including genetic, biological, environmental, and social, can trigger anxiety. If a member of your family suffered from anxiety (it may have remained undiagnosed), or if you are undergoing severe stress at work or home, you might be more prone to anxiety. Some non-psychiatric factors like medications, substances, and various medical conditions can also result in anxiety.
What Happens in The Body When You Are Anxious?
Norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5 HT), and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are major mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Any imbalance in these neurotransmitters can cause feelings of anxiety. Your anxiety can give you a lot of sleep issues or cause you to break down at every challenge life throws at you. Sometimes, it can be debilitating enough even to give you panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that can come expectedly and peak within ten minutes. The treatment of anxiety targets these neurotransmitters and brings them back into balance.
There are several ways to treat anxiety, starting with talking to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Here’s your guide to choosing the right mental health therapist for your needs.
- Thibaut F. (2017). Anxiety disorders: a review of current literature. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 87–88.