Anxiety and fear are common emotions. But, while fear is a normal response to a perceived threat, anxiety is an unwarranted or inappropriate fear or response to a vague or ill-defined threat. Anxiety can be a normal or an appropriate emotion when dealing with day-to-day stresses or problems. However, when these emotions are persistent, excessive and irrational, they may affect (a) the way a person leads his life, (b) the person’s ability to work and (c) the person’s ability to cope with the demands of life or relationships. When this happens, the anxiety becomes an abnormal condition or disorder.
There are different types of anxiety disorders characterised by anxiety or fear as the predominant emotion. They include phobia, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
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Signs and Symptoms
Anxiety triggers unpleasant mental symptoms such as:
- Feeling keyed up or on edge
- A sense of helplessness
- Repeated negative thoughts
It also triggers a wide range of physical symptoms such as:
- Muscle tension and weakness
- Pounding heart (palpitations)
- Difficulty breathing
There are effective treatments readily available for anxiety disorders, including both medication and psychotherapy. The aims of treatment are to reduce and eventually eliminate the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders, and to restore psychosocial roles and occupational functioning.
Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment particularly if identified and treated early. Benzodiazepines and antidepressants are effective medicines, and when used with psychological therapies, can result in lowered risk of relapse and better symptom control. Effective psychological therapies include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapies.
Lifestyle is also a crucial factor in treatment. People living in high-stress environments who possess poor coping strategies for day-to-day issues will find simple strategies, such as relaxation techniques and regular exercise, effective in reducing anxiety and contributing to emotional well-being.
To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200.