Being nervous is a common problem. Before an interview or exams it is normal to feel anxious. This worry is useful and helps us perform well. Fear is also necessary to avoid danger. When worry is overwhelming, persistent and uncontrollable then an anxiety disorder may have begun. This state is extremely disabling and makes coping with life difficult or impossible.
When does anxiety become a problem?
- It lasts for too long and or occurs too often. E.g: if you are anxious most days for more than a few weeks, then you have reason to be worried.
- It interferes with your life. E.g: if you wake up at night because of worries, if you make mistakes at work, or it prevents you from going out or where you want to go to go, then anxiety has become a problem.
- The level of fear exceeds the actual level of danger. E.g: if your mind feels completely overwhelmed but all you’re doing is taking a test for school, your worry has gone too far.
- If you desperately try to control your worries, but they continue regardless of your efforts. Anxious thoughts pop up again and again.
Our distant ancestors had more immediate and direct threats to their existence. Threats from wild animals and the risk of starvation were daily threats to their existence. Fear and worry is essential to survival. Its origins are in the fight or flight response which enabled man to respond rapidly to life threating dangers. Those without it soon perished.
We are more secure and safe than in the past but the nature of worries has changed. We now worry about our finances, loved ones, jobs, terrorist threats etc. There are many things that cause worries and fear in the present day. We have just passed through the worst recession since the 1930’s, terrorist threats are an going danger, People worry about losing their jobs or finding another. A financially secure retirement is less guaranteed. Children and parents worry about online threats. The pace of modern life is faster adding to time pressure and worry about lack of time. Globalisation and increased competition produces economic worries and change.
A low level of nervousness improves our performance but excessive worry reduces our performance and enjoyment of life. We do not sleep as well, are more prone to make mistakes at work, our personal and social lives are affected adversely. Some nervousness is necessary and unavoidable, but we can prevent it from destroying our lives.
Even under extreme stress we can maintain our calm and dignity. We have control over our responses to adverse events and concerns. It is possible to deal with and minimise worry. We can still live life to the full and enjoy life. There is hope even if you suffer from severe uncontrollable panic. It is possible to treat anxiety. There are effective and proven treatments which do not involve medication.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Anxiety
It can be difficult to know if you are suffering from anxiety disorder. That’s because anxiety involves a wide range of symptoms. Each person has a different pattern of symptoms symptoms. Your particular pattern determines which type of anxiety disorder you have.
Anxiety can manifest itself in three different ways.
- In the form of thoughts
- In bodily sensations
- In anxious behaviours
People can experience only one of these manifestations or can have two or all three.
Examples of anxious thinking:
- Perfectionism. If you’re a perfectionist then any mistake means total failure.
- Magnification. Those who magnify the importance of negative events usually feel more anxious than others.
- Approval addiction. This means that you worry a lot about what others think of you.
- Poor concentration. Those who are anxious often report problems with focus and concentration. Their short term memory may be adversely affected.
- Racing thoughts. A stream of rapid uncontrollable thoughts of worry and concern speed through your mind.
- Living in the future and predicting the worst.
- Catastrophising. Thinking about everything that lies ahead and imagining the worst possible outcome.