Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety

a man sitting on his bed, coping with his depression

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’ natural response to stress. It is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response. It involves a feeling of fear or apprehension for what’s to come. People can have anxiety related to a number of different things like the first day of school, job interviews, dating, or giving a speech in front of a large group of people.
Sometimes these feelings can be extreme, last longer than six months, and interfere with daily life. These indicate that a person has an anxiety disorder.


What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the most common of emotional disorders in which the afflicted experiences anxiety more persistently, more intensely, or both. The anxiety they feel can even be debilitating and make every day life a struggle.
Anxiety disorders can cause people to stop doing the things they enjoy, or the smallest things they normally do throughout their day. If left untreated, the anxiety felt will keep getting worse.
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age, but according to the American Psychiatric Association, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with one.

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Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a key component of seven different types of mental disorders:

  • Panic Disorder: Unexpected, recurring panic attacks
  • Phobias: Extreme fear of a specific object, situation or activity
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Recurring irrational thoughts that lead to specific repeated behaviours.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder: Extreme fear of being away from home or loved ones.
  • Illness Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety about your health. Also known as hypochondria
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Anxiety following a traumatic event.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Every person who experiences anxiety, whether they have an anxiety disorder or not, feels it differently. Feelings and symptoms that people can experience through anxiety include, but are not limited to:

  • Butterflies in their stomach
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Uncontrollable and painful thoughts or memories
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweaty palms
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep

Since anxiety can present itself differently from person to person, the types of symptoms and the intensity of them will be different from person to person as well.

a man unable to sleep because of his anxiety
a woman experiencing chest pain from an anxiety attack

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks are feelings of apprehension, worry, distress or fear that are so strong, they are overwhelming to a person. Usually, an anxiety attack will build slowly and worsen as the stressful event approaches.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack will differ from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Intense feelings of apprehension and worry
  • Intense feelings of distress
  • Intense feelings of fear
  • Numbness or tingling sensations around the body.

Anxiety attacks share some common symptoms with panic attacks but they are not the same. The two can easily be mistaken for one another.

What Causes Anxiety?

There is no definitive research that pinpoints a single cause of anxiety. Researchers have found that a combination of genetics, personal experience, and brain chemistry play a role in causing anxiety.

Current research is taking a deeper look at parts of the brain which control fear and are more active when people experience anxiety.

How Anxiety Disorders are Diagnosed

Anxiety is diagnosed through a series of tests administered by a family doctor as well as a psychologist.

A family doctor will conduct a physical exam and run blood and urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions which may be contributing to the anxiety symptoms a person is feeling.

A psychologist will speak with the patient to get an idea of the types of symptoms they are experiencing and narrow down a list of evaluation tests to run in order to confirm or deny the presence of an anxiety disorder.

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How Anxiety is Treated

Treatment for anxiety is split into two categories: psychotherapy and medication.

When an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a therapist or psychologist will treat the patient through a therapy program that may include things such as cognitive behavioural therapy or exposure therapy. The best treatments tend to come from evidence-based approaches.

To relieve the most severe symptoms of anxiety, a doctor will typically prescribe medications such as anti-depressants and sedatives in order to balance brain chemistry and prevent episodes of anxiety attacks. There are many types of medications used for these treatments and people can react differently to them. That is why it is important for patients to communicate and work closely with their doctor to find the right balance of medications and dosage for them.

Are There Natural Remedies for Anxiety?

Certain lifestyle changes have been shown to relieve stress and make anxiety more manageable. They consist of self-care, participating in healthy activities and eliminating unhealthy ones including:

• Getting enough sleep
• Meditating
• Getting plenty of exercise
• Eating a healthy diet
• Avoiding drugs and alcohol
• Avoiding caffeine
• Quitting smoking

These will improve the symptoms of anxiety, but not cure a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

healthy habits to help combat the symptoms of anxiety
a young boy sitting in a circle on the floor in class

Anxiety in Children

It is common for children to experience anxiety. After all, they are experiencing new things every day, and they aren’t always pleasant. Typically, children will learn the skills they need to calm themselves and cope with anxiety from their parents, friends and caretakers.

Sometimes, anxiety in children can become chronic and persistent. This leads to the development of an anxiety disorder. Left untreated, this will begin to interfere with their daily activities and perhaps even avoid interacting with family and peers.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder in children might include:

• Jitteriness
• Irritability
• Sleeplessness
• Fear
• Shame
• Feelings of isolation

Medications and therapy through a psychologist have shown to be effective treatments for children with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Doesn’t Need to Ruin Our Lives

Anxiety is a natural defense mechanism for everyone. We may not have to face the same dangers our ancient ancestors did, but there are many facts of life that can cause fear and worry in anyone. If anxiety becomes a disorder that is uncontrollable and debilitating, it may seem like there is no way out.

Getting treatment for anxiety disorders is the best way to learn to cope with anxiety and make the most out of life. The team at Waystone Psychology are experts in anxiety treatment with our evidence-based approach to assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders. Contacting us is your first step on the road to recovery!

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