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Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms.

In anxiety, these feelings reach a level that interfere's with a person's life. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.

Characteristics include sweating, cold hands, trembling, palpitations, headache, nausea, hyperacidity, insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration.

Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders may be caused by environmental factors, medical factors, genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, or a combination of these. It is most commonly triggered by the stress in our lives. Usually anxiety is a response to outside forces, but it is possible that we make ourselves anxious with "negative self-talk" - a habit of always telling ourselves the worst will happen.

Environmental and external factors
  • Trauma from events such as abuse, victimization, or the death of a loved one
  • Stress in a personal relationship, marriage, friendship, and divorce
  • Stress at work
  • Stress from school
  • Stress about finances and money
  • Lack of oxygen in high altitude areas

Medical factors
  • Stress from a serious medical illness
  • Side effects of medication
  • Symptoms of a medical illness
  • Lack of oxygen from emphysema, or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung)

Substance use and abuse
  • Intoxication from an illicit drug, such as cocaine or amphetamines
  • Withdrawal from an illicit drug, such as heroin, or from prescription drugs like Vicodin, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates


It has been suggested by some researchers that a family history of anxiety increases the likelihood that a person will develop it. That is, some people may have a genetic predisposition that gives them a greater chance of suffering from anxiety disorders.

Characteristics include sweating, cold hands, trembling, palpitations, headache, nausea, hyperacidity, insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration.

Some anxiety-related disorders

Anxiety may lead to depression. The person feels sad and hopeless. Investigation reveal an underlying problem - eg stress, heart disease or addiction - and aid diagnosis. Some anxiety-related disorders are:

  • Panic Disorder: In panic disorder, there are repeated episodes of high anxiety with a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. The panic attack sufferer may experience their mind going blank or that they somehow do not feel real, in that they feel as if they are looking at themselves from outside of themselves.

  • Phobias: There are many kinds of phobias, where people dread different situations. People with phobias experience irrational fear that may rise to the level of panic attacks in response to a specific thing or situation. Examples of phobias include fears of spiders, insects in general, open spaces, closed-in spaces, heights, crowded spaces, air travel, heights, and social anxiety.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This is a condition in which an irrational idea recurs or gets stuck in a person's mind. It may be in the form of 'circular thinking' round and round an idea, so much so that the person blows it out of proportion in his mind. Often though he realizes, it is not rational, he cannot avoid it or stop acting on it. One example of fear is germs, when the person may go on washing his/her hands repeatedly.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Those who endure this condition experience numerous worries that are more often on the mind of the sufferer than not. Those worries interfere with the person's ability to sleep or otherwise function.

What can you do?

  • Consult: Treatment may include medications, psychotherapy methods including counselling and group therapy, behavioural therapy including relaxing techniques and exercise, and social support.

  • Self-treatment: In some cases, anxiety may be treated at home, without a doctor's supervision. Talk with a person who is supportive, meditate, exercise, take a long, warm bath, relax yourself completely, learn to replace "negative self talk" with "coping self talk". Keep an eye on pressures and deadlines, and commit to taking time away from study or work.

How is anxiety prevented?

Although anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, there are ways to reduce your risk and methods to control or lessen symptoms. Recommendations include:

  • Reducing caffeine, tea, cola, and chocolate consumption.
  • Checking with a doctor or pharmacist before using over-the-counter or herbal remedies to see if they contain chemicals that may contribute to anxiety.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Eating healthy foods.
  • Keeping a regular sleep pattern.
  • Seeking counseling and support after a traumatic or disturbing experience.
  • Avoiding alcohol, cannabis


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