What is Anxiety, and what can you do about it?

A short summary of what anxiety is, the most common symptoms, who is vulnerable and what you can do about it

By Team Helsa 4th December 2019

Photo by Ben White

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Team Helsa


Anxiety is one of the most common mental and psychological disorders worldwide and is closely related to stress. Like stress, anxiety can be a positive emotion if it pushes you to take positive action, however, if anxiety prevents a person from performing everyday tasks then there is a chance that medical and psychological intervention is in order.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is usually caused by the same trigger and manifests itself in different ways generally classified under various anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, characterized by a sudden feeling of panic and terror with or without any trigger. Physical symptoms of panic disorder include chest pain, increased breathing, and heart palpitations, dizziness, and stomach upset.

Phobias are also characterized as anxiety disorders and specific phobias have specific triggers. The most common phobias include fear of heights and closed spaces.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is when anxiety overtakes a person’s entire life and they are consumed with a chronic, and exaggerated fear about everyday life.

Social anxiety disorder is another way anxiety stops an individual from functioning properly in everyday life like an inability to participate in a conversation and in its extreme forms stop them from even getting out of the house.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Like any mental issue, symptoms of anxiety are different for different people and people experience one or more of the following symptoms when they are anxious.

Emotional symptoms include:

  • enhanced feelings of dread

  • feeling stressed and tensed

  • feeling restless and irritable

  • inability to take action

Physical symptoms include:

  • increased heart rate

  • inability to breathe properly and shortness of breath

  • knotted or upset stomach

  • sweating, shivering or tremors

  • insomnia or disturbed sleeping patterns

Who is Vulnerable?

There are multiple factors that add up to cause anxiety disorders, including genetic predisposition, physical factors like thyroid problems and early developmental factors like parenting style and upbringing.
Some individuals are more likely to experience and develop anxiety disorders due to having genes linked with anxiety, so if anxiety runs in your family, you are more likely to develop anxiety. On the other hand, dealing with a stressful or traumatic event can also cause anxiety disorder regardless of your genetic makeup.

The Next Step?

Since different anxiety disorders have different triggers, the first step is proper diagnosis followed by a treatment plan to suit an individual’s unique needs.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), anti-anxiety medication and stress and anxiety management techniques are all an option depending upon the severity of the condition. No matter which route and treatment option, the end result is the same – recovery and wellness.