What Is Anxiety? The Signs & Symptoms

by MindJournal - 5 min read

What Is Anxiety? The Signs & Symptoms - MindJournal

If you know someone who's struggling with anxiety or you've experienced symptoms yourself, you're not alone.

In fact, an estimated 31.1% of US adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Recent research in the UK suggests that one in ten (10%) adults are feeling "hopeless" about financial circumstances, with more than one-third (34%) feeling anxious at the moment.

At MindJournal, this is a topic that's close to our hearts. And as part of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, we'll be chatting about all things anxiety. Because even though it can feel tough, there are things that you can do to make it easier to manage for yourself and those around you.

Let's start with the basics.

What Is Anxiety, Exactly?

According to NHS Inform, anxiety is "...a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe."

It's good to note here that it's a normal human emotion we all experience from time to time. In fact, some anxiety can even be helpful in certain situations. For example, you might have heard of the 'flight-flight-freeze' stress response. According to experts at Healthline, this sensation is designed to help "...you react to perceived threats, like an oncoming car or a growling dog. It's a survival instinct that our ancient ancestors developed many years ago."

That means we all have the potential to get anxious. And most of the time, it's nothing to worry about.

However, it's when anxiety becomes excessive and persistent - or starts to interfere with our daily activities - that it could be considered a mental health disorder.

Mental Health experts Mind suggest that anxiety may be a problem if:

  • your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time.
  • your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation.
  • you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious.
  • your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control.
  • you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.
  • you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks.

The thing is: anxiety can manifest itself in many different forms. These include generalised anxiety, social anxiety and panic disorders (to name just a few). So it's important to seek specific medical advice if you're noticing the signs.

What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety?

According to Every Mind Matters by NHS Better Health, anxiety can affect our mind, body and behaviour. We might find ourselves avoiding things or people that trigger anxiety and may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling tearful or stressed
  • Becoming tired, restless or irritable
  • Feeling shaky or trembly, dizzy or sweating more
  • Being unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Worrying about the past or future or thinking something bad will happen
  • Experiencing headaches, tummy aches or muscle pain
  • Having an excessively dry mouth and/or pins and needles
  • Noticing your heartbeat gets stronger, faster or irregular. And experiencing shortness of breath when you start feeling anxious

Just remember: you don't have to deal with this on your own.

It's important to contact your doctor if you feel like the symptoms of anxiety are affecting your daily life.

Anxiety can come in many shapes and sizes, but the good thing is, there are many ways to get the support you need.

Take some time to read through the above. If you are concerned about how anxiety is affecting you, share your concerns with your friends and family and reach out to a medical professional.

Some great resources are also available online, which we've linked below.

Helpful Resources

Please note that the following organisations are UK and US-based, but many resources are accessible online.

Anxiety UK - from general advice around coping with panic attacks to specific breathing and relaxation exercises, Anxiety UK has a number of free downloadable resources online. You can also contact the organisation at 03444 775 774 (helpline) or 07537 416 905 (text).

Anxiety Care UK - this organisation can point you towards a variety of mental health support services. These include support groups and face-to-face-counselling for anxiety.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) - from self-help books to a directory of ADAA-approved therapists, this organisation has a wide variety of online resources. Please note: the ADAA does not provide direct psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. So if you do feel like you are in a crisis, please dial 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Anxiety Resource Center - this organisation has links to specific topics like agoraphobia, workplace stress and advice for loved ones who are supporting someone with anxiety.

No More Panic - No More Panic provides information, support and advice for people suffering from panic disorders, anxiety, phobias or OCD, including an online forum and chat room.

No Panic - this organisation provides a helpline (0300 7729844), step-by-step programmes, and support for people with anxiety disorders. You can also sign up for free monthly support emails on their website.

Triumph Over Phobia (TOP UK) - TOP UK can point you towards self-help therapy groups and general support around OCD, phobias and related anxiety disorders.

Other Useful Numbers

NHS 111 – 24 hour helpline (call 111)
Samaritans - 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Mind – call 0300 123 3393 and email info@mind.org.uk
CALM - crisis line: 0800 58 58 58 (5 pm-midnight)

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