Anxiety is an everyday part of life. It is our body’s response to a stressful situation and can be both useful and debilitating. We all experience anxiety at one point or another. Managing anxiety appropriately, we can use it to help us perform at our best. Top sportsmen, entertainers, politicians will use it optimally. They will control it, harness it and use it to help them do what they need to do. Anxiety becomes problematic, however, when we are not able to manage it, control it or harness it, when it gets in the way of us doing things that we want to do or when we spend our lives fearing it and avoiding it.
Anxiety can be specific or general. It can occur in response to a stressful event or be present all the time. We would consider anxiety to be a problem when it is “disproportionate to the severity of the stress, continues after the stressor has gone, or occurs in the absence of any external stressful event”. Conversely, anxiety would be considered to be adaptive where it was in response to a situation which most people would experience as frightening and understandable in the event of a stressful life event (such as divorce, moving house or changing job). Some people also, however, live in constant fear due to personal and social circumstances. People who are in a violent or otherwise abusive relationship for example may be fearful that whatever they do is going to be seen to be wrong. They will ‘walk on eggshells’ to avoid confrontation or ridicule or violence. Someone being bullied at work may worry about going into work, fearful of what might happen to them. A person living on a violent estate may worry about their safety when they go out of their door. When anxiety is constant then health problems can develop.
Anxiety, as defined above, affects around 16% of the population at any one time. Stress (a condition related to anxiety) is the second most reported ill-health condition after musculo-skeletal problems with respect to work related problems (Source: HSE). Generalised Anxiety Disorder affects 2-5% of people but accounts for 30% of the mental health problems in people seen by GPs.
Signs of Anxiety
Signs of anxiety include the following:
– Restlessness and inability to relax.
– Feeling keyed up, or on edge, or of mental tension.
– Difficulty in concentrating, or mind going blank, because of worrying or anxiety.
– Persistent irritability.
– Difficulty getting to sleep because of worrying.
– Muscle tension or aches and pains.
– Palpitations or pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
– Difficulty breathing.
– Chest pain or discomfort.
– Fear of losing control, going crazy, or passing out.
If your anxiety as described above has lasted for 6 months or more, you should consider seeking professional advice. Please contact Erko Psychology if you would like to arrange an appointment.