Word on Health

Word on Anxiety

Our thanks to the Mental Health Foundation for the use of the information below. For further information log onto  http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/information/mental-health-a-z/fear-and-anxiety/?locale=en

To get hold of a free Mental Health Foundation booklet to help you deal with Anxiety http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/?entryid5=43110&q=0%c2%acanxiety%c2%ac

What makes me anxious? The word anxiety tends to be used to describe worry, or when fear is nagging and persists over time.

It is used when the fear is about something in the future rather than what is happening right now. Anxiety is a word often used by health workers when they’re describing persistent fear. The ways that you feel when you’re frightened and anxious are very similar as the basic emotion is the same.

What do fear and anxiety feel like? When you feel frightened or seriously anxious, your mind and body work very quickly. Some of the things that might happen are:

  • heart beat gets very fast – maybe it feels irregular
  • breathing gets very fast
  • muscles feel weak
  • sweat more
  • stomach is churning or your bowels feel loose
  • hard to concentrate on anything else
  • feel dizzy
  • feel frozen to the spot
  • can’t eat
  • hot and cold sweats
  • dry mouth
  • tense muscles.

These are all because your body, sensing fear, is preparing you for an emergency, so it reacts by:

  • making your blood flow to the muscles
  • increasing blood sugar levels
  • giving you mental ability to focus only on the thing that’s scaring you.
  • With anxiety, in the longer term you may have some of the above feelings as well as a more nagging sense of fear
  • making you irritable
  • impacting on your sleeping patterns
  • giving you headaches
  • making it difficult to get on with work and planning for the future
  • providing problems having sex
  • make you lose self-confidence.

Why do I feel like this when I’m not in any real danger? Early humans needed the fast, powerful reactions that fear causes as they were often in physical danger from big problems like snakes and lions – before modern living took over. But our minds and bodies still work in the same way and we still have the same reactions to more modern worries like bills, travel and social situations. But we can’t run away, or physically attack these problems!

The physical feelings of fear can be scary in themselves – especially if you have them and you don’t know why, or they seem out of proportion. Instead of alerting you to a danger and preparing you to respond to it, your fear or anxiety can kick in with non-existent or minor threats.

Why won’t my fear go away and leave me feeling normal again? Fear may be a ‘one-off’ feeling when you are faced with something unusual, but it can be an everyday, long-lasting problem – even if you can’t put your finger on why. Some people feel a constant ‘free-floating’ sense of anxiety all the time, without any particular trigger.

But there a plenty of triggers for fear in everyday life and you can’t always work out exactly why you are frightened or how likely you are to be harmed. Even if you can see how out of proportion a fear is, the emotional part of your brain keeps sending danger signals to your body. Sometimes you need mental and physical ways of tackling fear.

What makes me afraid?  Lots of things make us feel afraid. Being afraid of some things – like fires - can keep you safe. Fearing failure can make you try to do well so you won’t fail but it can also stop you doing well if the feeling is too strong.

What you’re afraid of and how you act when you’re afraid depends on lots of things, like:

  • your genes
  • how you were brought up
  • what’s happened to you in your life
  • ways you learn and cope with things.

Just knowing what makes you afraid and why can be the first steps to sorting out problems with fear.

What is a panic attack? A panic attack is when you feel overwhelmed by the physical and mental feelings of fear.People who have panic attacks say they find it hard to breathe and they may worry that they’re having a heart attack, or are going to lose control of their bodies. See the phone numbers to call at the back if you want help with panic attacks.

What is a phobia? A phobia is an extreme fear of a particular animal, thing, place or situation. People with phobias have an overwhelming need to avoid any contact with the specific cause of the anxiety or fear. The thought of coming into contact with the cause of the phobia makes you anxious or panicky.

How do I know if I need help? Fear and anxiety can affect all of us every now and then. It is only when it is severe and long-lasting that doctors class it as a mental health problem. If you feel anxious all the time for several weeks or if it feels like your fears are taking over your life, then it’s a good idea to ask your doctor for help. The same is true if a phobia is causing problems in your daily life, or if you have panic attacks.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.