Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain. People who are depressed are often very anxious as well. It is not always clear whether the anxiety leads into the depression or whether the depression causes the anxiety.
Anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences as it is a natural response to stress or perceived danger. Anxiety is commonly known as the ‘flight or fight’ response process and it is designed to alert us and protect us from danger. This process involves adrenalin that pumps through the body fast in order to make us move fast and to flee when needed. Symptoms here may include, breathing faster, sweating, dry mouth, Hypervigalent (Your senses become heightened and your brain becomes more alert) and more. Once the danger has passed, other hormones are released, which may then cause you to shake as your muscles start to relax.
Unfortunately Anxiety is commonly experienced as a psychological manifestation, where it is often irrational, out of proportion and perspective, and in more severe cases experienced when there is no connection to any danger at all.
Mild to Severe Anxiety
Anxiety may be experienced at varying severity levels and with many different characteristics. Anxiety ranges from a more general short-term level where symptoms are somewhat manageable, to the more severe long-term debilitating levels where everyday life is affected. Any form of Anxiety will include Psychological and physical symptoms that increase and worsen according to the severity. When these symptoms are severe and persist in everyday life it becomes unhealthy, unhelpful and destructive anxiety. You feel powerless, out of control, and in some cases you may feel as if you are about to die or go mad. Sometimes, if the feelings of fear overwhelm you, you may experience a panic attack.
The reasons for anxiety persisting and escalating may be due to past or childhood experience can cause anxiety about facing things that may bring up past unresolved feelings. It may also be due to personality type, current everyday lifestyle and circumstances including diet, drug misuse, exhaustion, stress and the side effects of certain medications.
Some symptoms & effects of prolonged severe anxiety:
Having repetitive, negative, pessimistic and irrational thoughts. Feeling fearful, alert, on edge, and irritable. Lack of concentration. Difficulties with sleep and the ability to relax and Depression.
Headaches, aching muscles, sweating and dizziness, may all lead to physical exhaustion and general ill health. Need for reassurance of others, and possible dependency. In order to cope, there may be the temptation to start smoking or drinking too much, or misusing drugs to cope. You may hold on to relationships that allow you to avoid situations you find distressing Fear combined with tension and lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, lowering your resistance to infection. Increased blood pressure can cause heart or kidney problems, and contribute to the chances of having a stroke. You may experience digestive difficulties.
How Counselling can help to manage anxiety
Taking action may make you feel more anxious at first but, facing up to anxiety, and how it makes you feel, can be the first step in breaking the cycle of fear and insecurity.
Talking about the anxiety will help you face how and why there is the need to avoid things. This will involve addressing feelings and issues that may be unresolved from the past or that are due to current circumstances and issues. This process will also involve learning some practical techniques to lessen and control the anxiety.
Types of anxiety disorders
There are several types of anxiety and panic disorders, because people respond to anxiety and panic attacks in different ways. Some of the more common disorders are outlined below.
Phobia is about irrational fear. Your anxiety will be triggered by very specific situations or objects; such as spiders, heights, flying or crowded places, even when there is no danger to you.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
You have felt anxious for a long time and often feel fearful, but are not anxious about anything in particular. The strength of symptoms can vary.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour, for example, have obsessive thoughts about being contaminated with germs or fear that you have forgotten to lock the door or turn off the oven. You may feel compelled to wash your hands, do things in a particular order or keep repeating what you are doing a certain number of times.
Fear of losing control
Worry about the future. Anxious about events beyond your control, such threat of global warming, of being attacked, of developing cancer, or of losing a job.
This can be a vicious circle. You dread feeling the symptoms of anxiety, and then you experience those symptoms because you are having anxious thoughts.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
The term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) is used to name a range of symptoms you may develop in response to experiencing a traumatic event, which is outside of your normal human experience. It is often a delayed response.
The strict definition of PTSD is that the trauma you had or witnessed must be severe. For example: a severe accident, rape, a life-threatening assault, torture, seeing someone killed, etc. However, symptoms similar to PTSD develop in some people after less severe traumatic events.
Further symptoms here may include:
Vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again), intrusive thoughts and images, nightmares, intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma. Extreme avoidance to memories of the trauma, being easily upset or angry, extreme alertness, panic response to anything to do with the trauma, hypervigalence; being easily startled.
If these symptoms last for longer than a month, or they are very extreme, you may be given a diagnosis of PTSD.
Panic attacks may sometimes occur for no reason, you feel as if your mind has gone totally out of control. When you experience panic attacks that seem completely unpredictable, that you can’t identify what has triggered them and so you may live in fear of having another panic attack. This fear can become so intense that it can trigger another panic attack.
Symptoms of a panic attack
Pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort, feelings of losing control, shaky limbs and legs turning to jelly. Fear that you are going mad, blacking out, or having a heart attack. You may be convinced you are going to die in the course of the attack
Symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes and last for between 5 and 20 minutes. Attacks can last for up to an hour, but they are likely to be experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial attack.
Frequency of attacks may be once or twice only, once a month or several times each week. For some people they seem to come without warning and strike at random. They can also come in the night and wake you up.