Most people feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is normal in stressful situations and can even be helpful. For example, most people will be anxious before an important exam or interview. However, anxiety can become abnormal if it interferes with your day-to-day activities. Anxiety is abnormal if it is out of proportion to the stressful situation; or persists when a stressful situation has gone, or the stress is minor; or appears for no apparent reason when there is no stressful situation. When you are anxious you feel fearful and tense. The burst of adrenaline (epinephrine) and nerve impulses which we have in response to stressful situations can encourage a 'fight, flight or freeze' response. In addition you may also have one or more unpleasant physical symptoms - for example, you might have: fast heart rate, sensation of having a 'thumping heart' (palpitations), feeling of sickness (nausea), shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, fast breathing. The physical symptoms are partly caused by the brain which sends lots of messages down nerves to various parts of the body when you feel anxious. The nerve messages tend to make the heart, lungs and other parts of the body work faster. In addition, you release stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine), into the bloodstream when you are anxious. These can also act on the heart, muscles and other parts of the body to cause symptoms.
Anxiety is a symptom of various anxiety disorders. What are anxiety disorders?
- Social anxiety disorder.
- Panic attack and panic disorder.
- Generalised anxiety disorder.
- Mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).