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Anxiety Disorder: What is it?

Anxiety can feel like a tornado swirling in your mind, but if you think anxiety is the same thing as feeling stressed, it's not! Here's the low-down on anxiety disorder and its triggers.

Bollywood celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma have spoken up about their own mental health battles especially about anxiety. And they are not alone - anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in India, affecting one in twenty people, with women more likely to be afflicted than men.

And even though anxiety is common, there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition. Below, we’ve summarised some key facts about anxiety. Hopefully, this can start to dispel your doubts and ease any worry – remember anxiety does not equal crazy and can be treated.



What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or anxiousness that differ from normal, everyday reactions to stress or feelings of nervousness. The fear is often an emotional response to a perceived threat and can cause an increase in the sympathetic activity response in our body to certain situations. Sympathetic activity is the “fight or flight” reaction often expressed as thoughts, feelings or behaviours to situations that are perceived as dangerous or threatening. These feelings or sensations can be associated with muscle tension and avoidance of situations that may trigger or worsen one’s symptoms. There are different subtypes of anxiety disorders depending on one's triggers and symptoms.



What Is It Like to Be Anxious?

Different types of anxiety disorders can manifest differently for each person. Sometimes anxiety may also feel like weak knees, shallow breathing, and heart pounding. It can feel like you are not getting enough air coming to your lungs. You could be overly startled by particular noises and experience tense muscles. Sometimes you may find yourself pre-occupied by worrisome thoughts or irrational fears that disrupt your daily functioning You may constantly be on alert and feel fatigue you can’t explain. Any one of these signs or a combination of these feelings can point towards an anxiety disorder.






What Causes Anxiety?

Several factors, including genetic, biological, environmental, and social factors, can trigger anxiety. If a member of your family suffered from anxiety (it may have remained undiagnosed), or if you are undergoing severe stress at work or home, you might be more prone to anxiety. Some non-psychiatric factors like medications, substances, and various medical conditions can also result in anxiety.



What Happens in The Body When You Are Anxious?

When you are experiencing anxiety, your body is basically preparing to respond to the stress or perceived threatening situations. Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response system and release a flood of hormones, like cortisol or adrenalin, into your system, increasing your heart rate and breathing. Similarly, imbalances in mood-regulating neurotransmitters, such as Norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5 HT), and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can contribute to feelings of anxiety. You may also experience stomach pains, insomnia, sweating, and trembling.

There are several ways to treat anxiety, start with talking to a psychologist, counsellor or psychiatrist to find out what's right for you.

Also Reviewed by Rohini Bagrodia, MA, PhD Candidate, Clinical Psychology.

References:
[1] Khambaty, M., & Parikh, R. M. (2017). Cultural aspects of anxiety disorders in India. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 117.
[2] National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.) Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
[3] Thibaut F. (2017). Anxiety disorders: a review of current literature. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 87–88.


Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

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