Unfortunately Anxiety can be a terrible condition, sometimes people don’t understand how it can affect a person’s daily life, here is a great guide on the most common anxiety symptoms.
If you’re human you have most likely felt anxious, at some point in your life, whether that’s the feeling of doubt, unease, worry or fear, it’s perfectly normal to feel these sensations. People feel anxious in lots of different circumstances from sitting an exam, having a job interview or driving a car!
Anxiety is generally regarded as one of the main symptoms of several other conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other panic disorders. For some their anxiety is easy to control, for others their worries and fears spiral out of control, it’s worth remembering that anxiety can present itself in many different forms and it’s always recommended that you seek professional medical treatment if your anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.
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Anxiety is a completely normal part of life, even if it’s unpleasant or distressing. It can affect all of us in different ways and at different times in our life, for some it can simply come and go, for others it can persist for prolonged periods. Anxiety can make people imagine things are worse than they are, it’s common for people to feel like they’re “going mad” when in actual factor everything is fine.
Anxiety is generally regarded as a normal bodily function which has existed since the beginning of time. For a sufferer, it can be hard to identify what exactly causes their anxiety, sometimes it can be a past experience, a life changing event, a frightening incident or lots of different triggers placed together.
Some of these identifiers could be things such as, job interviews, embarrassment, moving to a new city, getting divorced, car crash, having surgery etc. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about something which may have happened in the past, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
For other people who don’t have an identifier the cause of their anxiety can be harder to pinpoint, generally it’s regarded that multiple triggers (also known as stressors) build up inside and then one day it triggers the anxiety.
A good way of thinking about this situation is like having a bucket of water, you keep adding more water (triggers/stressors) and then over time it keeps building and building until one day the water simply overflows! If this applies to you then you need to think about ways of “reducing” the water in the bucket, or put holes in the bucket so the water escapes.
Common Anxiety Symptoms
The most common anxiety symptoms include (but are not limited) to the following:
• Allergy Problems
• Back Pain – stiffness, pressure, tension, soreness
• Blushing – red face, turning red, flushed skin, hot flush
• Body Aches – sore, achy, muscle pain
• Body Shakes
• Burning Skin – itchy skin, hot skin, scalp burning, crawling, crawly, skin sensations
• Chest pain – tightness, tension
• Choking Sensation
• Craving for Food – sugar, chocolate, sweets
• Difficulty in Breathing
• Dizziness – feeling lightheaded, feeling dizzy
• Dry Mouth
• Feel like you’re going to ‘pass out’
• Headaches – migraines, tension headaches
• Infections – increased number of infections
• Jelly legs
• Muscle tension
• Muscle twitching
• Numbness – tingling, numb, numbing, skin sensations
• Shooting Pains
• Sore or Tight Scalp
• Trembling – shaking, tremors, shakes
• Weak – feeling weak, low energy, feel faint
*This list is not definitive – Anxiety Symptoms can present itself in many ways. For professional advice always see a Doctor.
What is Fight or Flight Reflex?
There’s a time in our lives when we all become anxious, scared or frightened, the ‘Fight or Flight Reflex’ (also known as Fight or Flight Response) is a physiological reaction that happens in response to a perceived event, attack or threat to ourselves.
As humans it’s one of our most basic emotions and is simply our way of self-preservation and finding safety, for example think of an animal in the wild, when a lion or tiger hunts for its prey what happens? The animal either fights or runs away (flight).
This principle is exactly like what’s happening to our emotions, when we feel stressed or anxious our fight or flight response increases. For some this is regarded as the ‘anxiety trick’ I.e. our body is tricking ourselves into thinking something bad is happening when generally it’s not.
For you to move forward, it’s important that you understand this a normal bodily response, the more you get anxious the more fight or flight you will experience.
Another good way of thinking about this is a fire alarm, it’s placed inside a building to warn us of danger/smoke and hazards, yet it can’t tell the difference between smoke from the shower or smoke from a fire. As you can see smoke from the shower isn’t a ‘real threat’ but the fire alarm doesn’t know that.
In general, a fight or flight reflex is triggered by a series of complex concerns, threats or worries, whether that’s a job interview, relationships or exams, our body naturally experiences a range of physical emotions which we ‘think’ is a real threat when it’s merely a temporarily change.
The most common fight or flight symptoms include (but are not limited) to the following.
Common Fight or Flight Symptoms:
• Heart can beat quicker
• Blood pressure rises
• Muscles tense
• Circulation increases blood supply to brain (brain activity may change so we think less and react more instinctively)
• We release adrenaline
• Digestion may slow down or stop – May be sick, or feel sick
• Mouth is dry
• Immune responses may decrease
*This list is not definitive – Fight or Flight Symptoms can present itself in many ways. For professional advice always see a Doctor.
The best way to break the ‘cycle’ of fight or flight is simply to recognise the symptoms of your own anxiety, sometimes this can be easier said than done, however once we realise why we’re feeling anxious we can then remind ourselves that something isn’t really ‘wrong’ it’s our brain over-reacting.
Some people often wonder what maintains the fight or flight response, some people wonder why this pattern keeps emerging even though it’s plain to see from the onset. Generally, once a panic attack subsides a sufferer feels the ‘protective steps’ they took adverted the catastrophe, they tend to believe that their steps saved them. However, once they have ‘survived’ an attack, they worry about the next attack and the cycle repeats itself.
Looking at this pattern logically it’s easy to see that the real reason the sufferer survived was because their fear, anxiety or catastrophe wasn’t actually a dangerous experience in the first place, however it’s extremely hard for anxiety sufferers to see this logical at the time, thus they usually end up thinking they’ve had a ‘lucky’ or ‘narrow’ escape.
This is how other problems occur when a sufferer thinks their steps saved them, these actions could be as simple as taking their phone with them, or having a bottle of water nearby. Equally it could be complex such as checking the car door is locked eight times in a row or looking at their hands before they get out of bed.
Logically when viewing from a distance you’re able to see a pattern emerge which gets embedded into everyday life, thus the sufferer feels ‘at ease’ or ‘confident’ an attack won’t occur because they have done the essential steps to protect themselves like they did in their last attack and the attacks before that.
However in general it would make no difference if they did they’re protective steps or not, because logically it’s widely accepted from both opinions and research that it’s a psychological issue no matter how much distress is caused.
For some learning to ‘relax’, ‘chill out’ or ‘calm down’ can counteract the Fight or Flight response, learn to relax your tense muscles while listening to music or reading a book. Doing something else to take your mind off what you’re thinking about usually helps.
Understanding the Anxiety Balance of Power
Everything in the world works because something is opposing it, think about it for a second, think about your surroundings and your life. Day and night, winter and summer, right and left – everything is opposed by two different systems to keep the overall state of play healthy and correct.
This even happens in fiction works such as films and television, books and stories there’s always an antagonist and a protagonist, equally this theory can be super-sized to ideological and political differences such as World War 1 & 2, the cold war and other conflicts where polarity between two sides exist.
It can easily be noted that this theory is like the way we set personal goals, we only set goals because we want to achieve something we haven’t done or don’t already have. For example, we might want a new car so we ‘save up’ to achieve that goal, we might want to get married so we meet a potential partner with the prolonged view of marriage. What we’re doing is ‘filling’ in parts that are ‘missing’ from our lives, as humans we’re consistently measuring between what we have now and what want may want.
Now relate this theory to a panic attack or anxiety, the two opposites are simply feeling ‘well’ and feeling ‘ill’, in the middle we have tension which builds, if left untreated this ultimately leads to the first stages of a panic attack occurring.
So what can we do?
Simply face the symptoms and accept what’s taking place, once you have accepted the fact, you’re body will ‘lose’ the urge to fight or flight, thus the power has been taken away from the attack. One professor told me,you have to imagine a panic attack like an army storming a beach, if there’s no opposition to ‘fight back’ then the army will simply move onto their next objective. In anxiety terms this simply means if a sufferer can remove the opposition in the first place, a panic attack will have nothing to overcome, thus it will get bored and move on or go away.
Setting Your Goals to Cope
Now you’ve decided you want to overcome your anxiety issue it’s time to make a solid and well-constructed plan. A panic attack can be an awful experience which can leave you feeling like you’re the only person in the world who may be going through this, however you’re not. Panic attacks have happened to millions of people, learning to cope and confront this fear is important if you want to live a normal life once again.
Creating a plan and having structured goals is a great way of giving your life a clear sense of direction and purpose, at times when you may feel lost or confused having something to remind you of your new direction can be a major boost.
It’s easy to get carried away with wanting to find a quick cure, for a lot of people this simply won’t happen, as everybody is different and their circumstances are different, each person needs to seriously evaluate their lives and want they want to achieve. It’s always a great idea to split your goals into two categories ‘short term goals’ and ‘long term goals’.
Long term goals are simply where you want to find yourself, what’s your final outcome to your issue? On the flip side short term goals are to focus your mind on the coming week or two ahead.
For some people, they start out with several short term goals which eventually add up to one long term goal. Think of it like building a caste, you have the imagine in your head of a gigantic and imposing structure however what happens first? You build the foundations and lay a brick on piece at a time, over the course of several weeks and months you’ll finally finish the castle and your long-term goal will be completed.
Long Term Goals
• List all of the circumstances and situations where you have experienced a panic attack
• List all of the circumstances and situations where you have difficultly managing your attack / anxieties.
• Re-read the list and number them in accordance with your personal important. I.E 1 for the worst attack and 10 for the least.
• Re-write the list and write down any long term goals to ‘tackle’ the issue.
Short Term Goals
• Look at your long term goals
• List what you think are the two of the easiest goals and two of the hardest goals.
• For each of these goals you have just picked, break them down into shorter and smaller goals – list three positive actions you can do to achieve the goal.
The idea is that your shorter goals are a series of tasks in which you can do immediately within the next week or month. Once you have accomplished your first short term goal move onto the next one and repeat the process, over time you will begin to feel more confident and positive in yourself as your completing more and more goals.
Typically, it’s much easier to motivate yourself when you have nearly completed a goal or the ‘finishing line’ is in sight. For some people, it can be a good idea to write down what you think worked and what you think didn’t after completing each goal. Generally, this may help you in the future with other goals you have set yourself.
For example, if your short term goal is to shop again without having a panic attack then simply take it one step at a time. Start out by shopping at the local shop with a friend or relative, then widen your distance to the shop in the next neighbourhood. Keep building and building on your success and reach out further, go to the next neighbourhood after that, then go to into town where more people are. You may think it’s childish but imagine you’re like a baby taking it’s first steps, once you feel confident you can then step higher challenges such as a large shopping centre or out of town location.
Remember with short term goals it’s OK if you don’t accomplish everything you wanted in one day, that’s why it’s called a short-term goal, you can do it over a number of days or weeks. Once you have finally accomplished the goal practice it and practice it again until you feel fully confident in your abilities. Only you know your own fears and anxieties so practice and overall commitment really will be beneficial to overcoming your anxiety.
For some people we questioned it was worthwhile to them, to ‘gather information’ before they started their task, for example, they learned about the location or planned a route in detail, this made them feel at ease and they managed to cope much better with the task. Equally some people also found it easier when they brought along a prop to aid them in the situation, for example a person with a driving anxiety listened to their favourite artist or relaxing music.
Generally, results also work more favourably if the sufferer receives support from a close friend or relative, someone who respects them. This helps the sufferer because the person will re-enforce the notion that they’re doing excellent in overcoming their fears. However please note once the sufferer becomes good at managing their anxiety and the task at hand, then the supportive person should remove themselves from the situation, so the sufferer can manage alone instead of relying on any words of encouragement, thus being dependent.
During a goal some people may encounter negative thoughts, as they’re doing something ‘new’ or ‘different’ to their usual routine. Generally, it’s regarded that once a person has noticed their negative thoughts they should attempt to support their decision with positive thoughts to complete the goal to the best of their ability at that time. If a person ever feels like they can’t complete the goal, then that’s OK, remember the quote ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.
To combat any negative thoughts look for the triggers before they occur, from my research and experience one of the first notions is simply ‘I’m working myself up’, secondly counter act this with a positive thought ‘i will beat this and it will go away’.
Thirdly implement a supportive action to support your positive thought, this can be something as simple as humming, singing, writing your thoughts down on paper or breathing techniques. As everybody has individual and unique circumstances the right course of action for you, will obviously depend on your situation at the time.
Once you feel comfortable with the task you have undertaken, simply end the practice for that day. Assess how you did and go from there, use the information and feelings you have collected and plan your next session accordingly.
Remember, every time you practice your goal, the stronger and more positive you will become, this doesn’t matter if the practice session is long or short, each time you do something you will get better. If after a practice you are still experiencing negative thoughts such as you ‘still feel anxious’ simply replace this negativity with positive support statements which re-enforce your position of authority. For example, ‘this has been a great session, I’ve managed to suppress my anxiety and I’m moving forward much quickly than I thought I would’. Take one small step at a time and every small step will eventually create one giant leap.