Are you anxious?

Anxiety can be medically defined as ‘a multi-system response to a perceived threat or danger’. It reflects a blend of biochemical changes in the body, a person’s personal history and memory, as well as the social situation they find themselves in.

Anxiety is a human experience and everyone will feel some form of anxiety at different points during their life. But when the anxious feeling persists and interferes with your daily life and activities, it becomes a problem.

Anxiety is quickly becoming a bigger issue in Irish society. With the large number of people losing their jobs, homes and experiencing life changes as a result of the economic downfall, it is no wonder that clinical psychologists are seeing a rapid increase in the number of patients suffering from anxiety.

In 2013, we live in a world dominated by social media and the high expectational norms of society. Everyone wants to give 150% as 100% no longer seems sufficient. We are constantly worried about what we should be doing and measuring that against what other people are doing.

As a result, we often subconsciously push ourselves to try and do more than we are physically capable, unaware that going that extra mile could actually impose serious implications for our health.

The ever increasing prominence of anxiety in Ireland resonated with me recently when I heard a woman phone the Joe Duffy radio show, explaining how her 12-year-old daughter cannot return to or cope with school as a result of anxiety. Her anxiety began after she was due to perform at a school show and phoned her mother before it was due to start, asking her to pick her up, saying [she] “just can’t do it”.

One would wonder, why would such a young person be affected by a health issue like anxiety, but the truth is that it can come upon anyone, of any age, at any time.
It’s arrival may be a result of grief, loss of a loved one, a life transition or just an event one day that sparked a fear or worry of something which might happen.

Roisin Doolan works for the Online Communications department at ReachOut.com, where the different types of anxiety that can affect people such as ‘General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), social anxiety and panic attacks’ are detailed.

People experiencing GAD may have symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating and tense muscles. Sufferers are no longer able to enjoy what they once did and may also be inclined to misuse drugs or alcohol as a result.

Social Anxiety is the feeling of being judged when talking to or interacting with other people. Physical symptoms such as rapid breathing and shaking are likely to be experienced by sufferers, who, interestingly do not have to be shy. An extroverted person can be affected and then reverted to an introverted, shy person, as a result of their overwhelming worry.

Panic attacks are becoming more common among Irish people as they experience sudden periods of ‘intense fear or extreme anxiety’. These attacks come without any prior warning and could last for a few minutes to a half an hour.

However, there are ways by which you can avoid taking medicine for anxiety. Talking to a counsellor, changing your diet, relaxing and exercising are proven to help combat anxiety.
Regular exercise uses up naturally produced adrenaline – this can help slow down your heart-rate and lessen panic attacks.

“ReachOut.com features an ‘ask the expert’ section whereby working with experts, providing specialist knowledge of anxiety and depression, we provide a deeper insight into the personal concerns that people might have”, said Doolan.

Catríona Hughes

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