Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state embodied in conscious, somatic, emotional, and behavioural elements. These factors combine to create an unpleasant feeling that is typically associated with uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry.
Anxiety is a generalised mood condition that can often occur without an obvious trigger and can be considered to be a normal reaction to stress.
It may help a person to deal with a difficult situation, for example at work or at school, by prompting you to find ways to cope with it. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it creates limitations in your life.
The physical effects of anxiety may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches. When you are anxious, your body prepares to deal with a perceived threat. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase. You may begin to sweat. Blood flow to the major muscle groups is increased and your immune and digestive functions are repressed. This adrenalised state is known as the Fight or Flight condition and is part of our basic survival mechanism. However, when there is no real threat to fight or from which to flee, the sufferer’s body becomes the battle ground.
External signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and dilation of the pupils. Someone who has anxiety might also experience it as a sense of dread or panic. Although panic attacks are not experienced by every person who has anxiety, they are a common symptom.
Anxiety does not only consist of physical effects; there are many emotional ones as well. They include:
feelings of apprehension or dread
feeling tense or jumpy
anticipating the worst
irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) or danger
your mind going blank
obsessions about sensations
a sense of déjà vu (or having experienced or been in this situation before)
a sense of being trapped in your mind
feeling like everything is scary
Being in an anxious state may cause you to think about potential dangers, such as fear of dying. You may fear that the chest pains (a physical symptom of anxiety) are a heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head (another physical symptom of anxiety) are the result of a tumour or aneurysm. You may feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or not be able to get this fear out of your mind.
Anxiety can be experienced in a variety of situations, such as:
test or performance situations
anticipation of frightening, embarrassing or threatening occurrences
where there are choices required to be made
where you feel you don’t have enough skills to deal with the challenge facing you
A panic attack is as an experience of extraordinarily intense fear or apprehension. The effects of a panic attack vary from person to person. Many people fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown.
Some of my clients have described a panic attack as being one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of their life. Other experiences can include:
Palpitations, or accelerated heart rate
Trembling or shaking
Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
Feeling of choking
Chest pain or discomfort
Nausea or abdominal distress
Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
Feeling disconnected or unreal
Fear of losing control or going insane
Fear of dying
Numbness or tingling sensations
Chills or hot flashes
Weakness in the knees
Sensing time going by very slowly
Feeling the need to escape
Somatic therapy, often incorporating appropriate Integrative Bodywork, provides an opportunity for the sufferer to understand more about the triggers and background that lead up to anxiety and panic attacks. The bodywork imparts a greater understanding physically and emotionally of what actually happens within their body, with the opportunity of learning early warning signs and ways of dealing with and eventually being liberated from these debilitating experiences.