What is Anxiety?

by Prachi Bhatia 
October 19, 2020
What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is derived from the latin word “anxietas” which means to choke, throttle, or feel upset. It is a normal human emotion and is experienced by almost everyone in the course of their lifetime.

Symptoms of Anxiety

When a person experiences anxiety, there is intense, excessive, and constant worrying and fear about everyday situations. Physiologically, a fast heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, exhaustion, among many other symptoms, are experienced. It is common to experience anxiety in stressful situations, for instance, public speaking, taking a test, or being stressed due to an illness, where one’s body moves to high alert and activates a fight or flight response, causing nervousness, restlessness, feelings of panic and more. There may be a manifestation of a range of behavioural (hypervigilance, irritability, restlessness etc) and cognitive (lack of concentration, racing or unwanted thoughts) symptoms too.

Diagnosing Anxiety

When anxiety starts to interfere with one’s daily life activities causing considerable distress, and has been persistent for more than a period of 6 months, it can be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder by a mental health professional. The feelings of excessive worrying and anxiety may be strong enough to impact, disrupt, or interfere with everyday activities. Various types of anxiety disorders that have different criteria and symptoms are:

  1. Generalized anxiety (constant worrying and fear)
  2. Panic attacks (episodes of increased anxiety leading to more intense physiological, cognitive, and emotional disturbance)
  3. Social phobias (fear of being in public attention, meeting new people or facing new situations)
  4. Specific phobias (eg., blood-injection-injury phobia, fear of heights)
  5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (recurrent, intrusive negative thoughts that cause distress, resulting in a ritualistic repetitive act of checking, cleaning, or other repetitive behaviors)

Estimates from India

In India, research suggests that anxiety disorders are commonly seen among children and adolescents, with current prevalence of anxiety estimates ranging from between 4% to 20%, which means approximately 4% to 20% of Indians suffer from anxiety disorders in their lifetime. Studies have shown that urban communities have higher prevalence rates than rural communities. Factors like trauma such as death of a loved one, academic or work stress, personality traits, drug use/overuse, interpersonal conflicts, break-ups, and other life stressors have been reported to increase one’s risk of developing anxiety disorders. There is also a genectic predisposition for Anxiety, in that Anxiety Disorders run in families.

Treatment of Anxiety

Early intervention has shown the most effective results for recovery for anxiety disorders. A combination of psychopharmacology (medication) and therapy is recommended. Therapeutic interventions help gain insight into the underlying causes of worrying and fears, and help learn novel ways to look at situations in less frightening ways, thereby, developing improved coping and problem-solving skills to manage anxiety.

At PsychLine.in, we focus on counselling techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, Psychoeducation, Mindfulness training, as well as Integrated approaches for holistic healing to help manage anxiety. One’s willingness and commitment to get better will help achieve the most effective outcomes.

Prachi Bhatia,
Clinical and Research Intern, PsychLine.in