Anxiety and its most frequent symptoms

by | Jan 11, 2021

In the modern world, hectic lifestyles, technology and its effects in our daily lives, as well as many other factors, make the way we live today accelerate at a growing pace.

This continually exposes us to greater and more recurrent situations of stress and anxiety.

In the midst of the effects that an accelerated and busy lifestyle brings to our health, both physically and mentally, many of us come to ask ourselves, is it normal to feel anxious and/or stressed? How can I recognize if I am suffering from an episode of anxiety and/or stress? And if so, how can I find answers to the relief of anxiety and/or stress?

These and other questions may cross our minds. Therefore, it is important to understand what stress is and what anxiety is, which may be related but are not the same.

In this occasion, we will also focus on anxiety and what its main symptoms are.

The first thing to do is understand that it is normal to feel stress and even anxiety in some moments and situations of our daily life, but nevertheless, these states are not always healthy but rather the result of an alteration in our natural mechanism.

Stress appears as a physiological reaction of the body when facing a very demanding situation or one that we cannot control. It is both mental and physical and it is related to “external” or environmental stimuli. Stress has a series of manifestations, which allow us to face a specific situation stimulus that triggers this response from our organism. For example, when we run out of time on an exam and feel that we are not going to be able to finish, we feel stressed.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a mechanism that our body uses to face circumstances that, in some way, represent a threat to those of us who experience them. It is related to “internal” stimuli and considered psychological of emotional type. Anxiety leads us to a state of alert, which is considered normal and even healthy, and generates diverse reactions, such as adaptation, fight, escape or neutralization, to help us effectively face a circumstance of danger. This type of anxiety is considered healthy anxiety. For example, when a dog approaches us barking, our anxiety can be activated to adapt and react to a dangerous situation.

The problem arises when anxiety as a natural mechanism gets out of control, becoming a disorder that affects our well-being. This is where we talk about pathological anxiety. 

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Now, what are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety and how to recognize them?

Five (5) of the most frequent symptoms of anxiety usually are the following ones:

1. Heart palpitations:

When the palpitations occur, we feel that our heart speeds up, that it beats very hard or gives us the impression that it is not working regularly. It is a strong sensation and gets us really worried, although most of the time, in spite of the physical effects that it triggers, it does not generate any damage and it is only a part of the whole range of anxiety disorder symptoms.

2. Sweating:

Usually goes hand in hand with palpitations and is a very common symptom of anxiety. When we face an anxious episode our heart speeds up naturally and as a physical reaction we start to sweat. The sweating is usually very annoying and uncomfortable and on many occasions it can take us further into the anxiety spiral. However, it does not regularly represent any danger either.

3. Trembling or shaking:

Trembling in our body is also a very common symptom in people who suffer from anxiety. It makes us feel that something “bad” is about to happen or that we are exposed to a dangerous situation, which may be real or not, therefore our body reacts by filling us with energy to overcome it. This excess energy in our organism is what makes us shake.

Moreover, it is clearly associated with the two symptoms mentioned above and they potentialize each other.

4. Feeling unable to get enough oxygen:

Also known as shortness of breath, is another main symptom of anxiety disorder. When we feel that we are before a situation of alertness or danger, we adapt to it and begin breathing quickly so that our body gets ready to respond. However, when this breathing occurs due to pathological anxiety, we never manage to execute the physical effort for which we get prepared, so we end up generating an excessive response known as hyperventilation, which paradoxically gives us the sensation of lack of oxygen. This is usually harmless but difficult to manage, and its effect can “complicate” the anxiety disorder.

5. Fear of losing control:

There are many fears that we can feel when facing a state of pathological anxiety. A very common one is the fear of losing one’s sanity and/or control. This symptom is very much associated with the feeling of depersonalization; of seeing ourselves as if we were a different person in an alienated reality from our own. It is usually intense and we can become very obsessive about it. In many cases we experience this fear in a very recurrent way and we think that we will lose consciousness and all the effects that this can bring. Even when we are not facing an anxiety episode, we may have related thoughts that stimulate this symptom and puts us at risk of relapsing.

In addition to these symptoms, we can also name others, such as difficulty falling asleep, gastrointestinal problems, feeling tired, lack of energy and concentration, dizziness or instability, and irritability, among others.

Anxiety may or may not require medical and/or pharmacological treatment. For this reason, it is important to first understand what it is, to analyze our reality, to detect it if we are suffering from symptoms and what they may be, as well as how often and how intensely they occur.

Being able to understand that healthy anxiety is something normal and that feeling it does not necessarily mean that our mechanism is not working well, that we are going to suffer anxiety attacks, or pathological anxiety, can help us prevent the alteration of our state and reduce the risk itself of increasing until the point of disturbing our mechanism.

There are resources to manage and alleviate anxiety and its symptoms which can help us break the anxiety cycle and achieve greater well-being, often without the need for clinical treatment. 

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