How do I know if I should ask for help? Signs of anxiety

by | Jan 4, 2021

We can all feel anxiety and stress at times and it is perfectly normal. It would be strange to never have suffered an anxiety episode in your life. However, living in constant distress, worry, fear, and anxiety are red flags that could indicate a larger problem.

Anxiety can be univariate, multifactorial or, conversely, not have a clear origin. Although there are people who experience an anxious episode due to trauma, the accumulation of stress or a physical or mental illness, there are others who experience them spontaneously in situations of apparent peace of mind. This creates a lot of confusion and tends to aggravate the condition when the symptoms are unknown.

Many people end up suffering from anxiety disorders because of the extreme fear they feel when experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety. They are usually associated with the possibility of suffering a heart attack or some serious health problem. The reason is that the symptoms are experienced with moderate or high intensity and are quite overwhelming.

In this article, we will talk about the most common symptoms when facing intense anxiety episodes, how to deal with them, what their possible causes are, when to ask for help and why.

Symptoms of anxiety

The signs or symptoms of anxiety, when out of control, are not very different from the common anxiety that we can feel on some occasions, but they can feel much more intense. We said earlier that it was partly due to ignorance of the symptoms. Knowing what to expect could go a long way, so information is key in this context.

Now we will look at the symptoms that usually occur with anxiety, taking into account that not all people experience the same ones, nor the same amount, as it varies from one individual to another.

● Strong heart palpitations
● Feeling of choking
● Cramps or numbness
● Tremors
● Sweating
● Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
● Insomnia
● Tightness or pain in the chest
● Depersonalization (feeling out of self)
● Feeling of unreality (as if what is happening is not real)
● Recurring catastrophic thoughts
● Fear of dying, going crazy and / or losing control
● Avoidance of situations that can generate anxiety

Usually, several of these symptoms are felt at the same time, and sometimes all of them. Also, the frequency and intensity can vary in the same person, that is, in some moments they feel them all, in others just some. Each case can be very particular in this sense.

How to deal with them when they occur?

Before recommending some techniques and exercises for anxiety, it is important that the people not isolate themselves completely. It is good to let off steam and tell those we are close with and who we trust about what is happening. Support from family and other loved ones can make a big difference in treating anxiety disorders.
Sometimes, we are not able to see alternatives or the whole picture when we are fully immersed in a problem, and we may lose opportunities to recover. Anxious people usually have chaotic and quite negative thinking, so they cannot see things with complete clarity. That said, let’s move forward with the recommendations.
Fortunately, the symptoms of an intense anxiety attack can be alleviated quickly, applying certain techniques, relaxation strategies and / or distraction. On the one hand, distraction allows you to divert the mind’s attention to other matters, causing distressing thoughts to drift away. This does not work for many people, but it does for others, and it all depends on their own abilities, and even preferences, as there are people who prefer to quiet their mind first, and then focus on different thoughts. For others, distraction works very well since they feel that it is a more immediate solution and that it can be done anywhere.
Relaxation exercises usually require that certain conditions be met, however, there are those who master them so well that they can do them anywhere and at any time.
Some of the techniques we recommend for short-term symptom relief include the following:

Physical activity:

As counterproductive as it may seem, physical exercise helps a lot in treating symptoms.
Structured, planned and constant physical activity, with moderate or gentle exercise, is very beneficial for physical and mental health, about which there is little doubt. Exercise helps us secrete hormones that relax us and make us feel good. It allows us to have a better state of mind in general and in a very short period of time.
Among the physical activities we recommend, are: martial arts, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State), outdoor exercises, such as walking, jogging, swimming or doing sports such as tennis, rowing or whatever the person is comfortable with.
Physical activity does not always come naturally to us, especially if we are sedentary, and it requires discipline and willpower to be sustainable over time. The desire to feel relief from anxiety symptoms may be the correct motivation to encourage us to do physical activity.

Breathing exercises:

The ideal breathing exercises for those of us who suffer from anxiety are those done with the diaphragm. This is because with this type of breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system can get feedback, which is responsible for keeping the body in a state of relaxation so that it is ready to perform other functions, such as digestion or sexual activities.
When we suffer from intense anxiety, the alarms of the sympathetic system are activated frequently, making the body prepare only to try to defend itself from a real or apparent threat. This disrupts the digestive, sexual, sleep and other functions necessary to stay balanced.
The breathing exercises that we recommend to provide feedback to the parasympathetic nervous system are: deep breathing, box breathing and the breath of fire. They all seek the same thing; a deep breath that completely fills the lungs and then empties them in the same way.

Hydrotherapy:

Hydrotherapy is a quick and easy way to get relief from the tension and symptoms produced by stress and anxiety. Specifically, thermal hydrotherapy can have important effects on anxiety symptoms. Among the options we have, are: cold water showers, hot water showers, contrast showers (alternating hot and cold water), immersion baths and the Turkish bath.
For example, a cold shower at the moment of an anxiety crisis clears our minds and activates the body, due to the shock that occurs with the change in temperature. This produces an effect opposite to anxiety, where the body goes into fight or flight mode. Hot showers have several benefits but the most important is that of muscle relaxation to promote sleep and deep rest. All of them have some notable benefit to physical and mental health.

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How do I know if I should ask for help?

Sometimes we are not sure whether to ask for professional help or not. We may fear being judged by others or we may feel judgmental towards the mental health professions. Certainly, not all cases require urgent medical or psychological attention, for example, when the episodes are very sporadic and do not have a significant impact on our lives. Most of us can handle mild to moderate levels of stress and anxiety with practice.
However, there are cases in which we need help and that is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, resorting to medical and / or psychological guidance is a responsible decision that can get us out of the anxiety box quickly and without major consequences. Not only are anxiety disorders treatable, but a high percentage of patients make a full recovery.

We recommend asking for help in the following cases:

● When distressing and catastrophic thoughts prevent us from carrying out daily tasks or falling asleep. This is one of the reasons that many of us go to psychiatric or psychological consultations; when we are unable to do simple tasks of daily life or when we do not have the usual drive to do them.

● When it is very difficult or impossible to control anxiety symptoms. We constantly feel bad, fatigued, tired, and have low energy. In general, when anxiety has weakened us physically and this prevents us from functioning normally.

● When we are depressed, that is, in a state of deep apathy and sadness that has taken away the joy of living. We do not make sense of what we do and we cannot see a way out of problems, similar to being at a dead end. In the same way, if we suffer from any other mental disorder in addition to anxiety.

● When we have an addiction to or dependence on alcohol or other substances. This can easily aggravate the anxious episodes, adding yet another problem and making it more difficult to cope correctly.

● When we suspect that anxiety may be associated with a physical illness. It is important to rule out this possibility. Many people end up suffering from anxiety because they really have a heart, respiratory or other pathology that is the cause of their episodes.

● When we have self-harming thoughts, we should go immediately to a psychiatric and / or psychological consultation. We can also get support from family, as sharing these thoughts helps a lot. Self-aggressive thinking is one in which the person considers mistreating or inflicting harm as the only solution to their problem.

Why should I seek help?

We know that it can be difficult for some to talk about their anxiety, but it is important to become aware that it is a problem that can be completely overcome with the correct professional support and accompaniment. The less time that passes between the first strong anxiety attacks and seeking help, the better, as the recovery will be faster.
On the contrary, when we choose to live our anxiety closed in on ourselves, we do not seek support or help of any kind, and we run the risk of developing other disorders, such as phobic anxiety, generalized anxiety or depression. Early intervention is key to recovery.

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