All You Need To Know About Anxiety : Causes, Effects and Symptoms

Globally, a lot of issues make people anxious and stressed out. Anxiety often leads to several health issues and it is important to recognize the causes and symptoms of anxiety, so that it can be treated effectively. It is also important to know how to prevent anxiety attacks and continue in good health. This article will reveal all the above in details, and much more.

1. What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a broad term that is used to explain a person’s reaction to present or future dangers. Anxiety is strongly associated with fear, and can be the body’s natural reaction to genuine or non-existent immediate dangers. The fear that results from being anxious, typically called “flight or fight” system is controlled by the body’s autonomic nervous system. The natural response to anxiety normally includes unconscious reactions such as the pupil of the eyes being dilated, the heart beating faster than normal and increased rate of breathing. Conscious responses to anxiety include increased attention to one’s immediate surroundings, excessive sweating, palpitations and tensed muscles. While anxiety can be helpful at times of danger, it can become problematic when one becomes too anxious over little things, does not calm down when the perceived danger is no more or when one responds too strongly to perceived threats. When anxiety becomes excessive, and leads to physical distress or restricts one’s usual function, it is perhaps an anxiety disorder.

2. What is The Difference Between Anxiety and Stress?

Even though stress and anxiety are generally used alternately in ordinary conversation, they are different. While stress is as a result of pressures of daily life, anxiety is the body’s normal response to perceived threats. Furthermore, sustained daily pressure triggers the release of adrenaline, leading to depression, increased blood pressure and other detrimental health problems.
Furthermore, anxiety results from stress. When a person is worried too much about how to solve a problem or what the future holds, it results in physical issues such as physical pain and panic attacks. Also, whereas stress results from an identifiable stress-causing factor (stressor), the cause of anxiety is usually unknown and for this reason, anxiety is viewed as genuine mental disorder, while stress is not. When this identifiable stressor that causes stress goes away, stress also disappears, but anxiety remains longer than normal, even after the stressor(s) are gone. For this reason, a person has to have symptoms of anxiety for at least six months to be diagnosed with it. It is believed that within this period, the triggers of stress would have gone away, and thus stress will not be mistaken for anxiety. 

3. What is Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks, also termed panic attacks, are periods of extreme panic or fear. They typically happen unexpectedly and without prior notice. While there may be recognizable causes at times, such as thinking about an interview, at other times, it comes from nowhere. They last for between 10-30 minutes, and within that short period, a person may feel like he/she is having a heart attack, dying or losing control. Some symptoms of anxiety attacks include: increase of devastating fear, palpitations or pain in the chest, increased breathing, nausea, visible shaking, etc.

4. Who Can be Affected?

Globally, anxiety disorders are the most common cause of mental illness. Some of these anxiety disorders can start anywhere between childhood and early adulthood. Anxiety is more common in women than men. Furthermore, having a family history of psychological problems, unhappy relationships, financial difficulties, losing a loved one, or having a spouse or relative with anxiety disorder can predispose one to developing anxiety.

5. What are the Different Forms of Anxiety?

Each of the six forms of anxiety has their own distinctive signs and symptoms. The six types of anxiety are: generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks or panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobia and other irrational fears, social anxiety disorder/social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

6. What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) refers to a chronic disorder in which a person is constantly and excessively worried about generic events in life. An individual with GAD is worried about virtually everything from money to family, work and health, without any reason for doing so. They cannot also stop themselves from worrying, and always assume that something sinister will happen, leading to interruptions in their daily activities. While it is normal to be afraid, their fear is mostly unlikely and more exaggerated than what may actually happen. As a result, GAD sufferers may have trouble sleeping, restless and fatigued.

7. How Can Anxiety Affect Your Body?

Anxiety can cause physical problems to your body system, including gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The specific symptoms include: functional dyspepsia or upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), worsening Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Others include: depression, increased risk of developing coronary problems in those who already have a heart disease, migraine, insomnia, loss of appetite and lack of interest in sex. Also, your body’s defense mechanism will be poor and your overall health will be poor.

8. What are the Causes of Anxiety?

The exact medical cause of anxiety is unknown. However, with continuing research into mental illness and anxiety specifically, we are becoming aware that anxiety is the result of certain factors, or a combination these factors. These factors can be categorized as environmental, medical, genetic, brain chemistry and substance abuse.

1) Environmental or external causes 
These include:
  – Traumatic events such as abuse by a spouse or partner, harassment at work or school, or losing a loved one in death.
  – Undergoing constant stress in an intimate relationship, matrimonial home, friendship, etc.
  – Pressure at work and school.
  – Finances and monetary pressures.
  – Experiencing a natural disaster.

2) Medical causes
There is a relationship between anxiety and several conditions such as different heart problems, asthma, infections, and even anaemia. Some medically-related causes of anxiety include:
  – Tension from suffering a serious medical condition.
  – Unexpected result of medication.
  – Exhibiting signs and symptoms of a medical condition.
  – Deficient oxygen as resulting from emphysema, or pulmonary embolism.

3) Anxiety resulting from substance use and abuse
Generally, anxiety in this case results from:
  – Dependence on alcohol or benzodiazepine.
  – Inebriation from an illegal drugs, e.g. cocaine and amphétamines.
  – Withdrawal from prescribed medications and illegal drugs.

4) Genetic causes
Studies have revealed that having a family history of anxiety, puts one at risk of developing it too. This means that there is a genetic predisposition to anxiety.

5) Anxiety resulting from abnormal brain chemistry
Studies have found that individuals with irregular levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain are at danger of developing generalized anxiety disorder. This is because the brain reacts wrongly to certain circumstances when neurotransmitters are not functioning optimally. Eventually, it can result to anxiety.

9. What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Even though anxiety exists in different and varies from one individual to another, all anxiety disorders have a common symptom, which is constant fear in all circumstances that should normally not result in such apprehension. The symptoms of anxiety are divided into physical and psychic.

1) Physical symptoms of anxiety
Since anxiety results from the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, it is more than a feeling, but rather consists of extensive physical symptoms. Because some of the physical symptoms are also likely to be caused by other medical conditions, anxiety sufferers do not easily recognize their problem. As a result, it may take several visits to the hospital and seeing different specialists before a diagnosis of anxiety disorder can be made. That said the most frequent physical symptoms of anxiety include:
  – The heart beating faster than normal.
  – Excessive sweating
  – Headaches and/or dizziness
  – Abdominal upset
  – Recurrent urination or diarrhea
  – Shortness of breath
  – Tension of the muscles
  – Tiredness or sleeplessness

2) Psychic symptoms of anxiety
Along with the major symptoms of unfounded and extreme fear and apprehension, other psychological include:
  – Constant fear, looking out for indications of danger, expecting that the worst is about to happen.
  – Always feeling agitated and having a tough time concentrating
  – Constant irritability
  – Inability to think properly

10. How to Deal With Anxiety?

While dealing with anxiety can seem overwhelming and sometimes impossible, you can achieve it. This is because anxiety is like the mind exerting undue influence over the mind. Therefore is you can muster up the power to subdue to apprehensive mind, your more positive mind will emerge victorious. Here are a few tips to help you overcome anxiety. 

  • Don’t allow anxiety take you to where you don’t want to be. Be where you want to be.
    Because anxiety comes up with several suppositions and possibilities to take your mind off the present, try to immerse yourself in the present by opening up your senses to your present environment. Look at, listen to, feel and even get a taste of what is around you presently. This way you will stay with what is happening, rather than what may happen. Practice this all the time and your mind will become stronger.
  • Don’t try to hurriedly change your thoughts. Stay patient.
    Be patients with the anxious thoughts and feeling, because they will not last forever, they will eventually disappear. Rather as discussed above, try to be in the reality that is happening around you, without blocking the thoughts. This is because you are stronger than any negative feelings. Eventually, the negative thoughts will disappear, knowing that you will not fall for them.
  • Observe your thoughts without indulging in them.
    Anxiety makes you want to indulge in every idea that comes to your mind. Try to take a step back and observe your imaginations, with the conviction that they eventually pass away. Understand them, and without trying to change it (which will engage you in the thoughts), talk yourself out if those thoughts and let them pass.
  • Let past memories go
    Past events and experiences have a way of affecting us negatively. Therefore, go through every event as if that is your first time. Have in mind that no similar situations turn out to be the same, so forget about the past experiences and focus on the present realities. You are probably wiser, more powerful and capable to handle it better than the last time, so don’t panic.

11. How to Prevent Anxiety Attacks?

According to the popular saying, “prevention is better than cure”. Therefore, even though you now know how to deal with anxiety, it is better to prevent it before it happens. Here are some tips:

  • Recognize and learn everything you need to know about it and how it affects you, and you will know how to stop them
  • Do not be afraid of anxiety attacks. Don’t let yourself be crowded with negative thoughts, but in every situation be positive that you will come out successful.
  • When under stress, learn to calm yourself down, because the stress hormones will eventually dissipate from your body, and the anxiety will go away.
  • Practice deep breathing exercise and you will feel very relaxed again.
  • Try different relaxation techniques and pick the one that works for you.
  • Try to remove or distract yourself from anxious thoughts.
  • Reduce activities or events that cause your stress.

12. How to Get Rid of Anxiety?

12.1) Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy helps to discover innate emotional problems and harrowing experiences that may be the cause of anxiety. A study carried out by researchers at Columbia University in New York and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, reported that patients with anxiety who were treated with psychodynamic therapy presented with less anxiety symptoms and engaged better with people than those who went through relaxation therapy. Furthermore, approximately 75% of patients in the psychotherapy group received the treatment better, compared to only 39% in the relaxation-therapy group.

12.2) Pharmacotherapy

Over time, medications are not as effective as psychotherapy and side effects or even interact with other medications to cause unwanted effects. However, when combined with psychotherapy, it can be very effective. Drugs commonly used to treat anxiety include:

  • Anti-anxiety drugs: Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax), and a recent drug, buspirone (BuSpar).
  • Antidepressants: The major drug here is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) e.g. sertraline (Zoloft). The advantage of antidepressants is that is also helps to treat depressions, with reduced risk of abuse. However, unlike benzodiazepines, they are slow to act and trigger weight gain or sexual problems.
  • Beta blockers: They slow down the heart rate and thus reduce high blood pressure.

12.3) Natural remedies

  • Drink at least there cups of Chamomile tea every day. Research has shown that Chamomile contains apigenin and luteolin which promotes relaxation.
  • There is evidence that taking at between 1 to 3 grams of omega-3 every day relieves stress.
  • While carrying out deep breathing exercises, breathe in lavender. It has been found to lower blood pressure during stressful situations.
  • Include L-lysine in your diet, because it is one of the precursors of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Enjoy at least 20 minutes of natural sunshine daily.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Eat fruits such as blueberries, peaches, avocados, oranges, etc.


For more reading about natural remedies for anxiety and stress, please read the following articles:

Natural Remedies For Anxiety and Stress
Essential Oils For Anxiety and Stress



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