Am I Suffering With Symptoms Of Anxiety?
When we experience a stressful or overwhelming event, our mind and body will often react with feelings of anxiety. It is completely natural to feel worried, apprehensive or nervous about certain situations, and the majority of people experience feelings of anxiety throughout their lifetime.
This can happen before a job interview, an important exam or even during happy times such as your wedding day.
However, when these feelings persist and become difficult to control, you may begin to feel as though you spend a large amount of your life worrying and feeling anxious.
This is known as an anxiety disorder and may begin to affect the way you live your daily life. 
This post will discuss the different types of anxiety along with the most common symptoms and helpful ways to address and combat this often debilitating disorder.
What are the most common types of anxiety?
Far from serving as a specific diagnosis, anxiety is an umbrella term covering a wide range of mental health disorders. Some people experience anxiety around certain events or situations, while others struggle with their own thoughts and compulsions that may induce unpleasant feelings on a regular basis.
As a result, each of these disorders should be treated as a separate mental health condition. A technique that appears to be effective for people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder may have no effect or even worsen the symptoms of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Some of the most common types of anxiety include:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Often characterised as uncontrollable worrying about a wide range of past, present or potential future situations, a generalised anxiety disorder can have an extremely detrimental effect on an individuals’ physical and mental health.
They may recognise that their fear and worry is not proportionate to the actual event but are unable to control their anxiety, leading to a constant feeling of dread and the sense that something terrible is around the corner. 
People with a generalised anxiety disorder may find it difficult to carry out day-to-day activities due to their overpowering and persistent worries and often have trouble making decisions, dealing with uncertainty and even simply taking the time to relax.
Panic attacks are often associated with anxiety, with the majority of people experiencing only a handful throughout their lifetime.
However if an individual frequently experiences multiple panic attacks and begins to live in constant fear of experiencing another one, they may be suffering from panic disorder.
Recurring panic attacks can be extremely debilitating, and many people will attempt to avoid exposure to potential triggers and limit activities outside the house in an attempt to minimise any potential embarrassment or fear.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD most commonly develops after an individual has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or incident including a sexual assault, natural disaster or car accident.
It’s natural to feel upset and traumatised after a shocking experience, but if these feelings continue and even worsen in the weeks and months after the event then the individual may be suffering from PTSD. 
People dealing with PTSD may have panic attacks, insomnia, repeated flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. They may avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic experience and often have difficulty carrying out daily tasks.
Often stereotyped as an obsession with cleaning and organising, OCD runs much deeper than many people realise. Someone with OCD will likely struggle with intrusive thoughts and urges to perform repetitive actions or behaviours even when it is not logical or helpful to do so.
You may be dealing with OCD if your obsessive thoughts and actions prevent or restrict you from enjoying your daily life, take up a large amount of your time and/or cause you emotional or physical distress. 
People with OCD may ruminate and obsess over specific thoughts or situations, frequently check things such as the oven or electrical appliances or compulsively clean themselves or their surroundings.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Many people feel nervous about the idea of attending a party alone or striking up a conversation with a stranger. However, someone with a social anxiety disorder may feel a sense of overwhelming fear at the idea of interacting with people.
They often believe that they are being scrutinised, judged and watched by others and this can cause them to completely avoid social situations at all costs.
It can be difficult for people with social anxiety disorder to make friends and progress in their careers, as they often suffer from low self-esteem and believe that they are inferior to other people.
What causes anxiety?
It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused an individual to develop anxiety, as there are likely a number of factors involved.
Some studies theorise that certain people are more predisposed than others to experience this disorder due to a naturally anxious personality or a close family member suffering from anxiety, but more research is needed in order to determine if these factors can contribute towards developing an anxiety disorder.
Common factors that may cause anxiety include:
- A stressful and demanding job and/or unsupportive and abusive managers and colleagues
- Losing a partner, friend or family member either expectedly or unexpectedly
- Financial problems
- Loss of employment
- Experiencing a big life change, even if this change is a positive one
- Feelings of isolation or loneliness
- Being diagnosed with an illness, or having someone close to you become ill
- Traumatic experiences during childhood such as being abused, losing a close family member or being bullied
- Traumatic experiences during adulthood such as a sexual assault, natural disaster or terror attack
- Unprecedented global events such as climate change, large protests or a pandemic
- Side effects of certain medications
- Excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar, alcohol or drugs
There is no shame in struggling with an anxiety disorder, and it’s important to realise that anxious feelings and thoughts aren’t always a reflection of your true reality.
It can be easy to believe the voice inside your head telling you that something terrible is about to happen and that you are in imminent danger, but in the majority of cases these worries are not grounded in reality and simply fear.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Each person experiences the symptoms of anxiety differently depending on their physical and mental health as well as the specific type of anxiety disorder that they are dealing with.
However there are a number of common symptoms that are experienced by the majority of sufferers, although you do not need to exhibit all of the below symptoms in order to be diagnosed with anxiety – in fact, you may experience signs of this disorder that are not listed.
No matter what your personal experience of anxiety looks like, this disorder can be extremely debilitating and has the ability to make carrying out daily activities feel difficult or even impossible.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Heart palpitations and/or an irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Frequently short of breath
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Sore and aching muscles
- Swirling or churning feeling in the stomach
- Pins and needles, particularly in lips and fingers
- Frequent urge to use the toilet
- Stomach ache
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Excessive perspiration
- Strong thumping heartbeat
- Lowered sex drive
- Grinding teeth or clenching jaw, often while sleeping
Common psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
- Uncontrollable worrying and fear
- Feelings of depression
- Trouble concentrating or sitting still
- Feeling as though something terrible is going to happen
- Frequently ruminating over past, present and future scenarios
- Finding it difficult to relax
- Irritability and agitation
- Avoiding situations that may trigger anxious feelings
- Feeling disconnected from your own body and/or mind
If you are concerned that you or someone you know is struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s never too late to seek help. Some people with anxiety may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and it’s important to remember that you are not alone.
If you are having distressing thoughts, speak to a trusted friend or family member or call the Samaritans on 116 123.
How can I recover from anxiety?
Dealing with an anxiety disorder can make you feel helpless and overwhelmed. Thankfully there are a number of self-care strategies that can go a long way in reducing anxious feelings and controlling worry and fear, and professional counselling is also available if you are finding it difficult to overcome this disorder alone.
1. Set aside specific times to relax
If you’ve been filling your days with endless to-do lists and putting too much pressure on yourself to be productive, it’s likely that you haven’t been taking the time to simply relax and unwind.
Put aside specific sections of your day to do something that you truly enjoy, and you may notice that your anxious feelings begin to subside over time.
2. Take care of your physical health
Our physical and mental health are closely tied, so when one is neglected we tend to notice the effects in every aspect of our lives. If you have been feeling anxious and overwhelmed, make sure your basic needs are being met.
Are you getting enough sleep? Is your diet varied and filled with vitamins and nutrients? Are you making the time to move your body and work up a sweat?
3. Proactively address your problems
In some cases, the reasons for our anxious feelings are clear and need to be addressed. It can be helpful to take stock of your life and proactively tackle any problems that could be affecting your mental health.
For example, if you have a stressful and demanding job that is contributing to the majority of your anxiety then you may be able to take steps in order to reduce your workload or even begin searching for a new role.
4. Consider professional counselling
Sometimes the best course of action is to speak to a professional about your worries and fears. Our mind can form pathways and associations with specific triggers, and you may need help to detach your emotions from external sources. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is commonly used when helping people recover from various types of anxiety, and this is available both on the NHS and as a private option.