Anxiety is all about threat and danger (either real or imagined), where the fear that you feel is out of proportion to the actual threat itself.
People can make themselves anxious about almost anything: dealing work, or their relationships, money, thinking about the future, walking into a room full of people, flying and so on. An anxiety disorder is a cover term for a variety of neuroses where anxiety is the predominant emotion. Anxiety disorders include the following:
You may be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder if you have felt anxious for a long time and often feel fearful, but are not anxious about anything in particular. The strength of symptoms can vary.
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something. If you have a phobia, your anxiety will be triggered by very specific situations or objects; such as spiders, heights, and flying or crowded places, even when there is no danger to you. For example, you may know a spider isn’t poisonous or won’t bite you, but this still doesn’t reduce your anxiety. Likewise, you may know that it is safe to be out on a balcony in a high-rise block, yet feel terrified to go out on it or even enjoy the view from behind the windows inside the building.
Many of us have fears about particular objects or situations, and this is perfectly normal. A fear becomes a phobia if it lasts for more than six months, and has a significant impact on how you live your day-to-day life.
Panic attacks may sometimes occur for no reason and you may not be able to understand why. You may feel as if your mind has gone totally out of control. When you experience panic attacks that seem completely unpredictable and you can’t identify what has triggered them, you may experience panic disorder because the onset of panic seems unpredictable, you may live in fear of having another panic attack.
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour are typical for this disorder. You may, for example, have obsessive thoughts about being contaminated with germs or fear that you have forgotten to lock the door or turn off the oven. You may feel compelled to wash your hands, do things in a particular order or keep repeating what you are doing a certain number of times to ward of the thoughts and anxiety.
Is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.
If you have experienced or witnessed a very stressful or threatening event, e.g. war, serious accident, violent death or rape, you may later develop post-traumatic stress disorder. You are likely to experience flashbacks and have dreams about the event, and these are likely to trigger strong anxiety and feelings you experienced during the actual event.
This is an excessive and debilitating fear of being away from home or away from the people you care about.
This includes performance anxieties, such as exam nerves, fear of public speaking, stage fright and psychosexual dysfunction, or a fear of life changing events, such as getting married or changing jobs.
Further reading on anxiety management and self- help
‘Making Friends with Anxiety’ A warm, supportive little book to help ease worry and panic – by Sarah Rayner (2014)
‘Free Yourself from Anxiety’ A Self Help Guide to Overcoming Anxiety Disorders’ by Emma Fletcher and Martha Langley (2009)
‘Overcoming Anxiety’ – A Self-Help Guide’ by Helen Kennerley (1997)
Anxiety UK – Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families.
Helpline – 08444 775 774