Anxiety is an unpleasant, complex combination of emotions that include fear, apprehension, and worry. It is often accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, or tension headache. Anxiety disorders are conditions that involve unrealistic fear and worry. Anxiety disorders are very common. Anxiety disorders affect people of all ages, including kids and teens.

Anxiety is often described as having cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. The cognitive component entails expectation of a diffuse and uncertain danger. The body prepares the organism to deal with threat (known as an emergency reaction): blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, blood flow to the major muscle groups is increased and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited. Externally, somatic signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and pupillary dilation. Emotionally, anxiety causes a sense of dread or panic and physically causes nausea, and chills. Behaviorally, both voluntary and involuntary behaviors may arise directed at escaping or avoiding the source of anxiety. However, anxiety is not always pathological or maladaptive: it is a common emotion along with fear, anger, sadness, and happiness, and it has a very important function in relation to survival. Anxiety can be somewhat of a mental illness.

There are five types of anxiety:

  • Generalized Anxiety disorder: People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.

  • Specific Phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias are centered on closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood. Such phobias aren't just extreme fear; they are irrational fear of a particular thing. While adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

  • Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is a real illness that can be successfully treated. It is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers. PTSD can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

The causes of Anxiety:?When you feel anxious, your body releases hormones that prepare you to react to a threat. This is called the fight-or-flight response. When anxiety gets out of control, this response can occur almost continuously, even during times when you seem calm. Doctors and researchers don't fully understand why this happens. Although the cause of an anxiety disorder is unknown, certain factors may contribute to the disorder;

Medical conditions: Certain disorders, such as an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), can produce anxiety, among other signs and symptoms.

Stress: A buildup of stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety.

Personality: People with some personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders.

Heredity: Generalized anxiety disorder appears to run in some families.

The symptoms of anxiety:?As we have seen, psychiatrists divide anxiety into five main types. The stress can spill over into other areas of life and create anxiety.?In general, anxiety's emotional turmoil appears to have a life of its own. Some psychiatrists call this 'free-floating anxiety'.?People with anxiety may find that they:

  • easily lose their patience

  • have difficulty concentrating

  • think constantly about the worst outcome

  • have difficulty sleeping

  • become depressed and/or

  • become preoccupied with, or obsessional about, one subject.

The relationship of physical and mental symptoms can create a vicious cycle that can be triggered by a symptom at any point.

In panic, the cycle develops quickly to a crisis. With generalized anxiety, people often manage to keep things under control and the cycle grumbles on. The effort of keeping things under control is itself very stressful.

The first step is to understand how anxiety works. Anxiety is a mixture of physical and mental symptoms. They are part of what psychologists call the 'fight or flight' response. When the body is under threat it automatically prepares either to defend itself or run.

To manage your anxiety you must first break the cycle. One way of doing this is to reduce the severity of physical symptoms by practicing relaxation techniques.

There are two types of relaxation exercise: guided fantasy and muscle tension. It's best to try them both to find out which one suits you best.

Another strategy for breaking the physical symptoms of the vicious cycle is taking aerobic exercise. This is exercise that's low impact - not involving carrying heavy weights or sudden exertion - and acts mainly on the heart. Any gentle physical activity that leaves the heart slightly racing will help.

By effectively giving the heart exercise it will, like any other muscle, become stronger. A stronger heart will be less prone to the kind of pounding that can make the physical symptoms so unpleasant.