Anxiety can be disabling

Anxiety generates catastrophic thinking, uncertainty, irritability, anger, worry, and physical symptoms. Find out how to combat it.

Anxiety can be disabling
A young woman is seen suffering from anxiety in home environment. Photo by Joice Kelly / Unsplash

Anxiety is sometimes confused with stress because both overlap. It is common to manifest the latter, which is usual and implies adapting to a change, although if it is not handled properly it can lead to intense worry and fear, said José Alfredo Contreras Valdez, an academic at the Faculty of Psychology (FP) of the UNAM.

It is a feeling of fear and uneasiness, by which people develop exacerbated fear of their surroundings: catastrophic thoughts, uncertainty, irritability, anger, worry, and some physical symptoms such as sweating, accelerated breathing and heartbeat, embarrassment, and shortness of breath. Anxiety causes alterations in what we think and leads to the activation and overload of various body systems, thus generating physiological symptoms.

Although it is not common, it can become disabling, especially when panic disorder develops, a type of anxiety in which people have sudden attacks - they occur quickly and sometimes last several minutes - and repeated moments of intense fear without apparent danger. In the generalized type, individuals worry about common problems: health, money, work, and family, but their worries are excessive and they have them almost every day for at least six months.

There are also phobias in which they develop an intense fear of something that represents little or no real danger. Their fear can be of flying, spiders, crowded places, or being in social situations (known as social anxiety). Sometimes anxiety attacks are mistaken for heart attacks, so individuals become frightened and go for emergency consultation. The specialist recommended attending psychological therapy to modify behavioral patterns.

Normal emotion

The FP has the Dictionary of Emotions project, through which it transmitted a capsule in which it was asked: Have you ever felt agitated before taking an exam or speaking in public? This sensation is known as anxiety, an occasional and brief response that prepares us for situations that are new to us, or when going through a problem.

The main nerve center responsible for its production and regulation is the limbic system, which is the area of the brain that regulates emotions. Anxiety can cause difficulties in sleeping or controlling worry, accelerated heart rate and breathing, sweating, trembling hands, and legs, among other symptoms.

To some extent, it is a completely normal emotion, which we have experienced and helps us cope with certain demands of life. But if you find yourself in a state of intense and persistent fear, believing that something terrible is going to happen to you, it may be an anxiety disorder. If this is your case, the best thing to do is to seek professional help.

To combat it, it is suggested to take care of your diet, sleep well, practice a sport, do breathing exercises, identify negative thoughts and question them, and interpret problems as a challenge and not a threat.