Anxiety: The alarm that keeps going off

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Anxiety: The alarm that keeps going off

You know something is wrong with the way you feel, the way your body reacts and perhaps with the scattering of your thoughts…you feel stuck! And you may feel alone and confused about what might be happening with you.

The first step to tackling any issue is to know what you are dealing with. So you might not even know that you are more than just stressed or worried. You may be dealing with anxiety that may be impairing your ability to live a productive and meaningful life.

Many of us use the terms stress and anxiety often interchangeably. Although stress and anxiety have a lot of similarities, they are actually two distinct conditions.

Stress, like Anxiety is simply your body’s response to situational or external stressors, such as work deadlines or troubled relationships. Stress occurs largely as a result of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the situation. Your body responds to these stressors by releasing adrenaline, a chemical that results in symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, sweating, and changes in breathing (usually rapid and shallow breathing). As soon as the stressor has passed, the body and mind return to an equilibrium.

Anxiety on the other hand is a perfectly NATURAL and ADAPTIVE “Fight-flight-freeze” response to threatening situations without necessarily an outside stressor. In fact, a certain amount of anxiety is good for you- it helps you stay focused, motivates you to work harder and keeps you alert.

However, excessive and chronic anxiety is harmful to the mind and body; it interferes with daily functioning, work, relationships and health.

It is a recurring and/or persisting condition that presents in many forms but is primarily characterized by feelings like being tense, worried, panicky, and fearful in situations that most others wouldn’t consider threatening.

Although anxiety may feel uncomfortable, it is not dangerous or harmful to you. Anxiety aims to PROTECT not HARM.

Anxiety does not last forever. It is temporary and will eventually dissipate.

Most anxiety is usually hidden. Most people (except who know you well) cannot tell when you are anxious.

What happens when you are anxious?

  • Rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing ( Hyper-ventilation)
  • More on Flight-Flight-Freeze
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and stomach upset
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Tight or painful chest
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Hyperventilation (taking in too much oxygen) can also cause numbness and tingling sensations.
  • Unreality or bright vision
  • Heavy legs
  • Choking sensations or difficulty breathing
  • Hot and cold flashes

Some of the most common presentations of anxiety can include:

  • Panic – consists of severe, sudden episodes of arousal that can include heart palpitations, excessive sweating, difficulty breathing, fear of fainting or having a heart attack, amongst other symptoms
  • Anxiety due to a general medical condition – this type of anxiety disorder can be short- or long-term depending on the medical condition, more often heart conditions.
  • Generalized anxiety (GAD) – anxiety symptoms occur in multiple environments and due to multiple objects or situations. The anxiety may not have a known cause.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – is a more chronic anxiety disorder with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours (or mental acts).
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety symptoms that occur after a trauma and are long-term in nature.
  • Social anxiety disorder – anxiety symptoms occur in social or performance situations and stem from the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed.
  • Specific phobia – anxiety symptoms occur around a specific object or situation which results in avoidance, for instance flying, driving over bridges.

What can you do to begin tackling your anxiety?

Anxiety is a problem when your body reacts AS IF there is danger when there is no real danger. It’s like having an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in your body that keeps going off when a trigger presents itself inside you mind or in your environment.

Dr. Priyanka uses scientifically backed interventions to help reduce the impact of anxiety on her cleints’ lives, relationships and work, alongside providing extensive education and partnering with them to “be-friend” and learn from their anxiety.

As a primer to some of the powerful tools and strategies Dr. Priyanka can help you master, be-friending your stress and listening to what your anxiety is saying are two key skills.

If you would like to learn more, explore the free skills sheet by signing up for this free offering from Thrive Wellness knowledge base here.

Either way, whatever you are dealing with, you deserve to feel better, manage it effectively and have the inner resilience to overcome the challenges that anxiety can lead to. Contact Dr. Priyanka and discuss how you can begin to work on your anxiety today!

Check out a version of this blogpost featured as part of a social media campaign for survivors of 9/11 who deal with trauma, anxiety and depression.
Dr. Priyanka Upadhyaya
Dr. Priyanka Upadhyaya

About the author

She is a NJ and NYS clinical psychologist with a passion for helping people create and live their best life. She brings together the art and science of change with passion, humor and a studied integration of various modalities to help her clients. Dr. Upadhyaya draws from evidence-based treatments (CBT, DBT, Mindfulness techniques, Psychodynamic and attachment focussed therapy to name a few), well known for symptom relief, restoring a sense of wellbeing and reducing overall stress.