Feeling anxious is normal at times, and is a normal response to a stressful situation, before making an important decision, or before an exam. However, when anxiety becomes a medical problem, known as anxiety disorder, it can affect people at any time, causing constant fear and worry, often for intangible reasons, and can often make it difficult to carry on with normal life.


What are the symptoms of anxiety disorder?


Anxiety can affect people in a number of different ways, giving both physical and psychological symptoms. Common psychological symptoms caused by anxiety include restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and feeling ‘on edge’.

People suffering with anxiety often experience physical symptoms such as a panic attack, tiredness, dizziness, heart palpitations, tension and aching muscles, headache, difficulty sleeping, stomach ache, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, feeling nauseous.


What causes anxiety?


Often the cause of anxiety is something you know about, such as a stressful situation, problems at work, relationship problems, or family problems. It can also be related to a known phobia, such as a fear of heights will cause you to feel anxious when near a ledge.

With anxiety disorder, the source of the anxiety is not always clear. You may not know why you feel anxious, or what is triggering the feelings. In these cases, it is difficult to know how to solve the anxiety without knowing what the triggers are.


How is anxiety diagnosed?


When you see an anxiety specialist, you will be asked a series of questions to get to the root of the cause of the symptoms, and to differentiate it from other conditions such as depression. It may be difficult for you to talk about your feelings, and your doctor will help to put you at ease. You may also be required to carry out a physical examination and a blood test to rule out any other conditions that may be causing the symptoms.


How is anxiety treated?


Once you have been diagnosed with anxiety, there are a number of ways that the doctor may try to treat the condition. One of the most common initial treatments offered is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you to understand your problems, and the triggers allowing you to control the condition better.

CBT will involve a series of meetings with a specialist over a period of months that will help you to understand the source of the negative feelings.

Other methods of treatment include mindfulness training, which aims to make you more aware of your feelings, and when you are beginning to feel anxious, once you have achieved this understanding, controlling the feelings can become easier, and you will learn methods of allowing yourself to calm down in a situation where the anxious feelings are beginning to rise.

Finally, medication may be the preferred method of treatment if the other options haven’t been successful. There are a number of medications that your doctor can prescribe that may help with anxiety, and your doctor will decide on the best course for you.