By Luisa Dillner/London
It’s normal to feel anxious – and these days there is plenty to worry about.
Being scared sets off an automatic response in our bodies. We are
flooded with adrenaline and other stress hormones, which increase our
heart rate and prepare us to either run for the hills or stand our
ground and fight.
But if you feel anxious most of the time, or are overwhelmed and have
panic attacks in certain situations (such as getting on a plane or going
into a crowded room), then you may need help.
include helplessness, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling and feeling
hot. A panic attack is an acute disorder where these symptoms are
amplified: hyperventilating causes tingling around the mouth, while a
fast heartbeat feels like chest pain.
People often seek medical advice when anxiety interferes with their life
or impinges on other people. It is usually the unpleasant physical
symptoms of anxiety that make people get help. So how can you know if
your anxiety levels are healthy, or if you should see a doctor?
Anxiety is part of the
human condition and treatment is only needed if you can’t cope with it
yourself by talking to friends and reducing factors that will make
There are many disorders that anxiety is a part of, such as agoraphobia
(the fear of going out), specific phobias (eg of heights) and obsessive
compulsive disorders, where symptoms have lasted for six months. Going
to your doctor if you have strong anxiety symptoms may reveal an
underlying mental or physical health condition (anxiety can accompany
asthma, diabetes and heart disease), which is a good reason to speak to
someone. Keep a diary of when you get symptoms to help identify what
brings them on.
Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice)’s
guidelines on anxiety recommend that you don’t take
benzodiazepines(minor tranquillisers that calm you but are addictive),
and instead suggests psychological treatments such as cognitive
behavioural therapy, which equip you to rethink situations in order to
deal with them.
Psychological therapy for panic attacks involves explaining what
physically happens. For example, overbreathing means a drop in carbon
dioxide and a metabolic shift in the body. This causes tingling, so if
you breathe into a paper bag it reverses the shift and stops the
Relaxation programmes teach people how to breathe and relax their muscles when anxious.
Medication may be suggested if you have symptoms of depression and beta
blockers are used to stop your heart pounding. But behavioural therapies
are by far the best place to start.- Guardian News and Media