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Mood & Anxiety

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Everybody knows what it feels like to be anxious once is a while. We have all experienced:

  • a pounding heart pounding when coming close to having a road accident,
  • butterflies in the stomach before a speech or performance,
  • the tension when the boss is angry or unhappy,
  • a dry mouth just before a job interview,
  • a knot in the stomach when being reminded of a large unpaid bill.

Anxiety and worry are a normal part of life. Whether it's about a job or the outcome of a sporting event, most people will worry a little about how things might turn out. Not only is anxiety a common human emotion; but moderate amounts of anxiety can be a good thing. Anxiety produces exactly the right response to a difficult situation. It can motivate a person to prepare for an exam, to complete an essay or a painting or to deliver a speech, and it can give provide inspiration to produce high quality work and a good performance.

Anxiety prepares us to face difficult or threatening situations, drives us to action, and helps us cope. Nervousness in anticipation of a situation is normal, but if you have an anxiety disorder exaggerated anxiety can impede your performance. People with anxiety disorders may be unable to find ways of coping with or reducing their feelings of anxiety. Their anxiety may become so excessive that they may not be able to take part in everyday activities. Excessive anxiety is more than butterflies in your stomach. It is a real, medical illness, which disrupts people's lives.

Anxiety disorders are a group of very common, serious, yet treatable disorders that affect behaviour, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. They include a number of apparently very different conditions such as:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia)
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

All these disorders have anxiety as a major or underlying symptom. Anxiety symptoms range from feelings of uneasiness to episodes of incapacitating terror.

Like many other illnesses, anxiety disorders often have an underlying biological cause, and frequently run in families. Experts believe that most anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. In that respect they are no different from medical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes.

Fortunately, most people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with the right professional care. There are no guarantees, and success rates may vary according to the severity and the type of anxiety and a person's circumstances. The duration of treatment will also vary. Some people require only a few months of treatment, while others may need a year or more. On the whole, psychiatrists prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Anxiety disorders are common in all countries and cultures. It is believed that around 16% of adults suffer from a form of anxiety disorder. Panic disorder and agoraphobia, in particular, are associated with an increased risk of attempted suicide.