Anxiety Psychology: The Meaning Behind It

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dawn Brown, LPC

What is anxiety? You’ve probably heard of it, know someone who has it, or perhaps you suffer from anxiety symptoms. Even if you are familiar with it, anxiety is still hard to fully understand. What is anxiety? What symptoms can it cause? How do you treat it? In this post, we’ll fully dive into the world of anxiety.

What Exactly Is Anxiety?

Experiencing Negative Symptoms of Anxiety?
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Anxiety, like stress, has its roots as a survival tactic. Anxiety was the feeling our ancestors had when they perceived a threat. For example, if someone was about to be attacked, anxiety could trigger the flight or fight response needed to survive.

In our modern world, anxiety can be a nuisance. Nothing is threatening our lives, but the pressures of modern life can trigger anxiety as if it were a threat to our lives. This feeling can impair us in the long run.

Anxiety episodes can come and go, lasting for a while and then stay dormant for years. Other times, people will suffer from anxiety all their life, making it a hard battle to explain.

The Many, Many Symptoms Of Anxiety

Let’s discuss the symptoms. There are different types of anxiety disorders, which we will discuss later, but first, we should talk about some of the common symptoms you’ll have when experiencing anxiety.

  • You may panic, have intense fear, or just feel uneasy, even if there is no reason to. No matter what you do, you can’t be able to calm yourself down.
  • You may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and feel numb, sweaty, or tingling in the hands or feet. All these symptoms can make you feel like you have a heart attack, but you’re not. A panic attack can make you rush to the hospital, only to be told you’re fine.
  • Your mouth may be dry all the time, even if you drink.
  • You may feel nausea and dizziness.
  • Your muscles may be tense.

These are just a few common anxiety symptoms, but the problem is that everyone’s anxiety experience is different. You may have a slew of other symptoms. Poor concentration, difficulty talking, weird headaches and pains, fatigue, and the list goes on.

With all these unusual symptoms, it can make a person feel like something is majorly wrong with them. For example, if someone has a sudden bout of headaches, nausea, and fatigue, they may panic and think they have a brain tumor. Only to go to the doctor and learn nothing is wrong with them. Anxiety is especially bad for the hypochondriacs, who always feel like something is wrong with their health.

If you have anxiety and are experiencing unusual symptoms, you may wonder if those symptoms are due to anxiety. The answer is more than likely yes.

Types Of Anxiety Disorders

There are quite a few anxiety disorders, and here are a few.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, involves always worrying about life and having a constant feeling of uneasiness. It’s okay to worry about life from time to time, but GAD makes it, so you’re constantly worrying, and this can destroy your productivity and your sanity, making you feel like you can’t control yourself. GAD is the most common form of anxiety, affecting millions.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety involves an intense fear of public spaces and going out to socialize. If a person is somewhat shy, and a bit introverted, this isn’t social anxiety. Someone with social anxiety has to battle every day just to get out and talk to people. They may experience intense bouts of anxiety every time, and it doesn’t get better no matter how often they do so.

Panic Disorder

This is when you are constantly having panic attacks or fear you may have a panic attack. Panic attacks are intense bouts of anxiety where a feeling of death is surrounding you. One of the biggest comparisons to a panic attack is feeling like you have a heart attack. Your arm goes numb, your chest tightens, your heart starts beating fast, you can’t breathe, and you wait for your death. You may call a hospital as well and go to the emergency room.

However, you’re fine. Your heart is working well. You just experienced a panic attack. These can be terrifying to go through, and no matter how many times you have one, you still feel like you’re going to die.

Agoraphobia

This is when you’re afraid of open spaces outside. You feel that by going into a large, open space, something is going to hurt you, and you have intense anxiety because of it. Mild agoraphobia means that you feel a bit uncomfortable going outside, but you can manage. Intense agoraphobia can mean that you never leave your house. This can socially isolate you from everyone else if left untreated.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is when you experience intense anxiety after being reminded of a traumatic event you’ve experienced. It’s common to have soldiers returning from war to experience PTSD or just anyone who has been abused. There are many ways a PTSD episode can be triggered for someone who has it, such as smells, thoughts, or memories.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD involves obsessing over a thought, an object, or anything else, and you start to feel anxious unless you perform that task. For example, you may obsess over how unclean your hands are, so you wash your hands. It makes you feel a bit better, but you still are obsessing over your hands. You keep washing them, but nothing seems to take your thoughts off them. This is OCD. It’s horrible to go through, and those who have it need care.

Any Phobia

Any phobia can be some type of anxiety disorder. Some phobias are mild. You may feel uneasy in a high place and may try to avoid them. However, other phobias can be hard. If you’re afraid of riding in planes, it prevents you from traveling to many places.

The Cause

It’s hard to determine what causes an anxiety disorder. As mentioned before, it’s a natural defense mechanism we have, and when it goes off in a world that’s no longer dangerous, it can be debilitating. The three main causes include genetics, environment, and psychological.

Anxiety disorders can be passed on. When it comes to the environment, someone’s traumatic past can be a reason for the anxiety disorder. Abuse, neglect, and injury can be a few reasons.

Psychological reasons can vary, and a few examples of psychological reasons include getting into bad thought patterns. Once you start thinking anxious thoughts, it can be a rough cycle that’s hard to break.

Treatment

With that said, how does one treat anxiety? Anxiety doesn’t have a straight cure, but it is treatable through a combination of medication, therapy, and other lifestyle changes. Let’s look at all three.

Medicine

Experiencing Negative Symptoms of Anxiety?

Some antidepressants can help treat the symptoms of anxiety, along with other types of medication. Everyone is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all pill out there. You may be put on different medication types and doses before finding the one that is best for you. A good anxiety medication can reduce your episodes and the severity of those episodes when they strike. If you have anxiety, talk to your doctor.

Therapy

Counseling and therapy are excellent when it comes to treating anxiety, especially when combined with medication. There are many forms of therapy out there, treating anxiety in different ways. Some types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT involves changing how you think. Whenever there is a thought that can trigger your anxiety, CBT strives for you to take that thought and replace it with something else. For example, if you’re worried about a deadline, you should strive to accomplish it instead of worrying.
  • Therapy could help your anxiety if a traumatic event in your past caused the anxiety. While you can’t change the past, you can be able to resolve your past through different therapy techniques. Sometimes, you must act out your past and resolve it that way. Other times, you’re taught how you can let go and move on.
  • Mindfulness may be taught as well. Mindfulness involves you living in the present and not worrying about the past and the future. It can help you be aware of any changes in your body and strive to keep your body in check at all times.

Lifestyle Changes

Changing your diet, exercising more, or getting into a routine can reduce the anxiety you’re experiencing. Exercise can release feel-good chemicals in your brain, stopping your anxiety. A good diet can give you the nutrients needed to reduce your anxiety. A routine keeps your mind off your anxiety.

In Summary

Anxiety is a wide umbrella of different disorders and symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, visit a healthcare provider and start treating it. Some forms of anxiety may be only temporarily, but some may become chronic if left untreated.

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