Continuous stress and anxiety can make life unbearable and cause serious mental health problems. What should I do if I feel anxious for no apparent reason and do not leave myself alone for a long time?
“Anxiety makes sense. Although it can destroy a person’s life, it can be used constructively. The very fact that we survived means that once upon a time our ancestors were not afraid to meet their anxiety,” wrote American psychologist Rollo May.
May has spent his entire life studying the phenomenon of anxiety in the modern world. At the same time, the scientist insisted on the distinction between two “alarms”, one of which is pathological, destroying the personality, and the other is an effective stimulus to action in a world where risk and unpredictability are inevitable.
Alarm and anxiety disorders
Wise nature in man has a huge number of adaptive mechanisms for all cases of life. One of them is the state of anxiety. The action of normal anxiety on the body is like raising a trigger – a person becomes excited, tense, full of expectations of danger and ready to give them a fight back.
If this state is adequate to the impending potential threat – for example, you walk at night on a dark street and you are worried, it means that the mechanism of anxiety has fulfilled its function, bringing the body in “combat readiness”.
However, it is often the case that the causes of anxiety are already in the past, and internal tensions are still present. Gradually accumulating, this condition becomes pathological, and doubts and unpleasant feelings become permanent.
Thus, normal anxiety gradually turns into an anxiety disorder, accompanied by a sense of helplessness, a sense of impending disaster and a physically exhausting expectation of trouble. Anxiety ceases to be an adaptive mechanism, and a person’s life is filled with constant unreasonable fear.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
According to WHO, 25-30% of the world’s population suffer from anxiety disorders during their lifetime. That is, one in three. At the same time, women are more exposed to anxiety disorders, first of all, paying attention to the emotional aspect of anxiety, and then noticing (or not noticing) the rational grain in it.
It is quite easy to recognize the anxiety that has reached a pathological stage. Along with unjustified excitement, anxiety disorders are characterized by increased excitability or fearfulness.
Sleep disturbances are often noted – difficulties with falling asleep and frequent waking up in the middle of the night. In addition, people subject to anxiety disorders are characterized by fussiness, retardation or motor discomfort.
Also typical of anxiety are a variety of complaints about physical well-being: weakness, headaches and muscle pains, back and lower back pain (often interpreted as “osteochondrosis”), muscle twitching, etc. These symptoms are largely due to the chronic increase in muscle tone, which accompanies the pathological anxiety.
Other somatic symptoms of anxiety include increased heartbeat, pressure or contraction in the chest, lack of air, increased blood pressure, tremors, sweating, goosebumps, goosebumps, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal spastic pain, dry mouth.
Symptoms related to mental state include feeling dizzy, unstable or fainting; feelings that objects are unrealistic (derealization) or that one’s own self is distant or “not really here” (depersonalization); fear of loss of control, madness, death; narrowing of attention, anger or verbal aggression, feeling of despair and hopelessness, memory impairment.
Treatment of anxiety disorders
If the anxiety has reached a pathological stage and causes a significant deterioration in the quality of life, it is necessary to consult a doctor. The main approaches to treating anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Also, to ease the condition can be used some methods of relaxation – muscle relaxation, calm breathing, distraction. A friendly and encouraging conversation also contributes to the improvement of the condition.
As for medicines, doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepine-type tranquillizers and various antidepressants for the most anxious patients. All of them have both their advantages and significant disadvantages. For example, benzodiazepines quickly stop sleep disorders and anxiety symptoms.
However, they have a so-called “kickback syndrome” (rapid recovery or transient exacerbation of symptoms after drug withdrawal), a risk of addiction and drug addiction, impaired cognitive functions (attention, concentration, memory), and impaired coordination. Therefore, benzodiazepine-group drugs should not be taken longer than 2-4 weeks.
Tricyclic antidepressants, in turn, are powerful drugs that are good for all anxiety-depressant symptoms (both bodily and mental anxiety) and sleep disturbances, and can be used for long-term treatment and prevention of anxiety.
But they have pronounced side effects (dryness of mucous membranes, constipation, cardiovascular disorders, transient disorders of cognitive functions), which worsen their tolerability and increase the list of contraindications to their use, especially in patients with comorbid somatic diseases. Any medications for the treatment of anxiety disorders should be prescribed by a physician.
“Blow off” the stress!
The relaxation methods available to everyone include breathing exercises. It is based on the simple fact that a person cannot live for several minutes without air. Therefore, breathing delay is a powerful distraction for the body and allows you to get out of direct exposure to stress.
So, the exercise itself. Sit back. With an exhalation relax and at the next breath lean back a little, lift a chin and slightly tilt a head. Sit down directly and exhale all air from easy. With an exhalation relax. Firmly grasp both hands behind edges of a seat and on a breath pull it upwards, as if trying to lift a chair.
Tense your hands, stomach and other muscles in your body as if you were continuing to lift the chair you are sitting on. Keeping the tension in the whole body, hold your breath. Slowly exhale through the nose, relaxing the body and releasing the seat. After an exhalation completely relax. There should be no tension in the body anywhere. Perform three to five such cycles.
Determine breathing time, exhalation time and breathing delays according to your health condition and your breathing rhythm. If you are overpressurized, practice only a relaxing way of breathing, without the exhalation phase. Then with each exhalation release from the rest of tension in you, “deflating” it.