Its often difficult to define what anxiety is because it is so difficult to describe to someone. However there are some well known definitions that are stated. The dictionary describes it as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”. Does this definition really describe what anxiety is?
While the dictionary definition does describe what anxiety it doesn’t really define it from a medical or psychological point of view.
Anxiety definition in psychology
Psychology studies define anxiety as an emotion that shows itself as worried thoughts, raised blood pressure and general feelings of tension and concerns. But what is the psychology of anxiety? If we can get to the thought processes behind anxiety then surely we are half way to making it a little better.
The first thing to realize is that most people feel anxious at times. This is perfectly normal and is nothing to worry about. It is when the anxiety develops further and becomes a disorder that anxiety becomes a problem.
An anxiety disorder can be one of several types but they all have one thing in common….They can make the sufferers life hell!
Anxiety attack can be a terrifying experience for the individual. To the point where the fear that they are feeling makes them feel like something very bad is going to happen, they start to sweat and often feel like they are going to pass out if they don’t escape the situation VERY soon….In reality, they probably won’t pass out and nothing bad is likely to happen.
Its not entirely known what causes some people to develop an anxiety disorder whilst others don’t, however it is known that the disorders are a form of mental illness.
It is thought that anxiety disorders may be caused by long lasting or severe stress but they can also be caused by problems in the brain, but really we have no idea.
Its often thought that an attack just creeps up on the sufferer and strikes out of the blue but it really doesn’t happen like that.
The vicious cycle of an anxiety attack
Anxiety attacks don’t just come out of the blue, research has shown that they happen in three stages.
- worrying thoughts. The first stage of an anxiety attack is the start of a worrying thought. A stray idea that something bad might happen in the not to distant future. Panic is starting to come over the sufferer as they start to worry about what is about to happen and then a feeling of dread starts to come across them. The thought that they might have an anxiety attack starts to cause further stress and worry.
- Sweating, fast breath. The sufferer is starting to panic. ‘Oh no another panic attack…’ …. ‘Need to escape this situation right now….’…They are sweating and their mind is racing. Breathing has sped up and they feel like they are about to pass out.
- run run run. A full blown anxiety attack is now in operation. The sufferers reaction is to try and get out of the situation. They may be restless or fidgeting. Whatever they are doing, they are not themselves.
And so the process happens every time. The problem is that once the cycle starts the sufferer starts to panic about the anxiety which adds to the worry and makes it worse.
So what is the definition of anxiety? A mental health issue. Suffering from anxiety attacks doesn’t make you a weaker person, it is an illness like any other that can be treated and can get better.