March 2016


Anxiety is a human emotion or feeling. It is common to be anxious, or nervous under certain circumstances like when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. A little anxiety is beneficial to an individual as it may warn a person about an impending danger. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person's ability to lead a normal life.

Anxiety - Good Versus Bad

  • Within limits anxiety helps you perform better in day to day life.

  • It keeps you alarmed about the dangers or situations.

  • However intense or prolonged anxiety can be the cause for many health related problems, can make you prone to depression or can affect your physical and mental wellbeing.

Stress Versus Anxiety

  • When a person feels stressed, he or she always knows the reason or its cause.

  • Stress itself does not force a person to act.

  • On the other hand, when a person feels anxious, he or she does not know the cause of anxiety.

  • A person may feel anxiety in a situation while other may not in the same situation.

  • Anxiety may continue and can affect a person even if the stressor has gone away.


In what ways does anxiety affect me?

  • A little bit of anxiety is normal, specially in stressful circumstances.

  • Each one of us feels anxiety at some time in our lives.

  • It can become a problem when people become anxious at times when there are no dangerous situations or circumstances.


Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder:

While being anxious we can experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread

  • Feeling tense and jumpy

  • Restlessness or irritability

  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger


Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath

  • Nausea, Upset stomach, frequent motion

  • Sweating, tremors and twitches

  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia

  • Dryness of mouth, Dizziness.

Types of Anxiety Disorders –

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – It produces exaggerated and constant worrying about day to day life. It can be all consuming, over several hours in a day, making it difficult to do any task or concentrate.

Social anxiety disorder – A large number of people may be shy. However, this disorder shows up as irrational worries about social humiliation and intense fear in social situations. Thus, the person may not participate in class discussions or conversations or offer ideas and may become isolated. They may experience panic when confronted with a social situation.

Panic disorder – It is often mistaken for a Heart Attack due to sudden feelings of fear and physical symptoms that include chest pain, heart palpitation, dizziness, stomach upset, shortness of breath etc. The investigations or hospitalization may not reveal any physical problem. These may be repeated and often without warning and get associated with some places or situations. This may lead a person to social isolation or withdrawal from situations/places.

Phobias – We all try to avoid persons/situations/things that make us uncomfortable. However, for a person with phobia – certain places, events or objects create reactions of strong and irrational fear. This leads to avoidance which seems to take over a person’s life.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is caused or precipitated by various reasons , some of which can be :

  • The environment. The environment in which a person lives plays a vital role and a stressful environment can cause anxiety. The following environmental factors can be the cause for various types of anxiety including:

  • Distress because of abuse or discrimination

  • Stress at the school

  • Stress at the workplace

  • Stress in personal relationships

  • Stress in marriage or divorce

  • Stress in friendships

  • Stress about finances or work stress

  • Stress because of calamities or natural disasters


Anxiety could be caused by a combination of the above factors.

  • Ill health or Medical issues

  • In an individual, anxiety can develop as a result of various chronic illnesses like

Thyroiditis, Anemia, Asthma, Infections, Heart ailments, Cancers etc. or any chronic illness. On the other hand certain medications that produce side effects can be the reason for making a person anxious.

  • Drug abuse and substance use

  • Consumption of illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines can be a major culprit that causes anxiety as well as tobacco or high intake of caffeine.

  • Withdrawal caused by consumption of drugs like heroin or prescription drugs like barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

  • Genetics. Some families will have a higher than average numbers of members experiencing anxiety issues. anxiety disorders run in families. This can be a factor in someone developing an anxiety disorder.

  • Stress. A stressful or traumatic event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness can be one of the causes of an anxiety disorder.

  • There may also be role modelling or learnt behaviour of anxiety in family or from significant others.

Anxiety Management -

  • Medication, management of precipitating factors /illness/medication/substances of abuse

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Exposure Therapy

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) etc. are some of the newer techniques of management.

Here are some things that could help with anxiety -

  • Anxiety signals a need to think of the way you are living your life, and the problems you have. Work out a plan of action for each of your major problems and take positive action instead of worrying.

  • Learn Yoga, relaxation, or meditation. The beneficial effects of these are well established. Breathing exercises are especially helpful. Biofeedback and electro-sleep are techniques of relaxation through machines.

  • Keep a careful record of the situations that make you anxious. This may help you to work out what you can do

  • Take time to give yourself physical relaxation - go swimming, or take up your favorite sport. Take holidays when possible. Start on your hobbies. Spend quality time with children and family.

  • Eat well balanced diet with plenty of green vegetables and fruits apart from high intake of liquids.

You should consult the psychiatrist/psychologist when you find...

  • That your anxiety is seriously affecting your daily life.

  • You can't control your anxiety through your own efforts.

  • You have so many of the symptoms of anxiety that you are always worried about the state of your health.

  • That in addition to anxiety, you are always falling sick.


‘WPA Public Education Initiative’ 

Dr. Avdesh Sharma, International Lead, WPA; Consultant Psychiatrist, India
Dr. Sujatha Sharma, Consultant Psychologist, India
Stefanie Radford, Senior Project Manager, United Kingdom
Rajeev Verma, Administrator, India
Pragya Mehra, Media Specialist, India
Jatin Kumar, Media Editor, India

Supported by Unrestricted Educational Grant by SUN Pharma SUN LOGO

>> Please click here the pdf version of this document




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