Anxiety is a normal part of
everyday life and we could not live without a
degree of protective anxiousness while,
say, driving a car or watching over children at
play. We also find in anxiety some of the energy
to do well in business or other activities. It
does, however, become an illness if It lasts
longer than the situation warrants and
interferes markedly with our daily life and
Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling
characterized by fear, persistent dread,
apprehension and uncertainty. The
sufferer may be unaware of any cause and often
believes that the cause is physical but, in
spite of physical symptoms, it is a disorder of
the emotions persons suffering from anxiety
alone differ from those with depressive illness
because of the absence of pessimism, sadness,
hopelessness and possibly despair.
An extreme example of an anxiety
state is separation anxiety which occurs in
infants who are separated from their mothers for
a considerable time. At first the child
is tearful, anxious and irritable, then becomes
quiet, detached and almost emotionally
unreachable. The child also fails to progress
physically. Happily, if mother and child are
united within, say, three months, the child are
usually reverts to normality, although there is
a possibility of psychological scarring.
There are many psychological
theories about the causes of anxiety.
Some hold that its origins are to be
found in the sexual life and feelings of the
individual, others that it is based on a
person's need for power, to be someone.
Another says that it is really a beneficial
mechanism - nature's attempt to heal
and someone else has said, very simply, that
anxiety is fear spread out thin. Therefore,
anxiety states may arise from all sorts of
conflicts between the individual's needs
and reality, and emotions play a leading part.
The sufferer may complain of a wide
variety of symptoms: vague fears,
pointless apprehension and very often an
explicit feeling of panic. Palpitations (being
aware of the heartbeat) are common, with
giddiness, flushing, sweating, diarrhoea,
headache and weariness. Indigestion and vague
pains of various types can appear and the mouth
may be dry. Impotence and premature ejaculation
in men and vaginismus (painful contraction of
the vagina during sexual intercourse) in women
are often revealed on examination.
dreams, often nightmares, and a feeling of
fatigue on awakening are very common
findings. It is often difficult to
concentrate and there is frequently an alarming
fear of going mad.
When anxiety arises, it tends at first to
be spread out widely and freely, touching most
aspects of a person's life. Continued
anxiety may result in distressing and disabling
panic attacks. The word
'panic' comes from
the name of the Greek god, Pan, who would lurk
in the forest and reduce travellers to a state
of 'panic' by terrorizing them.
These attacks tend to occur when another strain
is suddenly added to the tension state.
Panic is a most unpleasant experience,
characterized by extreme fear, and it
can lead to the developing of particular fears
or phobias, the commonest being fear of open
spaces (agoraphobia) or closed spaces
(claustrophobia). Aeroplane, bus or train travel
and using lifts may all provide problems. If
unable to avoid a situation he fears, the
sufferer is thrown into a panic, often
accompanied by a great fear of collapse.