Anxiety dates back as far as the survival instinct in humans. It works as part of our built-in 'fight or flight' system, something we use to get us out of real or perceived situations of danger. This system is commonly abused by high anxiety, and can make us believe we're in danger when we are perfectly safe.
Being anxious and nervous is completely normal in circumstances of uncertainty or apprehension, and channelled in the correct way it helps to motivate us. If excessive worrying, uneasiness, apprehension, and fear about future uncertainties progress over longer periods of time high anxiety disorders can develop. These thoughts and feelings can be based on real or imagined events, which can affect both physical and psychological health.
High anxiety can affect anyone at anytime, and although it can be debilitating it's a perfectly natural part of life. Like any other feeling or emotion (happiness / anger) it is crucial to our survival.
Due to everybody being unique there is no set trigger for high anxiety, but it's effects are most commonly felt due to a significant life event, change, or extended times of stress and worry.
How common is High Anxiety?EVERYBODY lives with anxiety and experiences the effects of high anxiety on a daily basis, and so you know you're not alone here are some facts about anxiety that will reassure you:
Here's an even more reassuring fact: High anxiety is completely treatable.
Types of High AnxietyDifferent types of high anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Social Anxiety Disorder, and Phobias.
How to get rid of High AnxietyI'm very conscious when I talk about high anxiety not to promise 'elimination' or refer to it as needing a 'cure'. There will never be a cure for something that is a perfectly natural and healthy part of our lives.
Knowing this, would you want to get rid of anxiety? Of course not.
Put in its simplest terms, high anxiety is nothing more than a 'psychological imbalance'.
The key to overcoming high anxiety is to gain the correct balance, understanding that anxiety is essential to life. We need to learn to live comfortably with anxiety and not fight against it.
Agoraphobia is a general anxiety disorder normally associated with a fear of open spaces, and being away from a place you feel safe (in most cases home). Agoraphobia causes extreme anxiety and panic attacks when you’re put in situations where you feel trapped and unable to escape, creating a desperate feeling and need to escape back to your place of safety.
Agoraphobia symptoms can be caused by something as small as missing your family when you’re away from home (being home sick), but in more extreme circumstances it is incredibly debilitating. Agoraphobia tends to get worse given time, and if symptoms are allowed to progress it can leave you completely housebound and unable to perform normal everyday tasks such as going out to the shop and seeing friends.
What causes Agoraphobia?Agoraphobia has lots of triggers - the most common is the fear of being trapped with nobody to help. Ultimately, Agoraphobia is caused by the fear of having a panic attack, and it’s this fear that creates the need to stay in your ‘safe place’.
My experience with AgoraphobiaAs my anxiety symptoms grew worse over the years, Agoraphobia eventually took over my life until I was completely housebound.
Everyday normal activities such as going to the supermarket became an impossible and dreaded task. Work was unbearable, and socialising was non-existent - an invitation would swiftly be declined with thanks but no thanks.
It all started with the ‘what if’ thoughts...
What if my legs feel shaky when I walk into a shop and I pass out?
I know I have to drive to that meeting, but what if something happens?
I want to go to the gym but what if my heart starts to pound?
What if this drink has too much sugar in it - how is that going to make me feel?
If I turn down another invitation from a friend they’ll think I’m not interested - what if I have nobody left in my life?
I thought I could control my thoughts, but feeling like I was about to pass out every time I was in a shop (particularly supermarkets) and feeling sick every time I left the house was disturbing. The world became a very scary place and I didn’t want to face it. Home was my ‘safe place’, and the only sanctuary to the endless anxiety symptoms I experienced.
“I’ll just ride this out at home, at least if I do have a panic attack or a funny turn I can cope with it rather than being stuck in a place I don’t want to be, around other people.”
Staying at home rather than dealing with the ‘what if’ scenarios was always the easy option in settling the crippling feeling I had in my gut, but this was of course a very short-sighted way of dealing with the real underlying problem.
Being a prisoner in my own home (and mind) was one of the most debilitating long-term effects of Agoraphobia. Life became depressive, very quickly - seeing the same four walls every day with little to no human contact was tough.
Nobody deserves to live in fear, unable to explore and experience life in freedom. If you’re suffering with Agoraphobia you can do something about it. Don’t allow it to take hold – you can overcome it as quickly as it developed.
Agoraphobia symptoms to look out for:
I suppressed my true thoughts and feelings for over 10 years. I lived a double life and didn't tell anybody about what I was going through. I thought I was the only person on the planet that experienced high anxiety. I felt scared, ashamed, and sometimes embarrassed - what would people think?
This was a heavy and completely unnecessary burden to carry.
Dealing with anxiety starts by facing up to it
Anxiety is the most common of all mental health problems, with at least 1 in 20 people suffering from it at any one time. I could go on with the statistics, but the point is you're not alone.
Recovery begins with opening up, and sharing your true thoughts and feelings. Bottling it up will get you nowhere.
I can't begin to tell you the relief I gained from knowing I wasn't alone, and that I could relate so closely to other peoples experience. I'm not telling you to go shout from the rooftops, but at least talk to somebody - particularly if you're holding it all inside and dealing with it alone.
I'm sure you'll agree, unless you've experienced high anxiety personally it's very hard to grasp, so talking to somebody that's been there is even better. A greater level of comfort is received by knowing you're speaking to somebody that truly understands.
Have you decided to talk?If you've decided to talk about your true feelings I'm extremely proud of you, because I know how difficult it can be.
Opening up to friends, family, and the people closest to you can be tough. This is because they mean a lot to you, and the last thing you want is to be treated differently - and you won't be. You'll be respected for being honest, and the people that love and care for you won't judge you.
It took me 10 years to open up and I sincerely hope it doesn't take you as long. If it has, change it immediately. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. If talking to the people closest to you is a step too far, start by sharing your experience with someone neutral.
‘Do I have anxiety?’ is a very common question. In today’s fast-paced world with all the usual problems we face - typically related to work, money and family - most of us lead stressful lives. But when do we know if we’re suffering from higher than normal levels of anxiety?
The short answer to this is time.
We can all expect to deal with daily stress, it’s inevitable. However, if symptoms and feelings of anxiety are experienced consistently over a period of time it’s time to pay attention to your body and do something about it.
I’ve put together the below 20 questions to help you recognise if you're suffering from higher than normal levels of anxiety. Think about how you've felt over the past month and answer the following 20 questions yes or no.
Quick Anxiety Test - 20 Questions
1. I find it difficult to relax
2. I focus on my problems
3. I think a lot about why I feel the way I do
4. If I argue with someone I think about it all day
5. I worry a lot
6. I find it hard to fall asleep
7. I feel tired and have a lack of energy
8. I'm not as happy as the people around me
9. I’m afraid of crowds or being left alone
10. I faint or feel like I might faint
11. I have little interest in activities and socialising
12. I feel light-headed or dizzy
13. I worry about my health
14. I’m nervous around other people
15. I'm self-critical
16. I'm easily alarmed or frightened
17. I tremble or feel shaky
18. I'm afraid of the future
19. I avoid situations because of anxiety
20. I don't feel good about myself
If you answered YES to more than half of them, it's a strong indication you're currently dealing with high anxiety.
A good place to start dealing with it is to share your experience.
Every now and again we all need a healthy dose of gratitude to allow us to put things into perspective. Gratitude is also the best tool we can use to kill anxiety, and this Tedx talk by Louie Schwartzberg sums it up perfectly.
ABOUT CARL VERNON
Carl Vernon is a best-selling author & speaker, talking and writing about all things anxiety, stress & well-being.