The famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote: “If man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in anxiety. Since he is both beast and angel, he can be in anxiety, and the greater the anxiety, the greater the man. This statement would not be true if, as it is customary to think, anxiety referred to something external which lies beyond human borders, but in reality man himself creates anxiety”.
Inessa Khrushch, Candidate of Medical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology of the Belarusian State Medical University talked about the concept of anxiety , the reasons, its first “bells” and ways to overcome it.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a objectless feeling of near misfortune, an experience of vague danger, a catastrophe, with a focus on the future, accompanied by internal stress. Fear, in contrast to anxiety, is a sensation of some immediate specific threat.
Anxiety and fear acquire a pathological character if their intensity and peculiarities do not match the object that caused these feelings. In other cases, anxiety and fear should be considered as normal emotional manifestations.
Anxiety is one of the least specific phenomena of psychopathological manifestations that determine a wide range of primarily neurotic disorders. Along with depression, neurasthenia, sleep disorders, autonomic dysfunctions and other neurotic symptoms, anxiety disorders form the clinical picture of neurosis, decompensation states of psychological characters (psychopathies), as well as psychosomatic (somatopsychic) and some other disorders. As an important signal of trouble anxiety can occur in the initial period of many mental illnesses.
Causes of an anxiety. Aggravating factors
Biological and socio-psychological factors play an unequal role in the origin of various types of mental maladaptation states, which are expressed by anxiety disorders. Clinical observations convincingly indicate that a difficult life situation (psycho-traumatic factors) determines the occurrence of an anxiety state, its type and form largely depend on a fairly stable personality-typological identity of a person.
Anxiety disorders are predominantly a person’s reaction to mental trauma, leading to a maladaptation of the social status of the person (mainly due to debilitating mental stress or dramatically affecting stress factors). Usually, at first an alarming reaction develops to a specific maladaptive situation (maladaptation in the “narrow sense”), but in the absence of therapy and the preservation of psycho-traumatic influences, it can expand (“general maladaptation”).
Who is most affected by anxiety?
As observations show, anxiety affects more women aged 20–40 years. The ratio with men is 2.5–3 to 1.
Signs of Anxiety
These include sleeping difficulties (so-called early insomnia), palpitations, sweating, flushing of heat or cold, trembling, respiratory difficulties. In addition, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, tension, pain, aching muscles, and frequent urination may appear. A person who is in an anxious state also has increased fearfulness, irritability, impatience, depersonalization (a feeling of detachment from his body or from some of its parts), derealization (a feeling that the immediate environment has become strange, unreal, unfamiliar).
How can anxiety affect health?
Anxiety has a negative effect on the human body. It is especially fatal for patients with cardiovascular pathology (for example myocardial infarction, hypertension), with pathology of the respiratory system, with pathology of the gastrointestinal tract (for example, for those suffering from ulcerative colitis), etc.
Can I deal with anxiety on my own? What can be done for this?
It should be understood that to worry and fear is quite normal. A sense of anxiety allows, strange as it, to adequately assess reality. And getting rid of anxiety once and for all is impossible. As the famous American psychologist and psychotherapist, theorist of existential psychology Rollo Rhys May said: “Anxiety makes sense. Although it can destroy a person’s life, anxiety can be used constructively. The fact that we survived means that once upon a time our ancestors were not afraid to meet their anxiety.”
Methods that allow you to distract from restless thoughts include meditation, muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis, provided that the person can practice it. Sports also help in such cases. The fact is that in the process of adequate physical activity neurotransmitters are produced in the brain that raise the mood: dopamine - the hormone of pleasure, serotonin - the hormone of happiness, suppressing the level of cortisol - the hormone of stress. And after training, the body relaxes.
The so-called hobby therapy can also benefit. For when a person pays attention to his beloved hobby, he is distracted from problems and concentrates on the subject of the action.
Where should I go if my anxiety cannot be controlled?
In this case, a psychotherapist may help. The medical specialist together with the patient will determine the tactics of actions in order to achieve the desired result in overcoming the anxiety state.
There is a very close relationship between the two main areas of therapeutic effect - medication (biological) and psychotherapeutic. Each of them creates a "ground" for the beneficial influence of the other, strengthening the violated adaptation system from different sides. Based on this, it becomes clear that focusing only on biological therapy (psychopharmacotherapy) or only on psychotherapy cannot contribute to the use of all therapeutic and rehabilitation opportunities.
Be healthy and take care!
Authors: Oksana Kurbeko, spokesperson – interviewer.
Inessa Khrushch, Associate Professor of the BSMU Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology– interviewee.
Translation: Anastasiya Karnacheva