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Feeling worried or nervous is a normal part of daily life. Everyone frets or feels anxious from time to time. Mild to moderate anxiety can help you focus your attention, energy, and motivation. If anxiety is severe, you may feel helpless, confused, or very worried. But your feelings may be out of balance with how serious or likely the feared event might be. Overwhelming anxiety that interferes with daily life isn't normal. This type of anxiety may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Or it may be a symptom of another problem, such as depression.
Anxiety can cause physical and emotional symptoms. A specific situation or fear can cause some or all of these symptoms for a short time. When the situation passes, the symptoms usually go away.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
Anxiety affects the part of the brain that helps control how you communicate. This makes it harder to express yourself creatively or function well in relationships. Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
Anxiety disorders occur when people have both physical and emotional symptoms. These disorders interfere with how a person gets along with others. They also affect daily activities. Women are twice as likely as men to have problems with anxiety disorders. Examples include panic attacks, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. When you have generalized anxiety disorder, you feel worried and stressed about many everyday events and activities.
Often the cause of anxiety disorders isn't known. Many people who have them say that they've felt nervous and anxious all their lives. This problem can occur at any age. Children who have at least one parent with the diagnosis of depression are more than twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than other children.
Anxiety disorders often occur with other problems, such as:
A panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety or intense fear without a clear cause or when there is no danger. Panic attacks are common. They sometimes occur in otherwise healthy people. They usually last only a few minutes, but they may last longer. And for some people, the anxiety can get worse quickly during the attack.
Symptoms include feeling like you're dying or losing control of yourself, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), numbness or tingling of the hands or lips, and a racing heart. You may feel dizzy, sweaty, or shaky. Other symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain or tightness, and an irregular heartbeat. These symptoms come on suddenly and without warning.
Sometimes symptoms of a panic attack are so intense that you may fear that you're having a heart attack. Many of the symptoms of a panic attack can occur with other illnesses, such as hyperthyroidism, coronary artery disease, or COPD. A complete medical checkup may be needed before an anxiety disorder can be diagnosed.
People who have repeated unexpected panic attacks and worry about the attacks are said to have a panic disorder.
Phobias are extreme and irrational fears that interfere with daily life. People with phobias have fears that are out of proportion to real danger. They're not able to control the fears.
Phobias are common. They sometimes occur with other conditions, such as panic disorder or Tourette's disorder. Most people deal with phobias by avoiding the situation or object that causes them to feel panic. This is called avoidance behaviour.
A phobic disorder occurs when the avoidance behaviour becomes so extreme that it interferes with your daily activities. There are three main types of phobic disorders:
Phobias can be treated to help reduce feelings of fear and anxiety.
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Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
A few examples of obsessive or compulsive behaviours that can interfere with your daily activities include:
The risk of a suicide attempt is highest if:
Many prescription and non-prescription medicines can cause anxiety. A few examples are:
Some illegal drugs, such as cocaine, crack, and speed (amphetamines), also can cause anxiety.
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, tiredness, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
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If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.
Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Home treatment, combined with professional treatment, can help relieve anxiety. Here are some tips to help you cope with anxiety.
Recognize and accept your anxiety about specific fears or situations. Then make a plan for dealing with it. For example, if you are always worrying about finances, set up a budget or savings plan.
Change what you can to help you feel more comfortable with present concerns. But let go of past problems or things you can't change.
Get involved in social groups, or volunteer to help others. Being alone can make things seem worse than they are.
Learn about resources available in your community.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Adaptation Date: 6/12/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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