Anxiety. You feel tense, with shortness of breath. Heart racing. Fear-driven. Tired but wired. Irritable. Sometimes dizzy. Trouble concentrating.
In a full-blown panic attack you may feel all these symptoms accompanied by an intense fear, and unpleasant physical symptoms such as trembling and sweaty palms.
Over time, anxiety is an exhausting disease that wears down the body and mind, causing everything from depression to heart disease, stroke, premature aging, and a whole host of other common ailments. About 90% of all visits to primary health care providers are due to stress-related problems.
Stress can wreak havoc on the limbic system, the brain region responsible for emotion. Brain parts that are primarily affected include the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala is involved in the perception of fear-evoking whereas the hippocampus is involved in emotional memory. Both can be damaged by prolonged stress, leading to a dangerous feedback loop of fear-driven negative emotions. It's called anxiety.
Not surprisingly, most people who have anxiety for a long period of time also experience depression.
The most common anxiety disorders are: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Phobias (including Social Phobia, also known as Social Anxiety Disorder).
Not sure if you really have anxiety? If your common symptoms of anxiety are persistent and overwhelming, it's probably anxiety. To be sure, take this Anxiety Self Quiz from the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress.
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