Anxiety: What’s Normal and What Isn’t
It is normal to feel anxious when the situation calls for it. When stakes are high and performance is crucial, feelings of anxiety help keep our bodies ready for action.
If anxiety persists for an extended period of time and affects your day-to-day living, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating conditions that affect both our mental and physical well-being, but they can be managed with the help of a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
This type of anxiety disorder is used to describe a person who experiences random panic attacks in day-to-day life without any apparent cause or triggers. A panic attack can consist of sweatiness, chest pains, severely elevated heartbeat, choking or symptoms that feel like a heart attack.
When a person experiences extreme fear of a particular stimulus or situation, we call this a phobia. Flying, blood, spiders and snakes are examples of phobias that are commonly experienced. When facing their phobias, people will tend to freeze up; experience severe tremors; have a racing and pounding heart; and rapid, shallow breathing.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A person with this type of anxiety disorder has excessive worries about everyday matters for a long period of time (typically 6 months or more). Some other symptoms of GAD include restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and sleep disturbances. Such a person may also have trouble making commitments, and find it tough to decide on day-to-day matters.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
When a person has repeating, distressing and intrusive thoughts of images and urges to perform certain actions or rituals over and over, this person may have OCD. In general, such a person knows that these actions are not rational but still has trouble stopping the behaviour. Their excessive fears of things that are otherwise minor causes them to repeatedly take precautionary or salutatory measures to that end. Washing hands repeatedly for fear of infections, constantly checking that the door is locked when going out for fear of burglary are some examples of OCD behaviour.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Victims of an extreme situation – combat, child abuse, rape or natural disasters – may develop PTSD. People with this type of anxiety disorder tend to be excessively vigilant, experience flashbacks of the extreme events, see everything as threats, experience excessive anger, and may have sleep problems.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are generally caused by any combination of the following factors:
A person has chemical imbalances in the body, typically an excess of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone).
The family tree of the anxious person is full of similar cases.
Being exposed to traumatic or stressful situations in their early years may cause people to experience anxiety when presented with similar situations.
How to deal with anxiety
Even without medication, we can undertake some of these stress-busting activities to stay calm in the face of anxiety or stress:
- Step back from the stressful situation.
- Take care of our diet.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine.
- Sleep well.
- Exercise frequently.
- Breathe deeply.
- Count slowly.
- Commit to action.
- Make light of the situation.
- Stay positive.
- Talk to a friend.
If taking these steps don’t seem to help your symptoms, you should seek help from a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor for help in treating your anxiety.
We believe in tackling anxiety with a holistic program that may include counselling, group therapy and if necessary, medication by our psychiatrists, counsellors, psychologists and therapists.
Our Anxiety Team includes (but not limited to):
Joachim Lee, PBM
MSocSc (Couns), SAC Member & Supervisor, APNA Neurofeedback Therapist, IACT Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, ICBCH Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy Trainer
Dr. Elaine Yeo
Psy.D. (Clinical Psych), M.A. (Counselling Psych), B.A. (Hon) Psych
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