What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal response, and sometimes even beneficial in crises- it can help you pay attention and become aware of danger. It is designed to save you. However, when these normal feelings of worry become excessive and constant fear, it can become dysfunctional. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorders and with the right treatment, you can lead a productive and healthy life! Anxiety refers to a feeling of apprehension about the future and is characterized by avoidance behaviour and muscle tension. Fear, another concept important to understand anxiety disorders, is an emotional response to an immediate threat, whereas anxiety is a response to a future or anticipatory threat. Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders characterized by, you guessed it, excessive anxiety and fear, which may cause you to avoid the situation or trigger. This can affect your performance at work or school, interpersonal relationships, and emotional distress.

For a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety or fear must:

  • Hinder your ability to function normally
  • It must be out of proportion to the situation or trigger

There are different types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

  • This involves a persistent and excessive worry that hinders the person from their daily functioning. The constant tension may lead to physical symptoms like restlessness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, feeling on edge or very fatigued, and muscle tension.
  • The anxiety can be related to minor matters like daily chores, and also to job responsibilities, family health, etc.


  • Though we may use the word colloquially, a phobia is an excessive and consistent fear of a particular object, activity, or situation.
  • The fear is irrational and severe, and usually, people with phobias know that, but find it tough to overcome.
  • The fear causes distress, which leads to people going to great lengths to avoid what they are scared of.

Panic disorder:

  • The primary symptom is recurrent panic attacks, which causes extreme psychological and physical distress.

Some common symptoms of panic attacks are:

  • Palpitations
  • Feeling of choking
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness/feeling lightheaded
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Nausea/stomach pain
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Feeling detached
Panic attacks can mimic heart attacks, so, at first, many people believe that they are having a heart attack, which may lead to feeling more scared Panic attacks may also accompany other disorders like depression or PTSD

Social Anxiety Disorder:

  • This is when a person feels uncomfortable and anxious in social interactions as they are fearful of embarrassing or humiliating themselves.
  • This might hinder your daily functioning
  • Lasts at least 6 months

Separation Anxiety Disorder:

  • A person with this disorder feels distressed and fearful when they are separated from those they are attached to.
  • This feeling is more than what is appropriate for the situation or person’s age.
  • Persists at least 4 weeks in children and 6 months in adults.
  • The person may experience fear of losing who they are attached to, they may refuse to go anywhere without that person, or even refuse to eat and sleep without that person.

During Therapy for Anxiety:

Anxiety, like Depression, can be completely cured through the process of therapy. While medication may provide relief from certain physical symptoms, it is not the cure. CBT and REBT have proved to be very effective as it involves working on cognitive distortions, that is, certain unhealthy thought patterns that are unhelpful and cause anxiety in the individual. CBT can help you change the way you think, feel, and behave to make you feel less anxious by providing you with tools to cope, and remind you that there are certain aspects in your control.


  • CBT gives you the ability to identify automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s) which are usually the cause of anxiety and distress
  • Once you have identified these disturbing thought patterns, you can identify your triggers
  • It gives you the ability to expand (and have faith in) your coping abilities as an individual
  • It provides you with tools to tolerate and heal from triggering or distressing situations that cause anxiety
  • It makes you capable of converting
  • Physical symptoms and panic attacks can also be dealt with through this process
  • For dealing with phobias- CBT counters the automatic negative thoughts which enables the fear and avoidance behaviour caused by that fear
  • It is a step-by-step process- for example, if someone has a phobia of cats, an initial step would be to make the person read about a cat, then maybe watch a film, and so on.
  • The process of therapy is always a layered (and not a linear) one. When it comes to anxiety, CBT can help you help yourself by changing your dysfunctional thought pattern to become a healthier individual.

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