Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that won’t go away. It affects our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It becomes a problem when your daily living activities—like work, school, self-care, and socializing—are negatively impacted. Anxiety that seems uncontrollable or overwhelming, and doesn’t go away, may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is not the same as stress. With an anxiety disorder, the symptoms are extreme and don’t go away once the stress is over.
It’s important to know that you don’t need to suffer. Some people find they're able to manage the symptoms of their anxiety disorder by stress management, relaxation techniques, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Professional help includes cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy, and medication.
What is normal?
Everyone experiences anxiety at times in their life, especially when life gets stressful. It’s normal for people to feel anxious if they’re in a dangerous situation, or before events like public speaking or an interview. But too much anxiety that doesn’t let up, and that interferes with your day-to-day activities, could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
What are common signs and symptoms?
If you’ve experienced some of the signs below, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder:
- Constantly tense, worried, irritable, or on edge
- Anxiety interferes with your work, school, or family responsibilities
- Bothered by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake
- Believing that something bad will happen if things aren’t done a certain way
- Avoiding everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety
- Sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic
- Feeling like danger and catastrophe are around every corner
But anxiety is more than just a feeling. It also comes with physical symptoms:
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension or twitches
- Shaking or trembling
Should I seek help?
Some anxiety is normal, but see your doctor if you feel like you're worrying too much, if it's interfering with your school, work, or relationships, if you feel depressed or irritable, have trouble with using alcohol or drugs, or you have other mental health concerns along with anxiety.
If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviours, seek emergency treatment immediately—call 911 or the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis line at 1-888-429-8167.
Your worries are not likely to go away on their own, and they could actually get worse. Anxiety may be easier to treat early on, so get professional help before your anxiety becomes severe.
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