Anxiety may be natural or unnatural. Natural anxiety is the type we all experience while expecting or experiencing a stressful event (e.g. exam, job interview, dangerous journey), and may be eased by counselling, distraction (doing something else) or as a last resort using medication. There are numerous causes of unnatural anxiety.
Depression is one common cause of anxiety. It may be a reaction to circumstances (e.g. loss of job, death in the family), or may have no apparent cause (endogenous depression). Patients with endogenous depression have an imbalance of chemicals that normally occur in the brain to control mood. If too much of one chemical is produced, the patient becomes depressed. Postpartum depression occurs in some women after childbirth as a response to the effect on the brain of sudden changes in hormone levels. The symptoms may be the same as endogenous depression, but excessive anxiety about the infant, or neglect of the child, may also occur.
Hormonal effects may also come into play in the menopause and with premenstrual tension. Women may find that they become inappropriately anxious just before their periods, or for no reason during menopause as their sex hormone levels fluctuate dramatically.
A neurosis is an illness of the personality that may cause excessive anxiety, phobias (an inappropriate fear of something or some place), and physical distress (eg. shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, faint). It is usually not possible to define the cause of the anxiety in patients with neuroses, and their phobias have no rational explanation.
As well as social and work disruption, long term alcoholism may result in neuroses, phobias, depression, irrational behaviour, poor coordination, difficulties in walking and performing simple tasks, and insanity.
Patients who have a serious disease, or who have had a near-death experience, may become excessively anxious. This is particularly common in patients who have had a heart attack, and who have some ongoing symptoms of heart disease.
The effects of anxiety are widespread in the body and it can affect every system and physiological function in some way. The effects vary from person to person and from time to time, but may include the following: –
|Rapid heart rate||Increased reflexes||Tremors||Forgetfulness||Poor concentration|
|Hypertension||Fainting||Rapid speech||Poor judgement||Uneasiness|
|Rapid breathing||Insomnia||Tremor||Fidgeting||Poor coordination|
|Lump in throat||Clumsiness||Inhibition||Poor work||Confusion|
|Loss of appetite||Choking||Shallow breaths||Revulsion||Colic|
|Sweating||Itching||Pallor||Cold sweats||Sweaty palms|