Anxiety complaints

Anxiety complaints

What are anxiety complaints?

Anxiety is an emotion that has to do with the perception of danger. As soon as danger threatens, most people feel anxious. The body responds to this with an increased state of alertness and prepares for action to avoid the danger. This action is called ‘fighting, fleeing or freezing’: these are three different ways of dealing with the danger.

In one situation it is better to ‘fight’, while in the other situation it will be more effective to ‘flee’. You can also experience anxiety without there being a real threat, for example when watching an exciting movie.

When the fear is no longer in proportion to the actual danger, we speak of ‘anxiety complaints’ or of an ‘anxiety disorder’. For example, nobody is eager to get an injection from the doctor.
If you are a little nervous at the moment or perhaps shortly before, this is a fear that ‘fits’ with the situation. But if one of them sleeps poorly for two weeks, feels sick and faints at the doctor, then the perceived fear is disproportionate to the danger (the injection).
People with anxiety complaints often say that they “know” that there is no real danger, but they still feel that way.

Symptoms anxiety symptoms

Anxiety complaints are generally characterized by the following four symptoms.
  • A feeling of tension or fear Anxiety is an emotion: people can feel anxious. Most people know this feeling of fear, for example, everyone is sometimes shocked by something. Sometimes this feeling of fear is not so clearly present. People then say that they feel tense, restless or that they find something scary. Especially when the feeling of fear is not that strong, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that it is actually about fear.
  • Physical symptoms Severe anxiety, also known as panic, is always accompanied by physical symptoms: your heart is pounding in your throat, you are sweating, you are trembling, your muscles are tense, you have heart palpitations, etc. Physical complaints are triggered by the hormone adrenaline. But even if the fear is less severe, dormant and even chronic, physical symptoms can occur. Certainly if the feeling of anxiety is not so strong, people do not think about fear as the cause of their complaints so quickly. The physical complaints attract their attention and they visit the doctor because they think that something is wrong physically.
  • Disaster thinking With anxiety complaints certain thoughts occur, thoughts that have to do with the perception of danger. With the term ‘danger’ you do not only have to think about concrete dangers such as a heart attack, but also about ‘social dangers’, such as being offended or hurt, or to lose work and prestige. People who regularly feel tense or anxious often appear to overestimate the dangers. We then speak of ‘catastrophic thoughts’ or ‘disaster thinking’.
  • Avoidance behavior Anxiety also includes avoidance behavior. People with fear avoid situations they are afraid of. Sometimes this avoidance behavior is so strong that fear no longer occurs, but normal functioning is seriously hampered. Someone with a fear (phobia) of lifts will try to avoid lifts. Because he never comes into contact with a lift, he is not troubled by his fear. The problems only arise when someone is forced to do what they are afraid of. For example, because of his work, the person with the lift phobia must move into a new office located in a tower block. Avoidance behavior plays an important role in maintaining the fear. Avoidance behavior can even cause more problems than the actual fear. This process is explained in the remainder of this brochure.

How do anxiety complaints arise?

Way of thinking Anxiety complaints are rarely caused by a single cause. Research shows that the way of thinking plays an important role in experiencing anxiety and tension.
People learn in the course of their lives to look at themselves, others and ‘the world’ in a certain way. Psychologists also speak of ‘schemas’. For example, people raised in an unsafe or chaotic situation have learned that the outside world is unsafe.
But people who have been raised in a very protected manner can also develop fearful schemes. They have learned that they need the help and support of others to save it. As a result, they do not dare to trust themselves.
Although the basis of such ‘schemas’ is often in the youth, this does not mean that you cannot change them. The diagrams that people have learned are and can therefore also be unlearned. Schedules often become active during periods of stress and bustle. The diagrams ensure that people look at reality biased. For example, dangers are usually overestimated, while the own possibilities for dealing with them are underestimated.
Fearful thoughts are focused on the future and they usually predict an unfavorable outcome. Not only the risks of danger are overestimated by people with anxiety complaints, but also the consequences thereof.
For example, someone is afraid of being criticized by his supervisor. He considers the chance that he will receive criticism high, and also thinks that the criticism will have major consequences. Perhaps the person will benefit from this criticism and the situation will get much better afterwards, but that does not occur to him.
Avoidance Behavior Some fears can also arise from what psychologists call ‘conditioning’. Imagine, for example, drinking a cup of coffee with the eight o’clock news every night. You learn to link the eight-hour journal to the cup of coffee, you get an association. At a certain moment you already feel like a cup of coffee, as soon as the news has just started. You are then ‘conditioned’ to feel like having coffee when the news starts.
Something like that can happen with negative feelings. For example, if a person experiences a serious accident, he will link driving to his fear of the accident. This fear can then prevent him from daring to get back in the car.
Avoidance behavior (avoiding anxiety) appears to play an important role in the survival and aggravation of anxiety complaints. By avoiding what you are afraid of, you cannot find out that there is no ‘real’ danger. The self-confidence also decreases that you can handle the situation.
Biological factors In addition to the aforementioned psychological factors, biological factors may also play a role. There are indications that the susceptibility to fear is partly hereditary.
Children often already see major differences: one child dares to do everything, while the other is very careful and worries quickly. However, this sensitivity appears to influence, for example through therapy. Having a genetic predisposition for something does not mean that you will never get rid of it.

Is it serious and what can you expect?

Anxiety complaints can be extremely annoying. People who suffer a lot from anxiety sometimes have the idea that they are going crazy or that something is completely wrong with them. For example, with chest pain they quickly panic and will think of a heart attack and die.
If the anxiety symptoms persist for a long time, physical complaints can arise from the constant tension of the muscles. Complaints such as headache, back pain, tiredness and sleep disorders. If the anxiety subsides, the complaints generally also decrease. How long the anxiety symptoms remain present varies per person.
If the anxiety symptoms started after a major event or during a stressful period, and you have functioned well before that, the anxiety symptoms can be expected to fade into the background when the stressful situation is over.
If someone exhibits avoidance behavior, then the fear has no chance of disappearing from itself and can last longer. If you have suffered from anxiety complaints much more often for no apparent reason, you should bear in mind that the fear will not disappear on its own without treatment.
Sometimes the anxiety complaints are so severe that we speak of an anxiety disorder. There are various anxiety disorders. These are described below. You can read more about each anxiety disorder in the information leaflets that are named after the anxiety disorder in question.
  • Panic disorder Intense feelings of anxiety, accompanied by various physical symptoms. For example: trembling, heart palpitations, fear of fainting or going crazy. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Panic disorder’.
  • Agoraphobia (‘fear of square’) Fear of large crowds, open spaces or even small spaces from which it is difficult to escape. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Agoraphobia (fear of square)’.
  • Hypochondria Anxiety and more or less the belief that you have a serious illness among the members. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Hypochondria (fear of disease)’.
  • Phobia (specific) Fear of specific situations or things, such as lifts, heights, driving, blood, jabbing, or traveling by plane. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Phobia’.
  • Social phobia Fear of what other people think of you. Often this is accompanied by fear of certain physical symptoms, such as blushing or shaking. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Social phobia’.
  • Compulsive disorder Thoughts that keep coming back and that frighten you, or compulsive actions that you must perform yourself. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Forced disorder’.
  • Anxiety disorder (generalized anxiety disorder) Many worry and worry about all kinds of things that can happen in daily life, such as being very worried if your partner comes home later than expected. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Anxiety disorder (generalized anxiety disorder)’.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder Have recurring memories of terrible, traumatic experiences. It seems as if you are reliving the event. You can read more about this in the information folder ‘Post-traumatic stress disorder’.

When to the doctor?

It is wise to go to your doctor, if the anxiety complaints control your life and you therefore have trouble functioning properly.

What can you do about it yourself?

  • Anxiety is almost always accompanied by an increased muscle tension, even if you do not really notice this yourself. Reducing muscle tension can help to reduce your anxiety. You don’t have to go to a therapist to learn how to relax. It is quite possible to learn and apply relaxation exercises yourself. For this, it is necessary that you exercise regularly, preferably several times a day, certainly in the beginning. This does not have to take much time, fifteen minutes is often enough. If you are more relaxed in life and face dreaded situations, the fear is much less likely. People simply cannot relax and be anxious at the same time. So make sure that the relaxation wins over fear.
  • Although it is unclear to what extent disturbed breathing (hyperventilation) plays a role, breathing exercises also seem to work well. Not only does this make you calmer, it can also give you the feeling that you are once again influencing your situation, which makes you feel stronger.
  • Check for yourself what your feelings of anxiety have to do with, and to what extent this is real. Are the fearful thoughts you have in your head really correct, or can you look at it differently? By becoming aware of these thoughts, you often manage to put them into perspective (in part), which will reduce the fear. You can put the new, relativizing thoughts on paper for yourself and carry them with you, so that you can look at them again at difficult moments.
  • Try to think of a few sentences that counterbalance the ‘disaster thoughts’. Practice these sentences and try to apply them in situations where you feel anxious. For example, say quietly to yourself “calm down, nothing happens” or “you can handle it.” Many people benefit from reassuring themselves in this way when they feel the fear coming.
  • Seek distraction if you are in a situation that you find exciting. Do not let yourself be carried away by the fearful feelings or thoughts, but focus on the things around you. For example, try to look consciously at other people: what they look like, what they are wearing, and so on. Or give yourself a command to keep your brain busy, such as counting down from a thousand, in steps of three. The fear is then much less likely to get a hold on you because you are doing very different things.
  • Prepare for anxious situations by thinking in advance about what could happen and how you could resolve it. Note: avoidance or getting out of the situation quickly is not a good solution in the long run. Find out what the worst thing is that could happen to you and how you could deal with it. Write down possible solutions for yourself and take them with you. Experience shows that it is difficult to keep thinking clearly if you risk becoming anxious. It can help a lot if you can use your previously conceived solutions at that time.
  • There are also possibilities to follow self-help programs against anxiety via the internet. 

General advice and precautions

For some people it is tempting to use alcohol or other substances that have a calming effect. In the short term you will feel calmer, but in the long run there are important disadvantages, such as addictive effects, drowsiness and feeling less fit.
Excessive use of alcohol even promotes fear. Moreover, it does not solve the problem of fear with it. In fact, you run the risk that you will soon have a problem with it.
Sport and physical activity have a beneficial effect on your well-being. You can use this to ‘discharge’ your voltage and you will be distracted. People also sleep better if they are more physically active. Swallowed by the stress and tension, people do not have enough time for relaxing activities. Make conscious space in your diary for relaxing activities.
It is also advisable to talk about your feelings of fear. There is no reason to be embarrassed about this. And when you talk to others about it, you will find that many people have been troubled by anxiety. So you are certainly not alone.
Source : dokterdokter

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