What are anxiety complaints?
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.
Symptoms anxiety 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?
Is it serious and what can you expect?
- 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl 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 doctordokter.nl information folder ‘Post-traumatic stress disorder’.
When to the doctor?
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.