What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotional and physiological response to feeling threatened. It has been called the 'fight or flight' response. It is simply your body preparing for action, either to fight danger or to run away from it.
Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time and in certain situations it can be helpful; situations such as when we need to perform well, or cope in an emergency.
Feeling anxious before an examination, for example, increases the levels of adrenaline and other stress related hormones in our bodies and enhances performance. This kind of anxiety is rarely a problem and once a stressful situation passes we quickly return to feeling normal.
Sometimes anxiety is not helpful because:
Symptoms of anxiety whilst not dangerous, can be extremely uncomfortable
People with anxiety symptoms often worry that they may have something seriously wrong with them. This worry can then produce more anxiety symptoms which increase the worry
When anxiety is severe and continues for a long time it can stop people doing what they want to do
Some situations which may cause anxiety:
Leaving home and adapting to a new life at University
Giving presentations, or performing in group situations
Dealing with relationships
Coping with work and exams
Symptoms of Anxiety:
The experience of anxiety can range from mild uneasiness and worry to severe panic.
Physical symptoms - There are many of these but the most common are; dizziness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dry mouth, abdominal discomfort & nausea. Tiredness and the reduced ability to concentrate are also symptoms
Thoughts - Anxious thoughts usually involve the perception of some kind of threat or danger. For example, someone who is afraid of group situations may think 'everyone is watching and judging me'
Behaviour - This is the action taken as a result of the thought and physical symptom. One of the most common reactions to an anxiety provoking thought or situation is avoidance. For example, if a person becomes anxious in social groups, they may avoid going to bars or restaurants
When trying to overcome anxiety, it is important to work with all 3 of the above components – Physical symptoms, thoughts and behaviour
When to seek help:
If your anxiety is stopping you from having a normal, enjoyable life
If you are avoiding important activities
If your fears are persistent and difficult to control
How to seek help:
Confidential support is available by either;
- Getting in touch with the University Counselling and Mental Health Support Team
- Making an appointment to see your GP