MANY of us see anxiety as a more abstract or foreign concept than we can relate to, but the truth of the matter is, many of us are walking around with anxiety.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome, and according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), if you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety over a long period of time, you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder, the NHS says, is a long-term condition that can make you feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
Atlanta-based mental health counsellor Angela Dacres said from her research, anxiety manifests more in women, and the science shows that this could be because of hormone fluctuations.
She pointed to a 2016 paper published in the journal Brain and Behaviour, which showed that there was emerging and compelling evidence of substantial prevalence of anxiety disorders generally, and particularly in women, young adults and people with chronic diseases.
"Women in general cope with stress differently, on a more emotional level, and thus the possibility of having anxiety-related reactions would be greater," Dacres said.
"This particular study referenced actually shows that women experience anxiety disorders at nearly twice the rate of men, and experts have linked this to, among other things, the plethora or things that make women uniquely women — motherhood, menstruation, unresolved sexual trauma — for instance."
How do you know that you have anxiety?
The NHS says you may have generalised anxiety disorder if:
a) your worrying is uncontrollable and causes distress
b) your worrying affects your daily life, including school, your job and your social life
c) you cannot let go of your worries
d) you worry about all sorts of things, such as your job or health, and minor concerns, such as household chores.
You should see your doctor if your anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress. The doctor can diagnose your condition based on your symptoms, which may include:
a) feeling restless or on edge
b) being irritable
c) getting tired easily
d) having difficulty concentrating or feeling your mind going blank
e) having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
f) having tense muscles.
The NHS also points to other types of anxiety disorders, including:
a) panic disorder — a condition where you have recurring, regular panic attacks
b) phobias — an extreme or irrational fear of something, like an animal or a place
c) agoraphobia — a fear related to situations such as leaving home, being in crowds or travelling alone
d) obsessive compulsive disorder — a condition that usually involves unwanted thoughts or urges, and repetitive behaviours
e) post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition caused by frightening or distressing events.
"Your doctor will note your symptoms and treat accordingly," Dacres said. "This may be therapy, medication, or a mixture of both."