Is anxiety a form of mental illness?
Anxiety is a natural response to stress or perceived danger. It is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear that can range from mild to severe. It is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times, especially when they feel that something bad could be about to happen to them or someone that they care about. Feeling anxious in situations like these is nothing to worry about.
However, when anxiety becomes persistent, excessive, and interferes with daily life activities, it can be classified as a mental illness. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterised by excessive and persistent anxiety and fear. With an anxiety disorder—as opposed to simply experiencing anxiety in life—you often perceive threats that don’t exist, or experience a disproportionate reaction to a threat.
Anxiety disorders are widespread, with research estimating that approximately 30% of adults will encounter an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Studies have revealed that certain groups are more susceptible to anxiety disorders than others. For instance, women, individuals with chronic illnesses, and young people may have a higher likelihood of experiencing an anxiety disorder.
They can include:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Excessive, unrealistic worry and fear about everyday events and situations.
Recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no apparent reason.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
Excessive and persistent fear of a situation or object.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Anxiety caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?
People suffering from anxiety disorders may suffer from a range of physical and mental symptoms, but the experience is different for everyone. Physical symptoms may include:
- stomach ache
- feeling sick
- a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- muscle aches and tension
- trembling or shaking
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
Anxiety disorders can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things, resulting in psychological symptoms such as:
- a sense of dread or fear
- feeling constantly on edge
- difficulty concentrating
These symptoms can make it more difficult to complete daily tasks, leading to more anxiety.
It’s important to note that having an anxiety disorder is not a weakness or a character flaw, and seeking help is a sign of strength. Treatment for anxiety disorders can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Talking therapies can provide a safe space for you to explore the roots of your anxiety and to gain the skills to manage your condition. An experienced counsellor will gently guide you through the process, answering any questions you may have and equipping you with the necessary tools to move forward.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, reach out for support. Visit Diana Parkinson’s anxiety counselling page to learn more about how therapy can help you manage your symptoms and improve your mental health.