When you are anxious you may feel fearful and tense. Also, you may have unpleasant physical symptoms. These may be: a fast heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, fast breathing, a general feeling of panic. The physical symptoms are caused by the brain sending messages down through the nerves to various parts of the body. The nerve messages tend to make the heart, lungs and other parts of the body work faster. When you are anxious you release hormones such as adrenaline into the bloodstream. These can also act on the heart, muscles and other parts of the body to cause symptoms.
Anxiety is normal in stressful situations and can even be helpful. For example, most people will be anxious when threatened by an aggressive person. The burst of adrenaline and nerve impulses which we have in response to stressful situations can encourage a ‘fight or flight’ response. Some people are more prone to normal anxieties. For example, some people are more anxious than others before examinations. Anxiety is abnormal if it:
Is out of proportion to the stressful situation; or
Persists when a stressful situation has gone; or the stress is minor; or
Appears for no apparent reason when there is no stressful situation.
It is common for people who feel anxious to worry about the anxiety, which often makes the anxiety worse. Some can feel as if something awful is about to happen, or find themselves worrying about the physical symptoms, it is not uncommon for suffers to feel as if they are having a heart attack.
While the cause of anxiety is not clear, in my experience there is usually an underlying reason why someone is experiencing anxiety, for example:
Past traumas, this may be childhood traumas such as abuse or death of a parent, or other past events which may not be clear.
A major stress in life may trigger the condition. For example, a family crisis. Common minor stresses in life, which you may otherwise have easily coped with, may then keep the symptoms going once the condition has been triggered. Anxiety and depression are often linked.