Mental Health Awareness Week: What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to stressful situations. It is normal to feel some anxiety when you’re in a high-pressure situation like an exam, job interview or doctor’s appointment.
The ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response
When we’re stressed or anxious, like all animals, human bodies have evolved to react in certain ways to help protect us from danger. When we feel threatened our bodies release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which:
- Make us feel more alert, to speed up our reactions
- Make our hearts beat faster to quickly send blood where we need it most.
When we feel the threat has passed our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake.
This is commonly called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response- it’s something that happens to our bodies automatically, and we have no control over it.
When does anxiety become a problem?
Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. Anxiety becomes a problem when:
- your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
- your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
- you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
- your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
- you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
- you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.
You might be diagnosed with anxiety disorder if your symptoms fit a medical criteria. But anyone can experience anxiety without a medical diagnosis. Our Self-Care Hub offer suggestions on ways you can help ease symptoms. You can also find out about how to manage stress and burnout.