Anxiety – strong feelings of worry

Anxiety is the fear or worry that is felt in the body. It is uncomfortable but not dangerous to have anxiety. There are various ways to deal with anxiety, and things you can do yourself to feel better. There is also treatment that helps.

This article is about anxiety in adults. For the anxiety of children and teens, you as a  parent or guardian can read more here .

You are aged 13 to 25 years can read more about anxiety UMO.se . 

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is strong feelings of fear or worry, which are often felt in the body. Anxiety can feel different for different people.

Here are examples of symptoms you may experience in anxiety:

  • You may feel the heart beating hard or faster than usual.
  • You may find it difficult to breathe or feel dizzy.
  • It may feel like a lump in the stomach or a weight over the chest.
  • You may start sweating or feeling hot or cold inside.
  • You may become dry in the mouth, piss-needy or bad in the stomach.
  • You may feel tingling or numbness in your hands or feet.
  • You may feel shaky, shaky or weak in the muscles.

Sometimes the anxiety starts to go weak and then gets stronger and stronger. Sometimes it comes quickly. Anxiety can sometimes feel so strong that you think you should faint, lose control or even die. But you don’t die of anxiety. The reaction is not dangerous, and the anxiety goes away by itself.

Prolonged consequences of anxiety

The biggest risk of living with anxiety for a long time is that you begin to avoid situations and places that risk giving or increasing your anxiety. When you start avoiding things that you think may cause you anxiety, you are prevented from living the life you really want. It makes the anxiety worse and takes up more space in your life.

Prolonged anxiety can make you more susceptible to stress, feel restless, impatient and easily irritated. You may also have difficulty sleeping . If you use alcohol or drugs to relieve your anxiety, you may develop an addiction . Therefore, it is important that you learn to manage your anxiety in other ways.

Panic attack – when the anxiety comes suddenly

Strong anxiety that comes suddenly is called panic attack. A panic attack feels very clear in the body. You can get dizzy, and it may feel like you’re going to faint. When it feels so strong in the body, you may think that you are sick, for example, that you have had a heart failure. You may feel unreal feelings or fear of dying.

A panic attack often comes unexpectedly, when you are not prepared. It is not uncommon to have a panic attack for example when you are resting or relaxing. Getting a panic attack feels very scary. But it’s not dangerous, and the panic attack goes off on its own.

If you have recurrent panic attacks for an extended period and are afraid of having these attacks, you may have what is called panic syndrome . There is treatment to help with panic syndrome.

What is anxiety and what is it due to?

Anxiety is reactions from the nervous system that cannot be controlled. It is unpleasant and scary to have anxiety, but it is not dangerous. Usually the anxiety goes away by itself in a few minutes. Most people experience anxiety every now and then. Some have strong anxiety that comes back often, or lasts for a long time. The more you avoid your anxiety, the more it can affect you.

Why Do I Have Anxiety?

Anxiety is not a sign that something is wrong with you. It’s a natural reaction to something scaring you.

The symptoms of anxiety you experience are due to the brain sending signals to the body. The body gets ready to deal with the situation by increasing the amount of stress hormones in the blood. The muscles get tense and you get faster heart rate and breathing.

The purpose of anxiety is actually survival. The anxiety gives you extra energy, so you could run fast and defend yourself or escape a threat. It is the extra energy that you experience as anxiety.

The brain cannot distinguish between real threat and fear

Sometimes it may suffice for a thought to cause the anxiety to come. It does not matter if the threat is real or not. Your brain cannot distinguish between a fear based on thoughts and a real threat. The body’s reactions become the same.

You may also get anxious about certain situations, perhaps because they remind you of something that has scared you earlier in life.

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health care center if one or more of the following applies to you:

  • You have started to avoid places or situations of fear of anxiety.
  • You have had recurrent panic attacks for at least a month.
  • You have phobias , obsessions or obsessions that affect your everyday life. 
  • You relieve your anxiety with alcohol, drugs or by  hurting yourself .

When you book a time you can ask to have a sufficient length of visit time so that you can tell us how you are doing. 

You can also seek care at a psychiatric outpatient clinic. If you work or study, you can often contact occupational health or student health.

If you are a custodian of someone under 18, you can read more here .

If it’s in a hurry

Seek treatment at a psychiatric emergency room if you have thoughts of taking your life , or are feeling so bad that you feel like you can no longer cope.

What can I do for myself?

You can learn how to deal with anxiety, but it can take some time. Although the anxiety is harmless, it can prevent you from living the way you want.

There are several things you can do that can help you in the moment. There are also things you can do to feel better in the long run, and to help you manage anxiety more easily.

All people are different. A piece of advice that works for one person may not work for another. Try your way and find out what works for you. Have you had anxiety in the past and noticed that something in particular helped? Try doing the same thing again.

The most important thing is that you try to live your life the way you want, while at the same time practicing managing the anxiety in the moment.

Tips on how to deal with anxiety at the moment

Many people who are anxious want to quickly get rid of the unpleasant feelings. But if you stay in the anxiety, you will notice that it decreases after a while.

When you have anxiety, you can try the following:

  • Sit on a chair and push your feet into the floor or ground and feel for how it feels.
  • Describe for yourself what is happening right now. Allow your thoughts to be who they are.
  • Breathe calmly. Put a hand on your stomach and feel the breath.
  • Focus on something else for a while, for example, take a walk, read a book, loose crossword, sudoku or talk to someone.
  • Do some relaxation exercises or something else that will make you calm.

Then continue with what you intend to do before you have anxiety.

Tips on how to manage anxiety in the long run

  • Do what is important to you even when you have anxiety.
  • Challenge yourself to continue doing what you like, despite the fear of getting anxious. It increases your confidence in yourself and reduces your anxiety over time.
  • Try to rest and get enough  sleep . If you have trouble sleeping, it is good if you can still try to take small rest breaks.
  • Try to eat well  so you get the nutrition you need.
  • Touch yourself, for example, by exercising, walking or dancing. Like a moment every day. Exercise  increases your well-being, and makes it easier to relax and sleep well.
  • Do what you think is nice and relaxing. Listen to music, stay in nature, do something that interests you or hang out with people you enjoy.
  • Think about how you could reduce stress if you often feel stressed. Can you lower the demands on yourself or change your situation in any way?

Finding a method of relaxation can help you feel better. There are many apps and exercises online. For example, you could try doing one of these  breathing and relaxation exercises . There are also exercises in conscious presence or mindfulness.

Alcohol and drugs make the anxiety stronger

Do not try to reduce anxiety with  alcohol or other drugs . It may feel like it helps for the moment, but it makes the anxiety worse in the long run.

Try quitting or reducing if you  smoke ,  sniff , drink a lot of coffee or energy drink. Nicotine and caffeine can increase anxiety and make it harder for you to sleep well.

Learn more about anxiety and help others

A good way to gain perspective and feel better is to learn more about anxiety and mental illness. For example, you can read books, watch movies or listen to podcasts. 

You can contact the  Anxiety Association  or any other  association or organization and get the support, tips and advice of people with their own experience.

You can contact a guide if you want to talk or chat with someone anonymously.

Treatment for anxiety

Treatment methods that work well if you have anxiety disorders are:

  • Advice and support for healthy habits
  • psychotherapy
  • Possible drug treatment of anxiety, if the anxiety problems have been going on for a long time.

Advice and support for healthy habits

Part of the treatment consists of getting information about what anxiety is and what you can do yourself to start feeling better.

For example, you can get advice and support when it comes to sleep , eating habits , physical activity and alcohol habits .

By changing your daily habits, you can increase your resistance to stress and anxiety. Even small changes can make a big difference.

psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can help you who have anxiety. The form of therapy that is mainly recommended when you have anxiety problems is cognitive behavioral therapy, KBT. 

In therapy you get help to approach and allow unpleasant feelings. This is done step by step in a method called exposure. Exposure means that you approach things that you usually avoid. You will also learn how to find new approaches to your anxiety.

What works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it is important that you receive help that is adapted to what you need. The person you meet can help you seek more specialized help if you agree that it is needed.

It is important that you feel good about the psychologist, curator or doctor you meet. Ask to talk to someone else, if the person you meet doesn’t feel good to talk to.

Possible drug treatment

You who have a great deal of anxiety for a long time may have the help of medicines as part of your treatment. Ask first to try drugs that do not give addiction.

For example, there may be antidepressants belonging to the  drug groups SSRI  or  SNRI.  It is important to know that it may take several weeks for these drugs to produce the desired effect. During these weeks you may even feel worse.

There are also other drugs that can help with anxiety and anxiety, without giving addiction. An example is drugs containing the active substance hydroxizine.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about medication for anxiety.

If you are related to someone with anxiety

It can feel difficult to know what to do to support someone who is anxious. Sometimes you may need to be a support by listening. Sometimes you may need to encourage those who are ill to seek professional help.

No matter how you try to support the poor person, try to accept that there is a limit to how much you can help someone else. Don’t take it personally if you feel your suggestions are not well received. The most important thing is that those who feel bad know and feel that you care about them.

How should I help someone who is anxious?

A good way to find strength is to learn more about anxiety and mental illness. For example, you can read books, watch movies or listen to podcasts.

You can help by reminding yourself that it is not dangerous to have anxiety, even if it feels so. Encourage the person to learn more about what anxiety is and what you can do to feel better.

Seek support for your own part

To be a good support you need to take care of yourself. As a relative, you can apply for family  support  and get help from the municipality’s social services. It varies what support is available, but usually you can get some kind of call support.

As a young person you may need adult support

If you are young and have a parent who is anxious, you may need support for your own part. Talk to an adult and get help, for example from a friend, relative or curator at school. Tell us what it will be like for you when your parent is ill.

You can sometimes get support that can help relieve you if you feel that you have too much responsibility at home.

Read more at UMO.se about having a parent who is ill or visit Dare to tell, which is aimed at children .

Different kinds of anxiety

Panic disorder

If you have recurrent panic attacks for at least one month and are afraid of having these attacks, it can be called panic syndrome .

phobias

If you are so afraid of certain things or situations that you avoid them or have strong anxiety in the situation it can be called specific  phobia .

Generalized anxiety disorder

You may have what is called  generalized anxiety disorder or GAD  if you have a constant worry or anxiety that affects your daily life.

OCD

You may have obsessive-compulsive disorder if you feel very strongly that you need to think in a certain way or do certain things in order not to get anxious.  

Anxiety after a scary event

Those who have been involved in a particularly frightening event can sometimes develop  post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD .

Anxiety and physical illness

You may experience severe anxiety if you have a severe physical illness or live with long-term pain .

You can also develop strong anxiety and fear of suffering from a serious illness. It is called illness anxiety or health anxiety.

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