Situational Anxiety

Situational Anxiety

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Anxiety is a mental health condition which can make everyday tasks overwhelmingly difficult. Although everyone experiences anxiety at times, for example before a job interview, if you suffer from anxiety this feeling is exacerbated and caused by triggers which most people would have no problem with, such as walking through a busy town or taking a bus. Anxiety is characterised by the fact that this reaction is disproportionate to what the mind identifies as the threat. There are different types of anxiety, the most common being Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Situational anxiety can be caused by either an everyday kind of situation, like getting in a busy lift, or a huge change in your life, such as moving house. You can buy the situational anxiety drug Propranolol from an online doctor such as iMeds, which is a type of beta blocker. Beta blockers reduce the speed and ferocity with which your heart beats, which reduces your blood pressure. Beta blockers can therefore calm you down, so you are less likely to have an anxiety attack. Otherwise anxiety can limit your life and make living independently more difficult.

To a certain extent, anxiety is a normal feeling that everyone experiences, and it can keep you on your toes and performing at your best. However, suffering from an anxiety disorder means your reactions to situations are disproportionately fearful, which can impede your ability to live independently and happily. Propranolol is a type of beta blocker which slows your heart beat down - a fast heart beat can be the first symptom of suffering from an anxiety attack. A slow heartbeat can calm you down, and reduce the likelihood and severity of suffering from anxiety attacks.

Is anxiety normal?

To a certain extent, anxiety or panic is a naturally occurring phenomenon. And acute stress response, more commonly known as the fight or flight instinct, is still ingrained in everyone despite modern life not really requiring it. The fight or flight response is triggered by the brain sensing a predatory threat, such as an animal about to attack you. The body made minute changes which optimised chances of escaping the threat. Some of these changes included:

  • Increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. This enabled more blood to be pumped around the body, increasing oxygen levels in the body too
  • Dilation of certain blood vessels. Blood vessels in your legs would widen to increase the effectiveness of a getaway as it allowed you to run faster
  • Constriction of other blood vessels. Blood vessels to parts of the body that were non-essential in a getaway, like the stomach, would be tightened so the blood is going to where it is needed most
  • Sweating. This is a homoeostasis response which calls your body down.
  • Narrowed or tunnel vision. This stops you from being distracted by the wider image and allows you to focus better on the predator and your getaway.
  • Needing to use the toilet. This enabled you to get rid of excess weight to the body is lighter, again making for an easier getaway.
  • The release of chemicals such as noradrenaline to heighten your senses. It will also temporarily increase your physical strength.

Back when the fight or flight instinct was necessary survival mechanism, these reactions made sense. They not necessary in the modern world because it's very unlikely you going to have to defend yourself from a predator, but they stay with us nonetheless. In the unfortunate and unlikely event that you are in a situation such as a house fire or natural disaster, this heightened strength, ability to run faster, and an increased and focused awareness might allow you to escape marginally quicker, but this is unlikely to affect the majority of people. Sports people also get the same chemical rush when competing, which allows them to perform marginally better and suffer for marginally longer during a competition as opposed to in training. For the most part, there is no practical use of the fight or flight instinct in modern life. Instead, this reaction is triggered situations where it isn't necessary and absolutely isn't crucial for our survival. Because of this chain reaction (your brain identifies the fear, so chemicals are released, so your body goes into fight or flight mode) that our hearts beat fast and we feel like we're sweating before going into scary situations like job interviews or first dates. To a certain extent, anxiety is normal phenomenon that makes us perform at our best. However, when you suffer from an anxiety disorder, this response isn’t triggered rationally and that’s when it becomes a problem.

If you suffer from anxiety, this means you experience the fight or flight reaction for all kinds of issues. The important difference is that people with anxiety feel this over situations that are not scary. This can include moments such as walking to the corner shop to buy milk, or running simple errands.

Are there different types of anxiety?

There are different strands of anxiety with their own triggers and solutions. Understanding the type of anxiety you suffer from can help you to find a way of managing it. Types of anxiety include:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is the most common kind of anxiety. As it is generalised, there is no one specific trigger. It can be provoked by circumstances or thoughts that would have little to no significance in most people's daily lives. It can encapsulate fears such as worrying that straightforward things will go wrong, constantly doubting yourself, or paranoia about what other people think of you.
  • Specific phobias. This is where the anxiety reaction is caused by someone confronting or encountering a phobia. Around 5 to 12% of the world's population experience some kind of phobia. Major phobias include heights, water and blood.
  • Panic disorder. This is where the trigger of anxiety causes a panic attack which can last up to a few hours. Symptoms of a panic attack include: nausea, shaking, difficulty breathing, confusion and dizziness. Identifying and avoiding your triggers is the best way to manage your panic disorder, although for a lot of people this isn't impossible.
  • Social anxiety disorder. As the name suggests, this type of anxiety is characterised by fear regarding social situations. Where most people would be scared or intimidated in situations such as public speaking, job interviews or first dates, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder experience the same feeling regarding events such as going for a meal with friends or going to the shop. Selective mutism is a strand of social anxiety disorder. People who suffer from this find they cannot speak in situations where they are overwhelmed.
  • Separation anxiety disorder. Although this is a normal and common reaction among young children, it tends to fade as they get older. Most people can remember not wanting to leave their parents on their first day of primary school. This is triggered by separation from a person or place to which the sufferer has a strong attachment.

OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) have previously been listed as types of anxiety, but have shifted categories in recent publications of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders). With OCD, the anxiety response is triggered when the sufferer doesn’t follow the obsessions or compulsions that they feel they have to, which can leave them feeling paranoid and distressed until they do so. PTSD is caused by exposure to extreme and traumatic situations, such as war, rape, child abuse or even an extreme car crash. It may lead to flashbacks, anxiety and hypervigilance for years afterwards.

What’s the difference between Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Situational Anxiety?

Although situational anxiety is not classified as a disorder in itself but a strand of generalised anxiety, it does have features that differentiate it from other types of anxiety. The thing that sets situational anxiety apart from other anxiety disorders is in the name: it is triggered by a specific situation. GAD can disrupt all aspects of your life from worrying about small things at work, to not wanting to answer the phone if you don't know the number, to paranoia that your friends and family don't like you. Conversely, situation anxiety it's only triggered by certain situations. It can be caused by everyday events such as traveling in a very busy lift, or huge life altering situations such as moving house or getting married.

What’s the difference between Situational Anxiety and normal nerves?

The key characteristic of situational anxiety, and all anxieties that matter, is that they are wildly out of proportion to the event which is causing them. For example, we all feel a bit uncomfortable in a packed lift, but not to the extent where it makes us want to throw up or start shaking. Uncomfortable as it may be, most people can cope with it for a few minutes if they have to. Equally, most people feel nervous when they’re getting married or moving house, but unless you’re getting married to the wrong person or you’re suddenly out of pocket and can’t afford to move, you’re not nervous to the point where you’re incapacitated. It's important to remember that people who experience anxiety feel a fear that is grossly disproportionate to the threat.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety can very person-to-person, as can the severity of those symptoms. They can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue and exhaustion, but equally having difficulty sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Tension
  • Difficulty concentrating

What causes anxiety?

There are a huge variety of factors which can cause someone to suffer from anxiety. These can include:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse. Any kind of chemical that alters your brain can have the side effect of anxiety. Recreational drugs and alcohol can make you feel paranoid and nervous whilst you are taking them, but this feeling can be exacerbated if you stop and begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This is why many people find it hard to stop consuming these substances. Nicotine and caffeine can also make your anxiety worse. Some psychiatric medications are known to have the side effect of anxiety.
  • Childhood experiences such as being bullied, excluded or abused. Traumatic experiences that have taken place in early childhood can often go on to have a huge impact in your later life, as these are the years when your mind is at its most impressionable.
  • Suffering from other mental health illnesses. For example if you're suffering from an illness such as depression, anxiety often accompanies it.
  • Living with stress, pain, or having recently experienced intense grief such as the death of a loved one can cause or exacerbate anxiety.
  • It is believed that genetics play some part in dictating it once suffers from anxiety or not. There is evidence to suggest that if one of your family members has situational anxiety disorder, you are more likely to as well

What help can I get to manage my anxiety?

If your anxiety has an impact on your wider life you should consider seeing your GP to discuss possible help and treatments. Some people who have suffered anxiety for a long time find they are constantly on edge as a precaution even when not in situations that would usually trigger a panic response. Some people find they make huge changes to their lives to avoid situations which could trigger their anxiety, and some people find it affects their work and relationships.

Unfortunately, people who suffer from situational anxiety may find it exceptionally hard to make an appointment to speak to your doctor. Consider taking along a friend or family member to support you, and remember that your doctor will understand and treat you with the care and attention you need.

There are various treatments to help you manage situational anxiety, including:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers. This may not work to everyone dependent on what causes your anxiety, but as a short term solution it can help to manage the problem.
  • CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy. This encourages you to work with a trained counsellor or psychologist to examine your thought processes, see where they are going wrong, and work to change them. This can help to remove the fear you associate with specific situations, and help you overcome your anxiety by changing your thought patterns.
  • Speaking with a counsellor. This is slightly different from CBT as it gives you a space to talk freely and easily about what is on your mind and concerning you, and can help you to overcome your anxieties with support.
  • Applied relaxation and mindfulness. This can help strengthen the mind to battle negative thoughts and patterns by training the mind to avoid certain thoughts when the threat of danger isn’t there. The mind is a muscle, and by teaching yourself to ignore thoughts can cancel out the panic that your triggers may cause.
  • Medication. Talking to a counsellor or receiving this kind of help may not work for everyone, and some people may instead choose to take medication to manage their anxiety, although it isn’t suitable for everyone. Propranolol, a type of beta blocker, can help to manage situational anxiety as it reduces the speed and force with which your heart beats, so the fight or flight response is less likely to be triggered.