Anxiety can manifest with a wide variety of symptoms of which many are similar to those experienced with other physical illnesses such as heart disease, lung problems, irritable bowel syndrome and even the common cold and flu.
A pounding heart is a common symptom of anxiety and when it is combined with chest pain and feeling breathless it is easy to understand why so many people confuse an anxiety attack with a heart attack.
Gastrointestinal discomfort in the form of nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramps and diarrhea is another common symptom of anxiety but these symptoms can also be seen with other conditions such as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or irritable bowel syndrome.
Most of us who have experienced a cold or flu before will know of the constant tiredness and the muscle aches and pains. These symptoms are however common symptoms of anxiety too, so how are you supposed to know the difference between anxiety and any other form of illness?
The only way to really know is to have your doctor look at your symptoms. Even if you are certain that your symptoms are the result of anxiety, still speak to your doctor about it, because even anxiety itself can be a symptom of a more serious disease such as an overactive thyroid gland.
There are self assessment tools available online which can give you an anxiety and depression score, but the most accurate and complete assessment can be done by your physician. Remember that untreated anxiety may lead to depression so it is best to get help sooner rather than later.
It is important to know that anxiety is a normal part of life and if it is applied in the right way it can actually help you to achieve your goals. It is when anxiety becomes unwarranted that it should be addressed. The assessment tools aim to determine whether you have constant worries which are not realistic compared to your actual circumstances. Once these constant worries start to interfere with your daily living and leads to altered behavior, such as avoidance of certain places, people or circumstances it may signal a potential problem in the form of anxiety disorder.
You can relieve anxiety over the short term with relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, meditation or yoga. Staying away from strong stimulants such as caffeine can also help to reduce your anxiety.
Regardless of whether it is only temporary, “healthy” anxiety that is causing you to feel ill or chronic anxiety in the form of anxiety disorder, help is available. It is a well accepted fact that medication will not cure anxiety. In some individuals it is used to temporarily help them cope until they are cured by psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapy and it is considered to be the best long term cure for anxiety disorders. Sometimes it may be necessary to combine other psychotherapy techniques with CBT for the best results, but there is a combination of treatment that will help you to be permanently free of anxiety.
“Anxiety Disorders”. National Institute of Mental Health. 2010. Nimh.nih.gov. (November 15, 2012) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml#pub11
“Mood self-assessment quiz”. NHS Choices. 2012. Nhs.uk. (November 15, 2012) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/Mood-self-assessment.aspx