Science Questions

What to do if you feel anxious everyday.

Mon, 23rd Jun 2014

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Jonathan Michael asked:

If you are always feeling anxious every day, is it considered an anxiety disorder? Should I go to a doctor?


Hannah -   And Jonathan Michael has been in touch saying, “If you are always feeling anxious every day, is it considered an anxiety disorder? Should I go to the doctor when it happens to me?”

Roger -   Most people probably are at least a little bit anxious every day.  So, we’ll often get feelings of anxiety doing various things.  First of all, anxiety itself is complex.  There are various different issues, so they might be social anxiety, it might be a kind of panic-based problem, it could be a generalised anxiety disorder, GAD.  It could be tied up with other things for example like post-traumatic stress.  Anxiety is complex.  Psychologically, one of the things that we want to look out for is when the worries are really chronic, if the anxiety is interfering markedly with our day to day functioning, and/or we’re worried about it then it’s a good idea to get some help.  It’s now a good idea to get some help because it’s so much psychologically that we can do to reduce anxiety.

Hannah -   I mean, it’s quite natural response, anxiety as well, isn’t it?  It’s something that we are and have evolved to experience as part of the fight or flight response.  So, we’ve evolved to either fight something or someone that we’re scared of – a predator in the environment or to run away.  I remember when I first started this job, I was incredibly anxious when I had a particular interview.  The main producer of the show, Ben said, “What you want to do is go for a quick walk around the block.  That might make you feel better.”  That’s kind of the flight response.  And so, I came back in.  I was like, “I feel a bit better, but not that much better.”  He went, “Okay, have a hug.”  And that seem to help it a bit.

Liz -   I think anxiety is one of those ones.  We know with psychological things, you Eyecan't even measure it.  I mean, how much is – on a scale of 1 to 10, how anxious are you feeling?  1 or 4, maybe 7.  I have no idea.  A leg is broken or is not broken, we can measure this.  Psychological things are so much more difficult.  As you were saying, it’s the point at which you can't go back your everyday life in a normal way that you can't function a normal way.  That’s the point where it’s reached a problem if you like, if you can't function normally, but yeah, a bit of anxiety is completely normal and as you say, really very useful in certain circumstances.

Hannah -   Yeah, help me prep for the interview in that particular instance.  I got a burst of adrenalin which I think helped.  But had that prolonged, given that had been every single day then I think I would’ve had to have gone and sought some help.

Katie -   Yeah, I mean, if it is a problematic thing to somebody, it isn’t interfering with their lives, I think it’s also important to remember that they're not alone.  Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK.  You shouldn’t feel that you have to struggle with it alone.  Go and see your GP.  They’ll be able to talk to you.  They’ll be able to diagnose you with an anxiety disorder if that’s the right thing to do or help you find other ways in which you can address any issues you're facing or ways to actually help you feel better and control that anxiety.  So, I think if you have ever at all worried about the way you’ve been feeling or the anxieties become really unpleasant and frequent then just go and see a GP.  They’ll be able to offer advices specific to your needs in your circumstances.

Martin -   From those comments that have just been made, it’s sort of occurring to me that it seems that like, it’s difficult to measure psychological disorder like anxiety and to be able to appreciate when it becomes a clinical disorder than just normal state of being, a normal feeling of anxiety.  Although we can't measure as clearly as physical pain, maybe it’s a good idea to sort of think about it, an analogy to physical pain.  So, if you had back pain for example, if you had some sort of niggling in your back, most people would maybe let that stay after a day or two whatever, but if that continued and started to impact on your daily routines, there will be a point where you think, “Okay, I want to make an appointment and go and see the doctor.”  So maybe if people could think of it that way, if this is actually having an effect and it’s detrimental to your daily routine, just think, “If this was my back or my knee, would I make an appointment?”  And so, yeah, seek out.

Roger -   There are many, many things that we can do actually with anxiety to change things around quite quickly – some of them like exercise, some of them like relaxation.  Sometimes you can get results within a few minutes.  People can feel the difference, feel the heart rate going down, feel the physiological benefits of what we’re doing differently.

Liz -   The reason I set up my case was because when I had all the anxiety issues that I had, I found that when I started to talk about it with people, almost every single person I ever spoke to either said, “Oh, I had that too or my friend or my husband, or my child had that.”  And I thought, “Hang on, this is endemic.”  And yet, when I asked them, “Well, have you talked to anyone about it?”  They will always say, no.  “No, I never talk about it.”  And so, oddly enough, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder that we have in our society now.  Still, nobody is talking about it, which is extraordinary.  But that’s going to change.  I mean, I really think that’s going to change.  Most people hadn’t heard about anxiety disorder even 5 years ago particularly whereas now, it’s a little bit like a bipolar disorder which again no one had really heard about.  A little while ago, now everybody kind of understands something or what it might be.  I think that’s great if we can open that box and let people talk about it and then get help for it.

Hannah -   Thank you for that Katie Manning and before that, Liz Fraser, Dr. Roger Kingerlee and Dr. Martin O’Neill.  And we’ll be returning to our brainy panel later in the show to find out how much of our brain we have conscious control over.  We’ll be asking, is there such a thing as free will and finding out what the best treatment is for obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD.  And if you’ve been affected by the issues in this programme or would like further advice or help, please consult your GP or mental health professional.


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