Anxiety - from staying healthy to getting sick

Although fear is stressful, it makes sense: the feeling is an archaic protection program that warns us of dangers and thus gives us the opportunity to take appropriate countermeasures. But fear can also make you sick. Read here when anxiety is a symptom of a disease and how to treat anxiety disorders.

Forms of fear

Fear is a central part of our psyche. Although it is unpleasant, oppressive and tormenting, it has been helping to register potentially dangerous situations since time immemorial and to escape them by escaping.

However, anxiety is also a central symptom of many mental disorders; It may be the result of organic disease (such as hyperthyroidism) or medication, alcohol or other drugs. The pathological mental anxiety disorders are classified into phobias, panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorders.

Fear or fear?

Sometimes the fear of something concrete, such as a particular situation or a particular animal, is also called fear, and thus delimited from the very concept of anxiety as an anxiety about the indeterminate.

However, this distinction is not consistently pursued even in the specialist literature and is spoken of, for example, by fear of spiders, test anxiety or the fear of something uncanny. Usually both terms fear and anxiety are used synonymously.

Symptoms of anxiety

As already mentioned: fear warns of danger and can thus boost our efficiency and motivate us to act. It leads to defensive and escape reflexes (such as rolling up or running away during physical attacks), is a fine gauge for assessing standard-compliant behavior and not least driving force and creativity catalyst for many artists.

Anxiety can be accompanied by individually different physical symptoms, for example:

  • palpitations
  • difficulty in breathing
  • Schwitzattacken
  • dry mouth
  • Tremble
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain

In the case of great anxiety, the desire recedes - anyone who has ever tried in vain to choke down a delicious breakfast or to distract oneself with caresses before a test can confirm that. And if the fear is too strong, its positive effect reverses, as it binds many resources: Concentration and performance sink, the perception and physical mobility are restricted.

If pronounced fears persist for longer, it can cause stress and physical illnesses (such as gastric ulcers).

Fear between normalcy and illness

The line between normal and morbid anxiety is often not easy to draw. Not every timid person, who blushes often, suffers from a social phobia or anyone who is afraid of death from panic attacks. Important evaluation factors are whether a fear is justified, how low the triggering threshold is, whether and to what extent it restricts everyday life and performance and / or controls thinking. Examples are:

  • If a singer suffers from stage fright before his performance, that is perfectly normal - but then he keeps the spit away so that he can no longer sing in front of an audience, not anymore.
  • If someone is afraid of being attacked at night in the subway, that is normal - but because of his fears, he can no longer leave the apartment, the threshold for pathological anxiety disorder is exceeded.
  • Some fears, like those before dark, are normal in children, but then give in later.
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