Anxiety: symptoms, causes and possible treatments

Anxiety is an emotional state that causes discomfort, Sensation of suffocation, mental pain and even sadness. It is linked to fear (irrational fear), hopelessness, and in many cases, uncertainty. Fear of separation, bullying at school or work, or irrational and intrusive thoughts, among other situations, can cause distress.

It is common for the term anxiety to be confused with anxiety. In this article, we will talk about the differences between the two concepts and go deeper into them. the causes, symptoms and possible treatments of anguish.

    Differences between anxiety and anxiety

    It’s not easy to understand the difference between anxiety and anxietyAs these are terms that are often used synonymously on many occasions. There are authors who consider the difference to be that while anxiety is used in the clinical field, anxiety has a rather philosophical origin, and is particularly important in existentialism. For example, Heidegger and Kierkegaard already used the term, and the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre spoke of anguish in his book “Being and Nothingness” (1943).

    However, in psychology (or psychiatry) Sigmund Freud also spoke of “realistic anxiety” and “neurotic anxiety”, referring to the latter as a pathological condition. Today, for many, the line between anxiety and distress remains blurred.

    There is no consensus on the difference

    And it is that despite the attempts to distinguish these concepts by philosophers, physicians and psychologists, today they continue to confuse these terms and are used as synonyms in many cases. Some authors have considered that in anxiety the physical symptoms prevail, while in anxiety the psychological prevails (Although this distinction between symptoms is even more confusing).

    Anxiety is also believed to have a crippling effect on the individual, while anxiety activates a startle motor response. However, when it comes to anxiety these days, physical and psychological symptoms are also taken into account.

    A clear example of how these concepts are used interchangeably is where panic disorder is mentioned, as it is also called anxiety attack or anxiety disorder. As Manuel Suárez Richards states in his book Introduction to Psychiatry (1995): “The two terms are now used as synonyms, because they are considered to be unpleasant psychological conditions that present / exhibit physiological symptoms in a usual way, and they are characterized by the painful expectation in front of an imprecise danger “.

    Therefore, in this article we will refer to anxiety as a synonym of anxiety, which causes great discomfort to the person suffering from it and in which there is not only a physiological and physical reaction, but also a psychological one.

      What is anxiety?

      While anxiety and distress they are distinguished by their resemblance to fear, Are different from the latter in that fear manifests itself in the face of present stimuli and anxiety or distress in anticipation of future dangers, indefinable, unpredictable, even irrational.

      Anxiety can be adaptive and useful, in that it is a normal reaction in our day-to-day life, and it even becomes beneficial in some contexts. For example, when you cross a road with a red light, as it keeps us alert so that we don’t get run over.

      But if we are thinking of an anxiety attack or anxiety disorder, The person has a disproportionate anxiety reaction, which paralyzes the individual, and in which he acquires the presence of psychic symptoms such as the feeling of suffocation and imminent danger, which have nothing to do with reality. This is why it can be considered psychopathology.

      its causes

      This painful situation it not only appears acutely as in the case of panic disorderBut there are other factors that can lead to it. For example, when we are not clear about our future and we enter an existential crisis that leaves us sleeping thinking about how we are going to solve the problem. For anxiety to pass, biological, psychological (and existential) and environmental factors come into play. This is why philosophers, poets, psychologists and psychiatrists have been interested in this phenomenon throughout history.

      Usually anxiety it appears in situations in which the person faces difficult situations, Where there is a threatening element (physical or psychological), but also in situations in which the person does not clearly see the path to follow and therefore lives in a situation of uncertainty.

      At the biological level, there are also studies that claim that genetic predisposition is present in this condition, And that certain neurochemicals play an important role in anxiety.

      For example, an increase in adrenaline or a decrease in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Finally, certain environmental causes such as difficulties in social relations or bad daily habits, among others, can precipitate the onset of anxiety.


      Anxiety has a number of characteristic symptoms. They are as follows:

      • Excessive worries and fears.
      • Imagination of catastrophic scenarios.
      • Despair.
      • Shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, muscle tension, dry mouth, or fatigue.
      • Chest tightness.
      • Suffocation.
      • Avoid dreaded situations.
      • Difficulty sleeping.

      possible treatments

      Anxiety problems are very common these days and without a doubt the most effective treatment for them is through psychological therapy.

      Psychologists are professionals trained to deal with these types of problems, Which can help patients discover the underlying causes of their worries and fears; and they can provide some tools to help them relax and look at situations from a new perspective. They can also help them develop better coping and problem-solving skills.

      Psychological therapy for anxiety problems, it is usually short, as patients improve in 8 or 10 treatment sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be very effective as a therapeutic model in the treatment of anxiety disorders, but other types of psychotherapy such as acceptance and engagement therapy or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy ( MBCT) are also effective.

      In extreme cases, drug use it can be a good help in addition to psychological treatment, especially in situations where symptoms need to be reduced quickly, for example to treat an anxiety disorder. However, drug administration should never be the only treatment option chosen and should always be initiated by a medical indication.

      • If you would like to take an in-depth look at treating anxiety, you can read this article: “6 Effective Treatments For Anxiety.”

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