Mental Health Explained: The What, Where and Why of Anxiety


anxiety3Anxiety seems like a drain on your mental wellness, but it can actually save your life. The adaptive and life-saving function of anxiety serves as a warning of threats to your wellbeing, but anxiety damages your mental health when it overwhelms you to the point where you cannot function. This is known as an anxiety disorder, which potentially stems from abnormal neurotransmitter functioning or psychological causes.

The common types of anxiety disorders are social phobia, simple phobia, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. When you have had an especially traumatic experience, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the causes of other common phobias are more difficult to discern, and often arise out of a combination of factors.

There are biological causes of anxiety disorders, (genetic, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical changes), and cognitive ones, involving the way you learn to perceive yourself and threats in the environment. How you cope with unconscious fears and conflicts, or psychodynamic causes, can lead to anxiety disorders, and there are also developmental causes which involve the way you build secure relationships to protect against threats.

So that’s what they are, where they come from and why they occur, but how can anxiety disorders be treated? The way your anxiety disorder is treated will depend on your particular circumstances, such as who your therapist is, who you are as a person and what the presenting situation is. Generally, you will often be treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. It is not something you can just ‘snap out of’ and those who tell you that you should just increase your feelings of guilt and helplessness.

In terms of completely overcoming the condition, 55-65% of those who are given medication or cognitive-behavioural therapy to treat their anxiety disorders respond to the treatment. The results vary depending on the type of medication used, concomitant therapy and the population studied. According to certain studies, a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy is the best way to prevent relapses in the long-term. If you think your mental wellness may be affected by an anxiety disorder, don’t suffer in silence but consult your doctor and look online for more information and resources to help you.