A range of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms are often experienced when we feel anxious or worried.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety are shown below
Psychological symptoms of Anxiety
Psychological symptoms of anxiety include the following
Behavioural symptoms of Anxiety
The most common behavioural symptom of Anxiety is avoidance.
Avoidance means staying away from situations we think might be threatening in some way. When we are anxious even routine things like going to the supermarket or visiting friends can make us feel like something dreadful is going to happen. To cope with this we may choose to stay at home or not go to that meeting because the sense of safety this gives us feels comforting. Avoidance seems to work because the safe outcome it offers seems so obvious - avoiding an anxiety-provoking situation gives us an immediate sense of relief as we know that we won’t be exposed to a threat.
Avoidance - a temporary solution
Whilst avoidance may feel helpful at the time it is really only a short-term solution and what we often don’t realise is that in the long-term avoidance behaviours actually keep the problem going. Therapists call these behaviours "maintenance factors" because they maintain the problem rather than help to resolve it. So long as we remain avoidant we will continue to reinforce our beliefs about danger and never get to find out whether our fear about a situation is justified. Generally speaking, our anxious fears are nearly always exaggerated and cause us to underestimate our ability to cope.
How tolerating uncertainty can help to reduce Anxiety
A typical example of avoidance can happen when we have a fear of flying. If we never get on a plane then we can be certain that we're never going to be involved in a plane crash - so yes – staying at home might keep us safe but at the same time we're never going to find out that we could have had a great holiday and come back in one piece! If we take this a stage further we might see that even staying at home might have risks – for example what if we had an accident whilst do the gardening? When viewed like this we can see that the safety afforded by avoidance is an illusion. The fact is we can never be 100% safe because we can never be completely certain of what the future holds. One of the reasons human beings get anxious is because they are very bad at tolerating uncertainty. If we can learn to accept a degree of uncertainty and unknowingness we can manage anxiety much more effectively knowing that if something does happen chances are we are probably much better equipped to cope with events than we give ourselves credit for!