Common symptoms of anxiety include
- thoughts that don’t go away;
- avoidance of people, places, or things;
- aches and pains;
- rapid heartbeat;
- shortness of breath;
- dry mouth;
- shaking; and
- difficulty concentrating.
Fight or Flight
As long as humans have been on earth, when they have been confronted with threatening situations, their bodies have had automatic responses to prepare them to fight the threat or run away from it.
When the hypothalamus is stimulated, it directs nerve cells to fire and starts a chemical release increasing adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol in the blood, causing reactions such as
- increased alertness;
- increased heart rate;
- increased blood flowing in the muscles of the arms and legs, possibly causing shaking or jitters;
- less blood flowing in the digestive system so more blood is available to the arms and legs, possibly causing dry mouth or abdominal discomfort;
- dilated pupils (for better vision); and
- constricted blood vessels in the skin and open sweat glands, leading to paleness or clamminess.
In people with depression, bipolar disorder, and/or anxiety disorders, the fight or flight response may be stimulated more often and for longer periods of time than in people without these conditions. This means that more things are perceived as threatening to these individuals experiencing heightened anxiety. An out-of-balance fight or flight response can cause a person to
- have a physical reaction to everyday people, places, or things;
- believe danger is around every corner;
- be convinced something terrible will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way;
- feel constantly keyed-up and on-edge; and
- avoid people, places, or things in an effort to avoid the anxiety response.
All of these things can interfere with people’s lives so much that they aren’t able to do things they would like to do and their relationships are strained or lost.