What is anxiety, what are the symptoms, how to treat it?

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(CNN Spanish) – Anxiety is one of the mental health disorders that has increased the most during the covid-19 pandemic.

But what exactly is anxiety?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes such as increased blood pressure.”

“People with anxiety disorders generally have recurring intrusive thoughts or worries. They may avoid certain worrying situations.

They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, tremors, dizziness or a fast heartbeat, ”the APA details on its website.

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How to recognize the symptoms of anxiety?

Many of the symptoms of anxiety are similar to those of other physical and mental disorders. That is why specialists suggest paying attention to the frequency and context in which some manifestations occur.

According to Fabiola Cuevas, an anxiety specialist psychologist and founder of Desansiety, some of these symptoms are “pressure in the chest, feeling like you can’t breathe well, sweaty hands, internal heat or cold, racing heart, upset stomach, headache , muscle tension, tingling in the skin, legs and other extreme sensations in the body ”.

In an interview with Encuentro Digital, on CNN, Cuevas explained that these manifestations occur when “our nervous system is releasing accumulated adrenaline.”

“It is something that happens in the body, out of worry or paranoia. Even if it is in the mind, it has physical repercussions ”, highlighted the specialist.

How to know if we are facing an anxiety attack and not a different disorder? “It usually appears suddenly, out of nowhere. That is a guideline to detect it, ”Cuevas said.

Sometimes, these manifestations can increase in intensity and generate fear of dying, going crazy or something very bad happening to us. “That is a panic attack. A peak of manifestation of anxiety, ”Cuevas explained.

What can we do to relieve anxiety?

There are some measures that we can take in the medium and long term. But there are also things that can be done at the time the anxiety attack is happening.

“The first thing to do is relax your stomach. Release shoulder tension. Let that storm of sensations flow, “said Cuevas in the interview with Encuentro Digital.

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“Your body is your ally. Do not fight. It is releasing the accumulated tension ”, explained the psychologist. Those who are with a person who is suffering an anxiety attack, can help by saying “you are safe”, as detailed Cuevas, and also accompanying the process of breathing and relaxation.

Breathing is essential to relax the body and mind.

There are also some habits and measures that can be incorporated to reduce anxiety in the medium and long term.

Sleep hygiene

“Sleeping well is essential and it is the first thing that is disturbed by anxiety,” said psychologist Fabiola Cuevas. On this point, he recommended maintaining good “sleep hygiene.” “When we sleep well, we will restore the functions of the brain,” insisted the psychologist.

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Contact with nature is also a good ally when it comes to reducing anxiety. Interacting with your pet or gardening are some of the activities that can help calm the mind.

According to Cuevas, there are studies that prove that “within 10 minutes of having contact with nature, the nervous system begins to relax.”

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In this sense, the specialist argued that those who cannot have direct access to a natural environment can do so through “audios, videos” or simply “imagining that you are in those places can also have positive effects.”

But the most important thing, Cuevas highlights, is to understand that “anxiety is just a messenger. If we listen to that message we will be fine ”.

Where to ask for help

The American Association for the Study of Depression and Anxiety (ADAA) has a number of tools designed to help people with these conditions.

There are how-to videos, online support groups, and a series of publications accessible to those who need help.

Helplines in different regions:

In Latin America and Spain

Suicide Prevention Line – Suicide Help Online
PHONE: (54-11) 5275-1135 or 135 from Buenos Aires and GBA
Let’s talk about everything
Phone book

Hope phone
La Paz: 2248486

Valorização da Vida Center, CVV
Phone: 188
Chat: (help by chat)

Hope phone
Phone: 005642221200
Everything improves, help by email or chat

Hope phone
Barranquilla: (00 57 5) 372 27 27
Bogota: (57-1) 323 24 25
Medellin: (00 57 4) 284 66 00
San Juan de Pasto: 3016326701

Hope phone

Hope phone
Quito: (593) 2 6000477 – 2923327

Hope phone: 717 003 717

Hope phone
San Pedro Sula: (00 504) 2558 08 08

Instituto Hispanoamericano de Suicidologia, AC
Phone: +5255 46313300

Sentido (Peruvian Center for Suicidology and Suicide Prevention)
Phone: 01 498 2711
Hope phone
Lima: (00 51 1) 273 8026

PAS Line (First Psychosocial Help)
Phone: 1-800-981-0023

Last resource
Phone: 0800-Vive (8483)

Hope phone
Valencia: 0241-8433308
National: 0-800-PSIQUE

Report based on articles by Jen Rose Smith, Amy Chillag, Kristen Rogers, Allen Kim, Lisa Drayer and Stephanie Mansour

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