About Anxiety
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What is the Meaning of Anxiety?

Sally-Anne Soameson, Psychiatrist
What is the Meaning of Anxiety?

Anxiety is a complicated condition and one that most people struggle to explain. It's not exactly something easily defined in the dictionary, and those that have never experienced anxiety may not really understand what it means to have it.

Dictionary Meaning of Anxiety

The dictionary.com definition of anxiety is "distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune." But this term is overly simplified. Anxiety can be considered "fear," but in many ways, fear is only a part of what it means to have anxiety.

Keep in mind that anxiety is more than just fear, because:

Let's start with the first part – anxiety is a reaction in your body. When you have anxiety, you do not simply have fear or think a scary thought. For example, if someone tells you a story of falling off a cliff and you say that you are scared to fall off a cliff, that is not anxiety.

Anxiety is a reaction in your body to danger, known as the "fight or flight response." It's actually of benefit to the body and a series of changes happen to the body when experiencing either response:

There are far more changes than those, but they represent the majority of sensations felt when experiencing anxiety.

Technically your fight or flight response is a system that is in place to keep you safe from danger. Abnormal triggering to the fight or flight response, places huge stress on the body and mind, especially when there is no physical danger.

A Single Term With Many Meanings

There is more than one type of anxiety. That means that you can experience anxiety in many different ways, and the idea that it has a specific meaning is a false one. Those that feel anxiety all the time are said to have "generalized anxiety," since the anxiety is fairly persistent and recurring. However, there are other types of anxiety as well:

These are just a few of the many different types of anxiety. People can also experience some variation of the above, or experience some physical symptoms more than others.

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