Anxiety has been derived from french word ‘anxieté’. It means ‘the state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen.’
The Oxford handbook of psychiatry defines anxiety as “A normal and adaptive response to stress and danger which is pathological if prolonged, severe or out of keeping with the real threat of the external situation. It has two components: psychic anxiety, which is an affect, characterised by increased arousal, apprehension, sense of vulnerability and unpleasant emotional state; and somatic anxiety, in which there are bodily sensations of palpitations, sweating, dyspnoea, pallor and abdominal discomfort.”
Anxiety is the most common psychiatric symptom in clinical practice and anxiety disorders are the commonest disorders found in 15 to 20 percent of patients. These are more common in industrially advanced countries. Anxiety disorders have harmful effects upon physical and mental health. They also impair functional ability and quality of life. The causes of anxiety in modern life are uncertainty, insecurity, time pressures, relationship problems and fears of inadequacy.
Anxiety is a common emotion and often a normal response to new, stressful, or potentially dangerous situations. In its mild forms, it may be adaptive. It helps one to perform better. A little anxiety, for example helps a student to prepare for his exams. In its extreme forms, it is incapacitating or terrifying. It may cause the same student to lose his concentration, or even his voice.
Anxiety becomes a problem only when it is abnormally severe, abnormally prolonged, or if it is present at a level out of proportion to the real threat of the situation.
Anxiety often arises in anticipation of danger rather than after a situation has occurred. It is a signal of the approach of danger and a warning to prepare our defenses. It can also indicate an inability to cope with danger.
Anxiety is an extremely unpleasant feeling – it can make people feel frightened, uneasy, unhappy and sometimes desperate. Anxiety symptoms vary widely and may even imitate severe physical or mental illness. These symptoms may affect on physical level, thoughts and emotions and the lifestyle of the individual affected.
The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety may present on physical level as:
• Breathing difficulties. • Feeling faint / dizzy. • Dry mouth.
• Shakiness. • Pounding heart. • Muscle aches & pains.
• Headaches. • Excessive sweating. • ‘Lumps’ in throat.
• Bowel and urinary problems. • Persistent tiredness
In addition to these, body postures such as crossed arms, crossed legs, clenched fists, clenched jaw with tight facial muscles, head bent, rapid and shallow breathing, frowning / staring expression, and stooped posture also present a picture of anxiety.
On the mental level:
• Fear of variety of things, people or situations.
• Negative or unreasonable ideas about themselves or the feared situation.
• Increased episodes of crying, being irritable, difficult concentration,
worrying and feeling guilty.
Two main reasons for persistent anxiety are avoidance of feared situations and faulty thinking.
Avoidance: We may avoid situations which we know will cause us anxiety. As the symptoms caused in a particular situation are uncomfortable, we avoid facing it, but each time we avoid a situation, its tendency to cause anxiety in us increases.
Faulty thinking: It includes our negative thoughts and irrational beliefs. The negative thoughts make us expect the worst, while the irrational beliefs, make us expect too much from others or ourselves. So that leaves us prone to constant disappointment.
The Anxiety trap
The lifestyle may be seriously affected by a tendency to avoid situations or escaping them wherever possible. This involves a lots of ‘NOTS’ and ‘CANT’S’ which make a happy and fulfilled existence impossible and leads to a poor quality of life. It also affects relationships and work performances.
The modern medicine lacks a holistic approach in its treatment for the
anxiety disorders. In spite of various advances, the medicines for anxiety in modern medicine are not curative in nature. A risk of dependency is also associated with them.
The mind and body work harmoniously in health and in disease. Both of them are considered as a unit in the treatment of diseases. Homoeopathy is a holistic science and has a psychosomatic approach in all diseases. This holistic approach of Homoeopathy gives it an edge in the treatment of affections of the mind. In the Organon of medicine, mental diseases are classified and their treatment is described in detail from aphorism 210 to aphorism 230. Hahnemann was the first to advocate unchaining of the mental patients. He also wrote in detail about the psychotherapy for such patients.
The study of anxiety through homoeopathic perspective
No one can deny the role of emotions as causative modalities in the origin and maintenance of innumerable diseases. The provings on healthy human beings has yielded all kinds of emotions that are recorded in materia medica.
Anxiety falls in the emotional sphere of mind. In homoeopathy, the symptoms of emotional sphere are of great importance. While evaluating the symptoms, they are considered to be second in importance after the “will” symptoms for the selection of remedy.
Dr Dushyant Kamal Dhari