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Anxiety

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away – when they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings aren’t easily controlled.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Cameroon. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12-month period, over two million Cameroonians experience anxiety.

Anxiety is common, but the sooner people with anxiety get support, the more likely they are to recover.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in time and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:

  • Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
  • Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
  • Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life

These are just some of a number of symptoms that you might experience. They’re not designed to provide a diagnosis – for that you’ll need to see a doctor – but they can be used as a guide.

What causes anxiety?

An anxiety condition isn’t developed or caused by a single factor but a combination of things. A number of other factors play a role, including personality factors, difficult life experiences and physical health. 

Family history of mental health conditions

Some people who experience anxiety conditions may have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and these conditions can sometimes run in a family. However, having a parent or close relative experience anxiety or other mental health condition doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop anxiety.

Personality factors

Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.

Ongoing stressful events

Anxiety conditions may develop because of one or more stressful life events. Common triggers include:

  • work stress or job change
  • change in living arrangements
  • pregnancy and giving birth
  • family and relationship problems
  • major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event
  • verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma
  • death or loss of a loved one.

Physical health problems

Chronic physical illness can also contribute to anxiety conditions or impact on the treatment of either the anxiety or the physical illness itself. Common chronic conditions associated with anxiety conditions include:

  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • hypertension and heart disease

Some physical conditions can mimic anxiety conditions, like an overactive thyroid. It can be useful to see a doctor and be assessed to determine whether there may be a medical cause for your feelings of anxiety.

Other mental health conditions

While some people may experience an anxiety condition on its own, others may experience multiple anxiety conditions, or other mental health conditions. Depression and anxiety conditions often occur together. It’s important to check for and get assistance for all these conditions at the same time.

Substance use

Some people who experience anxiety may use alcohol or other drugs to help them manage their condition. In some cases, this may lead to people developing a substance use problem along with their anxiety condition. Alcohol and substance use can aggravate anxiety conditions particularly as the effects of the substance wear off. It’s important to check for and get assistance for any substance use conditions at the same time.