Anxiety, the feeling of fear and uneasiness, is something that is real and also necessary to help us survive. It prepares us for stressful experiences such as work performance, tests and making important decisions. As a result, we notice physical symptoms such as heart racing, breathing becomes more rapid, sweating and even trembling. These are some normal symptoms of anxiety in response to stress. However, anxiety disorders can form when this normal stress response goes unchecked and we develop a constant and overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety. These anxiety disorders can be linked to other mental health concerns such as depression, panic attacks, phobias and more.
We offer affordable and effective counselling for anxiety and stress management psychotherapy by our team of certified counsellors and psychologists in Singapore. Anxiety therapy can help many people suffering from anxiety feel safe and learn how to cope with it. With professional anxiety therapy and counselling in Singapore, frequent and very severe anxiety attacks can occur less frequently.
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Stress in Singapore and How it Leads to Anxiety
Stress is a detrimental issue in Singapore. A recent Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey in 2019 found that almost 92 percent of Singaporeans are stressed from work, which was higher than the global average by 8%. Despite the staggering proportion of stressed Singaporeans, only one-third of them revealed that there are formal wellness support programs at their workplace. However, only half of them do participate in these support programs. One of the top stressors in Singapore is money, with millennials being the group most impacted by financial stress (Black Rock, 2019).
What is Stress?
Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” – Richard S Lazarus
Possible Causes of Stress
- Facing overwhelming pressure
- Facing huge changes in life events
- Worrying about an event
- Not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
- Taking on responsibilities that you find overwhelming
- Lack of fulfilling work, activities or change in your life.
- Uncertain times and unpredictable environment
Consequences of Stress
- Poor Health (e.g., High blood pressure, headaches, digestive issues)
- Poor concentration and frequent negative thoughts
- Increases risk of diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes)
- Self-destructive Habits
- Low levels of productivity
- Focusing on problems rather than solutions
- Relationship Distress
When the stress goes beyond what you can handle, typically it will develop into burnout, anxiety, panic disorders or other forms of mental health concerns.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is an intense and overwhelming sense of fear that strikes suddenly with no obvious triggers. It is often accompanied by several physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling or shaking, sweating, nausea, and feeling light-headed. Panic attacks are terrifying and may feel like one is losing control.
Not all individuals with an anxiety disorder will experience panic attacks. Some individuals experience a single episode of panic attack without recurrent episodes or further complications. Other individuals experience panic attacks as part of another anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.
Type of Anxiety Disorders
Individuals diagnosed with a panic disorder have experienced at least one panic attack, or recurrent episodes of panic attacks. This may lead the individual to worry about the onset of another panic attack, which may significantly impact and disrupt their day to day activities.
For example, an individual may avoid places in which he or she had a previous panic attack. An individual may also avoid social situations in fear that a panic attack might develop in front of his or her friends.
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Social anxiety disorder is a strong and persistent fear of social situations whereby the individual is exposed to public scrutiny of others. The concern in such situations is that the individual will do something that makes him/her feel embarrassed or humiliated. These concerns can be heightened that they may avoid social encounters such as having a conversation with others, eating or drinking in front of others, or giving a public speech.
Individuals with social anxiety disorder are typically shy when meeting new people and may avoid unfamiliar social settings. For example, a person may avoid having lunch with his or her colleagues by disappearing during lunch time.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is a persistent and common disorder, in which the individual has worry and anxiety that is not linked to recent stressful experiences. The constant worry is characterized by feelings of threat, irritability, tension, sleep disturbances and restlessness. An individual with generalized anxiety disorder has experienced this recurrent and uncontrollable anxiety for a period of at least six months.
Specific phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object or situation that is unlikely to cause harm. The imagined threat perceived from the object of the situation is greater than the actual threat posed. When an individual encounters these objects or situations, he or she experiences an intense fear response and can lead to panic attacks.
The most common phobias are a fear of height, flying, spiders, confined spaces, being alone, receiving an injection, and seeing blood.
Signs of Anxiety Disorder in Singapore: Symptoms to Look Out For
While the diagnosis for the different anxiety disorders differ slightly, all anxiety disorders share common symptoms:
- Difficulty controlling feelings of fear and worry
- Sleep disturbances (e.g., difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep)
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Restlessness (feeling constantly on-edge)
- Muscle tension
- Change in behaviour and disruption in daily life
When Should I Go For Anxiety Therapy?
Frequent worrying may not be linked to an anxiety disorder. However, if your feelings of anxiety are disrupting your daily life or preventing you from achieving goals that are important to you, it may be a good idea to seek counseling and psychotherapy support. A professional counsellor or therapist can work with you to cope with your struggles and manage them effectively.
To better manage them, let us help you process and validate your feelings, identify stressors, and contributing factors that may trigger distress leading to anxiety. We will explore effective coping skills, stress, and anxiety management solutions. Through our anxiety counselling and stress management psychotherapy, we can help you overcome your challenges and meet your daily responsibilities successfully.
What are the Treatment Options for Anxiety?
Anxiety Counselling and Psychotherapy in Singapore
Psychotherapy is typically effective for anxiety. Individuals learn to uncover the underlying causes of their worries and fears and learn new skills for relaxation, coping and problem-solving. The most common and widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT helps individuals recognize their negative thoughts that are linked to their fears and learn how to reinterpret them rationally.
Another form of therapy is Exposure Therapy. Exposure therapy helps individuals break their fear of the object or situation by confronting their fears in a safe, controlled environment, which can be very useful to reducing avoidance and overcoming that fear.
Anti-depressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants are commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that is frequently used as a short-term management for a range of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines help to reduce symptoms of anxiety by sending messages to the brain to reduce overstimulation when a person feels anxious.
Medication can be a useful tool in helping to relieve the symptoms of anxiety in severe cases. However, anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines is not recommended to be taken over the long term (more than 4 weeks) and may lead to withdrawal symptoms. The effects may also weaken in effect over time, hence requiring higher doses over time.
Tips for Coping With Anxiety
Learn about anxiety and fear
Individuals can benefit tremendously by learning more about what triggers their anxiety and fear. They can also identify distinctions between feelings of fear (a reaction to a real danger) and anxiety (excessive and unfocused worry over a possible threat). This helps them better understand their nervous system and physical symptoms related to anxiety to manage them with interventions.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can have mood-altering effects that may heighten feelings of worry and anxiety. Avoid foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, and any type of alcohol as they may also increase physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and body tension.
Get sufficient high-quality sleep
Sleep problems and anxiety disorders are often linked. Excess worry and fear may lead to sleep disturbances while poor sleep may worsen anxiety. Try to create a relaxing and quiet sleeping environment (e.g., temperature, external lights, noise) and keep to a sleep schedule with consistent sleep and awake times. Avoid taking irregular naps and caffeine in the later part of the day.
Engage in physical activities
Engaging in physical activities help to release feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins that lowers our stress level and improves our mood and well-being. Incorporating exercise into our daily lives can also help to break the cycle of negative thoughts that may worsen anxiety.
This article uses material from WebMD and other useful references for anxiety disorder. The article is for use of reference and information only, for specific diagnoses and treatment, please reach out to our licensed and/or certified professionals.