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Feeling anxious?

Trust yourself and there’s no need to be anxious

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Dr. Yap Chee Kong, Clinical Psychologist at Sunway Medical Centre.

In a modern fast-paced lifestyle, it’s almost impossible not to feel anxious at some point in life. Anxiety is one of the most common forms of mental illnesses that affect not only teenagers, but adults as well.

“Anxiety attack is fairly common at any age,” says Dr. Yap Chee Kong, a Psychologist at Sunway Medical Centre. Plus, if not addressed, anxiety can develop into a more severe form which are panic attacks.

We speak to him to find out more about anxiety attack and how to tackle this pressing issue.

1Twenty80: What is anxiety? 

Dr. Yap Chee Kong:

In order to understand what anxiety is, you have to first understand what is stress. Our human body by nature, have stress hormones known as cortisol.

Stress is not always bad for your body. When your stress hormone is at its lowest level, you will feel motivated and happy to allow yourself to do things efficiently. However, when your body has too much stress hormones, that is when your body tends to get anxious and this could lead to an anxiety attack. So, anxiety attacks occur when the stress hormone in your body is too much for you to handle.

The feeling of being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated. Anxiety is the feeling of being worried, fearful or even uneasiness that settles in your emotions. These feelings are the consequences of stress.

1Twenty80: Are anxiety and panic attacks the same?

Dr. Yap:

You might hear people talking about panic attacks and anxiety attacks like they’re the same thing. Panic attack and anxiety attacks are both different conditions, but they are correlated.

Anxiety in general means, too much of worries. When you worry too much, it triggers an anxiety attack.

On the other hand, a panic attack is the physical symptom that occurs from an anxiety attack.

Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear. Panic attack is usually accompanied by frightening physical symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, racing of heartbeats, nausea and feeling cold.

1Twenty80: What are the causes of anxiety attacks?

Dr. Yap:

The causes of anxiety attacks mainly come from your emotional well-being especially worrying too much. Anxiety attack is caused by a combination of things, such as the changes in your lifestyle and from environmental stress. For example, you worry about how people interpret or look at you and you feel like you’re being judged by them. This causes you to feel very anxious and triggers anxiety.

Some other common triggers can be due to a stressful job, traumatic experiences, caffeine and also from health issues.

1Twenty80: What are the treatment options for anxiety attacks?

Dr. Yap:

Treatment options vary and it’s related to a person’s personal well-being, but the most common treatment is to take slow and deep breaths. Whenever you feel your breathing quicken, focus your attention on each inhale and exhale. Repeat this breathing technique until your breathing resumes to normal.

Another method that can be useful are relaxation techniques. For some individuals, listening to music can be relaxing but for others music can make them feel irritated.

Some other relaxation techniques include guided imagery. When you’re having an anxiety attack, try to think and imagine something that’s soothing. By doing so, you’ll be able to feel relaxed. 

Apart from that, a common approach that psychologist teach their patients is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy that teaches you about how thinking, feeling and behaviour influences one another. It helps patients to recognise and change their thought patterns and behaviors that trigger anxiety.

1Twenty80: For someone who has anxiety, is it necessary for them to attend therapy sessions?

Dr. Yap:

Individuals can decide if they would like to attend therapy sessions. It is good if individuals know how to control their anxiety without the need to attend therapies. This means that they are well aware of ways to keep their anxiety under control. However, it is advisable to attend therapy session if they find it difficult to handle anxiety.

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During the therapy session, a psychologist will help you to manage your anxiety by finding the sources using the ‘4P factor model’. The 4P factor model describes four different influences that contribute to the development and progression of anxiety. They are:

  • Predisposing factor: To identify what are the contributing factors that causes anxiety.
  • Precipitating factor: To find out and understand what triggers anxiety.
  • Perpetuating factor: To understand the situation that leads to an anxiety attack.
  • Protective: Individual’s ability to make a change with coping strategies and good support from friends and family.
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1Twenty80: Once anxiety is treated, is it likely for anxiety symptoms to return?

Dr. Yap:

Anxiety attacks are something that can be controlled. It occurs when you’re too stressed and worried. When you worry too much, it is possible for anxiety to return. Relapse occurs when you return to the old ways of thinking and behaving when you’re anxious. However, if you continue to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you can control the relapse phase.

1Twenty80: What lifestyle changes should be made to help people with anxiety feel better?

Dr. Yap:

Lifestyle changes can help you prevent anxiety. Try to reduce and manage your stress well, because stress is one of the reasons why anxiety occur. Also, it is important for you to learn how to avoid having negative thoughts. Remember to exercise regularly and have a balanced diet.

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