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ANXIETY – Being afraid of your own mind!

ANXIETY – Being afraid of your own mind!

Anxiety - Symptom or Disorder?

Sometimes a symptom and at other times a disorder, anxiety itself is not a medical condition but a normal reaction, that is vital for survival when people find themselves in a dangerous situation. The American Psychological Association (APA) refers to anxiety as, "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure." However, when a person regularly feels disproportionate levels of anxiety, it potentially becomes a medical disorder. The APA describes a person with anxiety disorder as "having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns”, that interfere with day to day functioning of a person.


Due to functional and structural imaging, pathophysiology of anxiety disorders is perceivable. Fear and anxiety are modulated by a region of brain known as amygdala. The enhanced response to anxiety signals is often associated with hyperresponsiveness of amygdala. This over activity of the amygdala may also reduce the responding threshold levels for anxiety cues. The major symptoms of anxiety disorders are mediated via norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Other neurotransmitters and peptides, such as corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), may also be involved. Peripherally, the autonomic nervous system, particularly the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for many of the symptoms.


Following are a few symptoms of anxiety disorders:

  • Excessive worrying: The worrying associated with anxiety disorders is highly significant as compared to the events that trigger it, and typically occurs as a result of normal routine situations.
  • Agitated behaviours: During an anxiety attack, part of sympathetic nervous system becomes super-activated resulting in racing pulse, sweaty palms, shaky hands and dry mouth. Body shunts blood away from digestive system, and towards the muscles in case of the fight or flight response. It also increases heart rate and enhances sense. All these responses are very beneficial in the case of an actual threat, but are equally incapacitating, if the fear exists just in the head.
  • Restlessness: It is often described as the feeling of being “on the edge” or having an “uncomfortable urge to move.” While restlessness does not manifest in all the people with anxiety, it is one of the major symptoms doctors consider when making a diagnosis.
  • Fatigue: For some, fatigue can follow an anxiety attack, while for others, it can be chronic.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Anxiety can interrupt short-term memory functions.
  • Irritability: Anxiety is associated with too much worrying. Hence, it is not unexpected that irritability is a very common symptom.
  • Trouble sleeping: Sleep problems are very common in people with anxiety. Treating the cause can usually help improve quality of sleep as well.
  • Panic attacks: They produce a strong, overpowering sensation of fear that can be often incapacitating.
  • Avoiding social situations: People may appear exceptionally shy and quiet in gatherings, or when meeting new people. While they may not look distressed at all, deep inside they feel extremely fearful and anxious.
  • Irrational fears: Irrational fears that interfere with daily functioning may prove to be a sign of a phobia. All phobias lead to avoidance behaviour, and the state of being very fearful.


  • Generalised Anxiety Disorders (GAD): A person has general feelings of worry and spends most of his/her days worrying about plethora of different matters, for a period of six months or more.
  • Social Anxiety: A person is very fearful of being criticised or humiliated, even in the case of day to day situations, such as in gatherings, eating in public, being assertive at work, or making small talk.
  • Specific Phobias: A person feels very fearful about a specific object or condition, and may go to great extent to avoid it. There are many types of phobias. For example, the fear of dogs (cynophobia), fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia) or water (aquaphobia) etc.
  • Panic Disorder: A person experiences panic attacks, which is an uncontrollable feeling of anxiety, also exhibiting physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A person has unwanted bad thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. They often try to lower their anxiety by performing certain behaviours repeatedly. For example, a fear of germs (mysophobia) can cause excessive washing of hands and clothes.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This can happen after a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.

Treatment Options:

Antidepressant class of drugs are prescribed to control the symptoms of anxiety disorders as seen suitable by a psychiatrist. Anxiolytics are used to lower anxiety levels of patients. Along with the medication, psychotherapy is also very beneficial for such patients. A mental health specialist will help patients in coping with anxiety via counselling and cognitive behavioural therapies.

POLHN’s Contribution to the Cause:

Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) is working in collaboration with WHO to provide a free mental health course for healthcare professionals, and train them for treating patients who need mental healthcare.

POLHN also offers free online mental health courses with certificates to encourage health workers to scale-up care for mental, neurological and substance-abuse problems.

The mental health course for healthcare professionals not only helps health workers in learning more, but also assists everyone in better serving the humanity. POLHN’s free online mental health training courses are recognised worldwide. Students/professionals who enrol, gain a significant scope of knowledge that is widely applicable in the domain of medical sciences. POLHN targets the Pacific Island region to deliver optimum medical facilities and enhance health standards in the area.

Significant Features of the Course:

The purpose of this course is to enable students in developing their understanding regarding:

  • Strategies for the establishment of communication, and building of trust
  • Different mental health conditions prevalent across the globe
  • The physical conditions underlying these mental health conditions
  • Protecting the user of various psychotic drugs from drug abuse and self-harm
  • Tools for the establishment of the basic psychological support levels
  • First-line medication treatment
  • Brief motivational interventions
  • Management of clinical emergencies
  • Follow-up and referral systems

For further information, visit the POLHN website, and sign up to the course for free.



Every year, on 14th of June, we celebrate the spirit and contributions of countless blood donors, who have or are willing to voluntarily donate blood; blood that could be the only difference between life and death.

The day also serves to raise awareness regarding the constant need for blood donations across the globe, be it someone undergoing life-saving surgery, a pregnancy where a new life is emerging into this world, or where someone needs a constant supply of safe blood to maintain the thread of life!

A donor today, could be a recipient tomorrow, and it only enhances the significance of blood donations and blood donors. Just one donation could save up to three lives, so a pint of your blood could be a gracious gift for loved ones of many. However, not everyone can become a donor. A highly significant factor in this regard is that the donor is in good health, is free of disease and is of an appropriate age.

Who ‘can’ donate blood?

If you are a healthy individual, do not suffer from a disease that can be transferred via blood transfusion, you weigh between 50 kg to 160 kg, and aged between 17 and 66 years, you can safely donate blood.

Who ‘can not’ donate blood?

Anyone who has ever used illicit drugs, who has a congenital coagulation factor deficiency, is HIV-positive, or viral hepatitis patients or a person who is suffering from any other blood-borne disease are ineligible for donating blood.

How ‘often’ blood can be donated?

Men can safely donate blood after three months, and women can do so after every four months.

Transfusion-transmitted infections:

Where a blood transfusion can save a life, it also has been a constant source of transmission of diseases. A large number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites are transmitted via unsafe blood transfusions. Some of these diseases are:
HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Cytomegalovirus (CMV in immunocompromised patients), Malaria (via red blood cell transfusion)
Babesiosis, Syphilis, Bacteremia

POLHN’s contribution towards creating and raising disease awareness:

POLHN provide an excellent e-learning platform where you can learn about various transfusion-transmitted diseases, their symptoms, prevention, treatment, and management. Some of the courses include:

HIV remains a significant global public health issue. This course has been designed to help health workers in developing a basic understanding of biology, transmission, epidemiology, and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

This course provides online education for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. It explains cultural and community standards as well as the science involved in the spread, prevention, and the treatment of both diseases.

This course offers hands-on training regarding basic concepts of infection prevention and control and gives an overview of nosocomial infections and precautions to avoid their spread.

This course explains the implementation of infection prevention and control measures, management of high-risk settings, surveillance, outbreak investigations, supervision, and monitoring.

Please visit POLHN’s website today for quality content about health and wellbeing, and join us in this rewarding journey of knowledge and learning. Live, love, and donate!

Dear donors!

Thank you for giving a piece of yourself to save lives!