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About Anxiety

The causes of anxiety disorders include factors such as psychological condition, environment and genetics. Chronic diseases, stress from everyday life, lack of skills to cope with difficulties, family psychiatric history, traumatic experiences from childhood may all contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders.

Suffering from life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses may impose certain stress on the patients. On one hand, the patients would be worried about the progress of their conditions and treatment. On the other hand, they may need to face many changes in life, such as physical discomfort, adjustments to everyday life and financial pressure. Many patients may feel that they are losing control of their own lives, helpless, anxious and fearful. If the patients continue to experience the following problems in a way that affects their daily functioning, they may have anxiety disorders:

  • Cognitive aspect: Uncontrollable, excessive, and persistent worry about illness situation or issues around end of life. For example, the patients may worry about rapid deterioration of their condition, the inability to control physical symptoms and impending death
  • Physical aspect: Frequent dizziness, headache, thirst, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, breathlessness, muscle tension, fatigue or insomnia
  • Behavioural aspect:
    • Seeking assurance from others repeatedly on different things. For example, the patients may constantly ask healthcare professionals about their symptoms or conditions
    • The patients may avoid facing their condition due to excessive anxiety. For example, they may avoid talking about their illness, or even choose to ignore the scheduled follow-up consultation
    • The patients may become very irritable

In case of any symptoms, notify healthcare professionals for follow up as soon as possible.

Medical Treatment

  • Healthcare professionals will provide appropriate treatment based on the causes of the symptoms. If necessary, doctor may prescribe medications

Non-medical Treatment

Here are the things you can do to handle anxiety yourself:

Regular exercise

Exercise can help relax the mood and regain a sense of control over your life. Patients can exercise with appropriate level of intensity and frequency based on their physical conditions. For example: stretching or walking slowly in the park.

Learn to relax yourself in different ways

Try to practise breathing exercise or muscle relaxation. For more details, browse Symptom management >Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath>Breathing techniques and Caring tips>Home exercise.

Deal with the ruminative, anxious and helpless thoughts

When you notice that you have a negative thought, such as “my pain is not under control”, you can approach it from different perspectives, for example:

  • Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper to help you deal with it in a calm and objective way
  • Tell yourself that “This is just a thought…”and that it may not reflect the reality
  • Look at the idea from a different perspective and ask yourself, ”If my friend had this thought, what would I say to him/her?”, “Is there any evidence that proves that it’s true?” “Is the thinking pattern helpful?”
  • Practise mindfulness to review your thoughts and pay attention to how your body reacts. Here are some online resources about mindfulness
    1. Browse Caring tips>Home exercise
    2. Mindfulness exercise for stress reduction (by Dr Helen Ma Shuk-Wah)

Maintain personal social support

It is helpful to talk with trusted persons about the difficulties and problems you are going through. It also allows you to feel the support from your friends and family. Using different perspectives to understand your condition and approach problems, you may avoid being trapped in negativity.

Avoid smoking and drinking

Smoking and alcohol consumption will intensify the symptoms of anxiety.

Avoid caffeine consumption

Caffeine may affect your sleep, increase your heart rate and make you more prone to anxiety symptoms.

Seek help from professionals

If your anxiety symptoms have brought significant impact on your daily functioning, notify your healthcare professionals as soon as possible. Based on your condition, they will provide suitable treatment and recommendations to manage the symptoms more effectively.