South Asian Emotion: What is Anxiety?

Anxiety, more commonly called nervousness in everyday language, is an emotion we all feel from time to time. Whether it is due to an upcoming exam, preparing for your first date, or awaiting your turn to speak in public, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It is brief and mild and generally affects your daily life minimally.

However, for many people the anxiety becomes so intense and so long lasting that it affects their daily life. The feelings of anxiety become overwhelming and possibly crippling. Here are some common symptoms that South Asians report feeling when anxiety levels are high:

  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Feeling terrified
  • Feeling like you are choking
  • Flushed face or feeling “heat in the head”
  • Stomach pains
  • Feeling faint

Emotional health symptoms seem to be different based on cultures. Research has shown the symptoms above to be much higher in South Asians than other ethnic populations. Other symptoms that are not specific to South Asians are:

  • Feeling of panic or fear
  • Repeated flashbacks of traumatic events
  • Muscle tension
  • Problems with sleeping (either sleeping too much or not enough, sometimes having nightmares)
  • Cold, sweaty hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inability to stay calm or still
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

If you notice these symptoms lasting for most days for more than two to three weeks, make an appointment with a physician or a mental health professional. For a list of South Asian professionals, please click on our resources page.

When you visit your health care provider, most likely they will perform physical exam to identify the source of these symptoms. They will ask you about when you experience these symptoms most (e.g. is it more intense in social situations versus when you are at home, etc.). In addition, your doctor will want to know about your caffeine intake, overall diet and exercise regimen and any family history of similar symptoms. These, in addition to other questions, will help the health care professional determine the cause of the symptoms and make appropriate recommendations for treatment.

Over the next few articles, we will present the stories of several people who have experienced serious anxiety issues and how they learned to live with and resolve them.

We would love to hear your response to this article! Please feel free to leave a comment.

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4 Comments:

  1. Does this mean South Asians only have the first set of symptoms?

    • Parijat Deshpande

      Research has shown that many emotional health symptoms (such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc.) differ based on culture. Recently published articles have identified these first set of symptoms as the most commonly expressed and experienced symptoms within South Asians. That does not preclude experiencing any of the symptoms that are listed in the second list. Identifying how anxiety in South Asians looks different than the traditional Western concept of anxiety symptoms might help diagnose and treat more effectively than we are right now so people can live healthier lives.

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