What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s response to stress, fear and apprehension. It’s completely normal to feel anxious now and again, especially before an important life event, test or interview. In fact, anxiety can often be productive if it motivates us to work harder or find creative solutions. Anxiety also triggers adrenaline which helps us respond quickly to danger.
But it’s important to understand the difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. While the above is in the realm of normal, having an anxiety disorder is when that anxiety has a severe impact on quality of life. It also prevents you from living your life regularly. Someone with an anxiety disorder won’t just feel anxious at actual danger, but will feel anxious with perceived danger too. That means that they will feel anxious whether that danger does or doesn’t exist.
Approximately forty million people in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. It is one of the most common mental illnesses. Yet unfortunately, less than 40% of these people actually receive treatment for it. The stigma associated with it actually makes it worse and becomes an obstacle to seeking treatment. The same is true of other mental health illnesses. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about the subject, and even more so confronting it. The fear of being labeled as having anxiety is a very real one. Yet having a strong support system is key in coping with it. If you think you suffer from an anxiety disorder, getting the right medication or treatment is crucial. It is what makes people be able to live a normal and satisfied life.
Who gets anxiety disorders and what causes it?
It can affect anyone at any age, although it is generally more common in women than in men. And it is often coupled with depression. It can be caused by a number of factors. Some factors are genetics and brain chemistry which are out of our control. Environmental factors can also be responsible such as a traumatic event or stress from a personal relationships. Other examples are personality traits, abuse, work or school. Anxiety can often be a side effect of having a medical condition.
Excessive alcohol, drug or even caffeine use can impact your risk for anxiety. It can be caused from one or a combination of any of these factors listed and can be triggered by any day-to-day event. These disorders develop over time and are aggravated by unhelpful thinking patterns.
What does it feel like?
Everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety differently. Symptoms include feeling butterflies in your stomach, a racing heart and rapid breathing. Other symptoms include difficulty sleeping, difficulty with concentrating and breathlessness.
When it starts to impact your life on a regular basis or it is ongoing, it’s most probably an anxiety disorder. It is not only intense but it is debilitating too. Sometimes it can prevent you from doing things you enjoy or even leaving the house.
These are a few types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder – excessive worry about anything, even worrying about worrying
- Panic disorder – having repeated panic attacks and worrying about future ones
- Social anxiety disorder – this happens in social situations when there is a fear of judgment, rejection or doing something wrong
- Agoraphobia – feeling anxious about having a panic attack in a place that it is difficult to escape from
- Phobias – a fear of anything at all such as animals, heights, etc
People suffering from anxiety may experience difficulty in personal relationships. Worrying about one’s family is a normal part of it. It might also be difficult to express feelings or attend to other people’s needs. Similarly, it might be difficult to perform certain tasks at work or cope with specific situations. It might be challenging to interact with coworkers or concentrate on tasks.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, seeking help from a medical professional can make the world of a difference. It can be successfully treated with the right combination of medication and/or treatment. There are people who have mild anxiety or a fear of something they can easily avoid. In those case, they might choose to live with it and avoid treatment. But if it is affecting your daily life and is preventing you from doing the things you want to treatment can be extremely helpful and even necessary.
Psychotherapy, counseling, CBT, etc. are all helpful in managing stress and anxiety. Medication is often used in conjunction with any of these treatments. There are also alternative therapies you can consider such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness and acupuncture.