What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a very normal part of daily life. We get stressed and anxious at work, at home, in traffic and about our kids. But when the anxiety becomes too big and hard to manage (and doesn't go away), it becomes a disabling disorder. When anxiety has increased to a level that affects your ability to participate in everyday life - your ability to leave your home, go to the grocery store, be with friends or drive/ride in a car - it's gotten to a point where help is needed.
The word "anxiety" covers four aspects of experiences that a person may have: mental apprehension, physical tension, dissociative anxiety, and physical symptoms.
What Is An Anxiety Disorder?
An Anxiety Disorder is a blanket term that covers several different types of mental illnesses.
Anxiety Disorders can range from very mild to very extreme and can sometimes be an indicator or symptom of another problem (such as depression or hypertension), so it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional.
Approximately 40 million Americans in any given year will have some form of diagnosed Anxiety Disorder. Untreated, these disorders can lead to lost work days, economic struggles, physical illness, isolation and the loss of friendships, family feuds, and even hospitalization, suicide threats and suicide.
What kinds of Anxiety Disorders are there?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are six major types of Anxiety Disorders:
1) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (also known as GAD) is a chronic and chronic disorder that is characterized by long-lasting anxiety that's not focused upon any one situation or object. Those who have generalized anxiety disorder often feel non-specific and persistent fear or worry and may become overly concerned by every day issues.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults. A diagnosis of GAD may be made when a person becomes extremely worried about an every day problem for a period greater than six months. Someone with GAD may have problems making daily decisions, and remembering commitments, as a result of decreased concentration or preoccupation with worries.
Read more about Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
2) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (also known as OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by repetitive obsessions (which are distressing, persistent, intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsions (which are urges to perform specific acts and/or rituals) that affects about 3% of the worldwide population. OCD is the fourth most common anxiety disorder.
Read more about OCD.
3) Panic Disorder a type of anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from brief episodes (generally lasts less than ten minutes but may last as long as hours) of terror or fear that strike out of nowhere. These episodes of terror are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, chest pains, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and/or choking sensations.
These panic attacks may be triggered by fear, stress, although the specific cause is not always known.
These panic attacks have chronic consequences - worry about the implications of the panic attack, fear of future attacks, and significant behavioral changes related to the panic attacks.
4) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs occurs after a traumatic experience. PTSD may be triggered after an extreme situation: rape, combat, child abuse, or as the result of long-term exposure to an extreme stressor.
Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, hypervigilence, anger, depression, and avoidant behaviors.
Read more about PTSD.
5) Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as SAD) is an intense fear that causes a person to worry about being judged by others in daily situations and/or fear being in crowds of people. This fear may be related to specific situations or in all social interactions. Severe cases of social anxiety disorder can lead to severe cases of social isolation.
Read more about social phobia.
6) Specific Phobias - specific phobias are strong irrational fear reactions that cause those with the phobia to avoid common places, situations, and objects even though they know there is no threat or danger. The sufferer of specific phobias know that his or her fears make very little sense, but he or she feels as though he or she has no control over it.
Specific phobias can sorely disrupt daily routines, limit the ability to work, lower self-esteem, and put intense strain on interpersonal relationships as the sufferer does whatever he or she can to avoid the phobic anxiety fear.
Many specific phobias develop in childhood, but others rise unexpectedly during the teen years or early adult years. The onset for specific phobias are often sudden and may happen in situations or with objuect in which the sufferer previously had no anxiety.
What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?
There are a number of both physical and emotional symptoms that can be attributed to anxiety. The symptoms of anxiety are as follows:
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety:
- Pounding heart
- Upset stomach
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety:
- Feelings of dread
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling jumpy and tense
- Feeling like your mind has gone blank
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Derealization or depersonalization
Seeking Help For An Anxiety Disorder:
A psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional can properly diagnose and help treat Anxiety Disorders. There is no one laboratory test that can diagnose this disorder, but a physical exam along with mental assessments can give accurate information to determine whether treatment is needed.
How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, therapy, or both. A therapist can help figure out the best form of treatment to help each individual situation.
Learning to manage stress and different situations will help lessen the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
How To Cope With Anxiety Disorders:
Take a time-out - meditate, listen to music, get a massage, or try other relaxation techniques.
Remember that stepping away from a problem often helps to clear your head and help refocus your energy.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake - while coffee and beer are both delicious, both alcohol and caffeine can aggravate anxiety and increase panic attacks.
Sleep tight - while you're stressed, your body needs extra sleep and rest.
Eat well - don't skip meals and make sure to keep healthy, energy-boosting snacks around.
Exercise daily - not only is it good for you physically, but exercise tends to release the "feel good" chemicals from the brain. Exercise also helps you channel the nervous energy from anxiety disorders.
Count to ten. Or twenty. Or 100. Just do it slowly and allow your body to relax as you feel the tension leave.
Do the best you can - screw perfection. Be proud of your accomplishments, big and small.
Celebrate all accomplishments - sometimes making it out of the house is something worthy of a celebration.
Break bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and do them piece by piece rather than focus on the big picture.
Remember - you can't control everything.
Put your stress into perspective - is it as bad as it seems or is your mind playing tricks on you?
Laugh - humor may be one of the few ways to bring about that feeling of lightness. Use it.
Make a real effort to replace all negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
Volunteer your time - be active in your community. Not only can that help develop a great support network for you, but it can also make you feel good about your accomplishments.
Figure out your triggers - look for a pattern after keeping an "anxiety diary."
Talk to someone - let them know that anxiety is something you're battling. It can help you to feel less alone.
Join a support group - not only can you meet people who can support you, but you can also learn more and better coping strategies to manage your anxiety.
Find a therapist - sometimes, an outside perspective may be just what's needed to provide a sounding-board and advice about controlling and managing anxiety.
How to Help Someone Who Suffers From Anxiety Disorders:
Listen. Be there to listen if they are open to talking about it.
Educate yourself. Learn about signs and symptoms and try to be knowledgeable about the disorder. That will relieve a lot of your own fear about bringing it up.
If a friend asks for help finding treatment, don't be afraid to help them. They've reached out so do all you can to find them someone to talk to.
Talk to someone yourself. If you are really close to the one suffering from an Anxiety Disorder, make sure you have an outlet, somewhere or someone to talk to so your mind stays clear.
Be fun! Don't think that just because someone has this diagnosis it doesn't mean they don't want to have fun. They don't always want to talk about their diagnosis. Lighten up!
Mental Healthy is a UK-based website dedicated to providing support and advice to those who are looking to improve their state of mind. With free guides to anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and more. Mental Healthy provides a great online resource and community for those interested in living a healthy life from the inside out.
Living With Anxiety - A site devoted to building a community and support for those living with anxiety disorders or those who are caring for someone with an anxiety disorder. Blogs, vlogs, forums and articles create a wonderful place for information. The site also highlights some wonderful books to help those dealing with anxiety.
Meditation and Anxiety - Natural and spiritual ways to calm yourself while in an anxious state. Some people find a few minutes of meditation when in a situation that causes anxiety significantly reduces the length of their anxious episode.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America - Offers great information and resources for local support groups. There is a "find a therapist" tool and personal stories that will offer support and a sense of community.
What is Anxiety? - An excellent page with videos describing the various types of Anxiety Disorders and also a video about anxiety through the eyes of a sufferer.
National Panic and Anxiety Disorder News is an informational website for sufferers of Anxiety Disorders.