Anxiety is a typical and frequently positive feeling. However, it may develop into a psychiatric condition if a person experiences excessive amounts of worry on a regular basis. A group of mental health conditions known as anxiety disorders causes excessive trepidation, dread, apprehension, and concern. These illnesses affect a person’s behavior and emotional processing, and they can also result in physical symptoms. While mild anxiety may be hazy and unpleasant, severe anxiety may significantly interfere with day-to-day activities.
Let’s Understand What is Anxiety
Anxiety is described as “an emotion marked by feelings of tension, anxious thoughts, and bodily changes, such as elevated blood pressure,” by the American Psychological Association (APA). It might be easier to recognize and get treatment for an anxiety problem if one knows the difference between typical anxious emotions and an anxiety disorder that needs medical attention.
It is important to highlight that, despite the fact that anxiety might be upsetting, it is not always a medical problem. Feelings of anxiety when one is exposed to potentially dangerous or disturbing stimuli are not only natural but also essential for life. Since the beginning of time, humans have had physical alarms that enable them to take evasive action when predators or danger is around. These warnings manifest as elevated heart rate, perspiration, and enhanced sensitivity to the environment.
What is anxiety? Is anxiety normal?
These are the two frequently pondered upon questions that an individual dealing with anxiety might engage in. Let’s simplify anxiety to develop a better understanding and identify if our anxiety is something normal or a sign of something serious.
Anxiety is a typical feeling. It’s your brain’s method of responding to stress and warning you of impending danger. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. You may feel concerned when confronted with an issue at the workplace, before a test, or even before making a major decision. Anxiety is normal on occasion.
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What are Anxiety Disorders?
Sometimes the intensity or duration of an anxious emotion is out of proportion to the stressor that first set it off. Additionally, physical symptoms like nausea and elevated blood pressure might appear. Through these reactions, anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a specific kind of mental illness.
When anxiety progresses to the point of a disorder, it can affect everyday functioning and is defined by the APA as “having persistent intrusive thoughts or concerns.” An anxiety disorder is different from the occasional trepidation and mild fear you can experience. There is an anxiety condition when:
- Your ability to do daily tasks is hampered by anxiety.
- When anything sets off your emotions, you frequently overreact.
- Your reactions to events are beyond your control.
- It’s challenging to get through the day when you’re anxious.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Daily tasks are complicated, difficult to regulate, out of proportion to the real threat, and long-lasting by these sensations of anxiety and panic. To stop these sensations, you could avoid certain locations or circumstances. Children or teenagers may first have symptoms, which may then last until adulthood. The following are some typical signs of anxiety disorders:
- Feeling tense, anxious, or restless
- A feeling of imminent peril, terror, or disaster
- Having a faster heartbeat
- breaths quickly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling drained or feeble
- Difficulty focusing or thinking about anything but the current issue
- Having issues falling asleep
- Having digestive system (GI) issues
- Having trouble managing worry
- A desire to stay away from things that make you anxious
Who is at Increased Risk for Anxiety Disorders?
An individual’s chance of acquiring anxiety disorders may increase due to a combination of hereditary and environmental variables. If you have experienced or have ever experienced:
- Certain psychological qualities, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition, cause people to feel uneasy with strangers and steer clear of uncomfortable circumstances or places.
- unpleasant or stressful experiences in adolescence or maturity.
- Anxiety or other mental health disorders run in the family.
- Several health ailments, such as thyroid issues and heart arrhythmias (unusual heart rhythms).
Studies have shown that women are more likely than males to experience anxiety problems. It might be a result of a woman’s hormones, particularly if they change during the month. It’s also conceivable that because women are less inclined to seek help, their anxiety gets worse.
Are There Different Types of Anxieties and Anxiety Disorders?
The answer is YES! There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, separation anxiety, selective mutism, and medication-induced anxiety disorder.
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Types of Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Even if there is no reason for your severe and irrational anxiety or tension, GAD may cause it. Most days, you could worry a lot about a variety of things, such as your health, your job, your studies, and your relationships. The worry is excessive compared to the situation, hard to manage, and has an impact on how you feel physically. It frequently co-occurs with depression or other anxiety disorders. You could think that your anxiety keeps moving from one item to another. GAD’s physical manifestations might manifest as agitation, trouble focusing, and sleep issues.
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Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder in which a person fears and frequently avoids locations or circumstances that can make them feel confined, powerless, or ashamed. Intense anxiety or panic sensations that are directly attributed to a physical health issue are included in anxiety disorders that are caused by medical conditions. A person with agoraphobia often has a fear of two or more of these settings:
- blocked off areas.
- crowds or lines.
- open areas
- locations outside of your home.
- The public transit system.
A person with agoraphobia might not leave the house at all under extreme circumstances. They prefer to stay indoors because they are so afraid of having a panic attack in front of people.
Repeated bouts of abrupt, acute anxiety, dread, or terror that peak in intensity in a matter of minutes are symptoms of panic disorder (panic attacks). Compared to other anxiety disorders, these episodes frequently involve greater, more intense sensations. Terroristic sentiments can strike quickly and without warning or they might be sparked by a trigger, such as going into an uncomfortable environment.
- A panic attack can cause the following symptoms:
- heart flutters (feeling like your heart is pounding).
- chest pain
- choking sensation, which may cause you to believe you are experiencing a heart attack or “becoming mad.”
Attacks of panic may be highly unpleasant. The next panic episode consumes a lot of time for those with panic disorder. They also strive to stay away from circumstances that can lead to an assault.
Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work, and social functioning.
Separation anxiety disorder
A childhood disorder called separation anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry for the child’s developmental stage and anxiety associated with separation from parents or other adults who play parental duties. Children who suffer from separation anxiety may worry that their parents may suffer harm or not return as promised. In preschoolers, it occurs often. However, older children and adults who go through a distressing event might also be suffering from a separation anxiety condition.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
High degrees of anxiety, dread, and avoidance of social settings are symptoms of social anxiety disorder. These symptoms are brought on by emotions of humiliation, self-consciousness, and worry about being judged or perceived badly by others. A person with a social anxiety disorder may experience extreme stress and self-consciousness in routine social interactions. You can be concerned that people will judge you or that you’ll disgrace yourself or expose yourself to ridicule. A social anxiety disorder may cause a person to completely shun social interactions.
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Major anxiety when exposed to a particular object or scenario and a desire to avoid it are characteristics of special phobias. Some people experience panic episodes due to phobias.
Phobias are extreme fears of particular circumstances or things. Some of these phobias, like a fear of snakes, could make sense. But frequently, the intensity of worry is out of proportion to the circumstance. You could spend a lot of time attempting to avoid circumstances that could cause the phobia, much as with other anxiety disorders. One type of particular phobia is the dread of:
- Animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes.
- Injections (shots).
Substance-induced anxiety disorder
Intense anxiety or panic symptoms that are a direct result of drug abuse, prescription use, toxic chemical exposure, or drug withdrawal are the hallmarks of substance-induced anxiety disorder. Substance-induced anxiety disorders are not yet recognized by the DSM-5.
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How Common are Anxiety Disorders and Can They Affect Children as Well?
The most prevalent mental health issues in the United States are anxiety disorders. About 40 million Americans are impacted. Nearly 30% of individuals experience them at some point. The most common onset years for anxiety disorders are childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.
It’s common for kids to experience some anxiety, worry, or dread occasionally. A youngster could be alarmed by a thunderstorm or a barking dog, for instance. A forthcoming test or school dance could make a teenager nervous, but occasionally youngsters approach these occasions with overpowering dread or they can’t stop thinking about all the concerns connected to one of these events. It can appear that none of your comforts are effective.
These kids frequently become “fixed” on their concerns. They struggle to carry out regular tasks including going to school, playing, and sleeping. They are really hesitant to do an experiment. A youngster’s “being trapped” is important to consider while analyzing their anxiety levels. It distinguishes between typical childhood anxieties and an anxiety problem that requires medical attention.
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Self-Help Strategies to Ease Anxiety Disorders
- Learn about the thin line between anxiety and anxiety disorder
This is a crucial first step since it clarifies what is taking place inside of you when you experience anxiety. Remember that information is power, and that even understanding the source of your worry is a positive start toward controlling it.
What you should understand about anxiety:
Everyone eventually encounters anxiety, therefore it is natural. For instance, it’s common to have anxiety before a job interview or when riding a roller coaster.
Anxiety is adaptive because it aids in our ability to foresee impending danger (such as a bear charging out of the woods) or provide our best effort (for example, it motivates us to get ready for an important meeting or presentation).
Anxiety sets off the “fight-flight-freeze” response, which prepares our bodies to protect ourselves (for instance, our heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles so we have the energy to run away or fight off danger). We couldn’t live without it.
Anxiety that is severe and persistent is troublesome. When our bodies respond to anxiety when there is no genuine threat, it can become a problem. In contrast to anxiety, anxiety disorder extends beyond the occasional bouts of apprehension and mild uneasiness.
- Practice Calm Breathing
You may immediately calm down with this technique. When we are worried, our breathing tends to speed up, which can make us feel woozy and lightheaded as well as more anxious. Breathing slowly and gently is a part of calm breathing. Take a few deep breaths via your nose, hold them for a moment, and then exhale them through your mouth.
Check out this informative video on “how to breathe” and try it out!
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- Practice Muscle Relaxation
Learning to relax your body by tensing and then relaxing different muscles is another beneficial technique. This tactic can aid in reducing general tension and stress levels. You can benefit from being more conscious of your stress levels. You may relax by doing yoga. According to studies, yoga practice for a few weeks at least can help reduce general anxiety.
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Read our informative article on effective exercises for mindfulness to lace yourself with new tricks.
- Challenge anxious/worrisome thoughts
We often perceive the world as extremely menacing and dangerous when we are stressed. This mode of thinking, nevertheless, could be unduly pessimistic and impractical.
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The practice of switching “anxious” or “worried” thinking with realistic or balanced thinking will help you control your anxiety. This tactic entails acquiring the ability to perceive things clearly and fairly, without being too pessimistic or fixating primarily on the negative. However, it takes time to change nervous thinking, so use these techniques frequently.
Watch our video to learn an effective technique to overcome negative thoughts
A person might lose themselves in anxiety-inducing thoughts for a considerable length of time while they are feeling nervous. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to disconnect from potentially harmful ideas and focus our attention once more on the here and now. People are starting to understand the benefits of mindfulness for a variety of ailments, which is why it is growing in popularity.
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The “flight-or-fight” reaction, which floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones, is what causes the physical symptoms of anxiety. Exercise helps you relax by burning off stress-related hormones. Exercise is another beneficial method for reducing anxiety. To avoid being bored, try to engage in physical exercise at least three to four times every week.
- Building self-esteem
Low self-esteem is a common trait among those with anxiety disorders. Numerous factors can contribute to anxiety becoming more severe. It may cause someone to interact with others passively and encourage feelings of being unfairly evaluated. The effect that your anxiety illness is having on your life may also be correlated with low self-esteem. These issues might involve:
- Feelings of guilt and humiliation
- feeling down
- Functional issues at job, school, or in social settings
- Engage in Structured problem solving
Some sufferers of anxiety disorders are “worriers,” obsessing over a problem rather than taking steps to address it. Developing the ability to dissect an issue into its component parts and then choose a plan of action is an important skill that can assist manage anxiety and sadness.
- Drill! Rehearse! Practice!
Learning to control your anxiety may be compared to exercising in that you need to practice your techniques frequently to “stay in shape.” Make their routines! Even when you feel better and have accomplished your goals, this is still true.
Don’t give up if you find yourself reverting to previous habits. This may occur in tense situations or during transitions (for example, starting a new job or moving). This propensity is typical, and it just indicates that you need to begin applying the tools in practice. Keep in mind that managing anxiety is a lifelong endeavor.
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