Stress and anxiety are common for everyone to experience. They become a problem, however, when they get too intense to handle and are persistent in nature.
It’s alright to get worried and then feel better after a while. Still, you can easily be weighed down by deep concern if you have an anxiety disorder, which would cause you to get worked up about your fears.
What Is Anxiety?
The term “anxiety” is often used for some forms of fear due to threats. Mental health professionals describe it as a worry or fear that persists. Anxiety is your natural response when you feel you’re either being threatened or in danger.
While feeling anxious is normal for anybody to experience once in a while, anxiety disorder is not. Unfortunately, it’s a prevalent mental health disorder in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that 19.1% of Americans have an anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety manifests in different forms. You can have anxious feelings because of certain situations. You may be nervous speaking in public or feel worried while driving. Phobias fall under anxiety disorders as well. Here are some variations of anxiety you may or may not know about:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is a type of chronic anxiety. On most days, those who have GAD are excessively worried about several aspects of their lives. These can include anything from their job to their family life to their health.
With this type of anxiety, you feel anxious in social interactions or public performances. You think you’ll be harshly judged and criticized if you do something wrong. Thus, you can’t stand being in social gatherings and events even if your loved ones are present.
This is also called phagophobia. It can affect your eating patterns. The National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders (NFOSD) listed these physical symptoms of swallowing anxiety:
- Overchewing of food
- Avoidance of certain food types or textures
- The feeling of food stuck in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
If you’ve had traumatic experiences such as choking, multiple instances of regurgitation, or getting strangled, you could develop swallowing anxiety.
This is often caused by performing specific tasks such as:
- Taking an examination
- Speaking in public
- Engaging in sexual intercourse
- Doing sports
- Participate in performing arts
Health anxiety is also called hypochondria. If you have this, you may be anxious about developing a physical or mental health condition. The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) describes it as being obsessive about taking medical tests and constantly checking one’s body for changes.
Understandably, health anxiety can impact individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. However, it can affect healthy individuals, too.
This affects both men and women, and it can pose harmful effects on your sex life. With this type of anxiety, you worry about matters that have to do with sexual activities. You may also be concerned that you’ll disappoint your sexual or romantic partner.
A study released by Body Image discussed that self-consciousness and body shaming during sex are negatively associated with sexual satisfaction. That’s why such factors can trigger sexual anxiety over time.
This can occur in both new and long-term relationships. You might have it if you constantly seek reassurance from your partner or tend to silence yourself for the sake of pleasing them. You may also give in to the other person’s requests and agree with their opinions even if you’re against them.
When you have driving anxiety, your fears likely include:
- Driving outside your comfort zone
- Getting lost and running out of gas
- Inability to find a parking space or park correctly in public
- Going too fast and possibly losing control
- Getting into an accident
Fear and Anxiety
Anxiety is a symptom of other mental health disorders such as phobias and panic disorder.
Panic disorder is considered an anxiety disorder. You can experience a panic attack when you’re overwhelmed physically and mentally due to intense fear. A panic attack can lead to phobias if untreated.
On the other hand, a phobia is defined as extreme fear of a particular object, place, thing, or event. If you have a phobia, you constantly avoid anything—be it an object, an animal, or a place—that could cause nervousness or anxiety.
When you’re frightened or anxious, both your mind and body become hyperactive. Here are some physical signs of anxiety:
- Faster heartbeat and breathing
- Weakened muscles or tense muscles
- Excessive sweating
- Upset stomach or loose bowels
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
These symptoms occur because your body detects a possible fear or threat. In addition, you can experience irritability, have trouble sleeping, and suffer from headaches in the long term. Consequently, you may not be able to plan for the future, have trouble getting back to work, have no sex drive, and lose self-confidence.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Genetics and upbringing are two of the biggest factors in any anxiety disorder. Of course, there are other possible causes of that condition such as:
Your anxiety will only worsen if you fail or refuse to look for ways to get rid of your worries. Should your condition be left untreated, you’ll likely end up suppressing your thoughts and emotions. You might always seek reassurance from others that all is well. Also, you may develop a tendency to avoid being in situations that can trigger your fears.
Don’t keep ignoring your concerns no matter how insignificant they seem. This’ll only trap you in an unstoppable cycle that’d be difficult to escape.
Negative and Biased Thinking
Anxiety can be exacerbated by negative thoughts. You think you won’t be able to cope or handle undesirable or uncertain situations. You continuously worry about the aftermath of situations that haven’t even happened yet. You subconsciously exaggerate the possibility of a negative outcome being worse than expected. Having baseless assumptions such as those may lead to extreme nervousness and panic.
Selective Memory and Attention
One’s worries can depend on how information is processed in their society. If you have GAD, you might be inclined to focus your attention on matters that feed your anxiety. At the same time, you could tune out details that challenge your concerns. In a way, your memory can be selective and mold your perception of the world around you.
Impacts of Anxiety
Some distressing effects of anxiety on your overall health and well-being are:
- Avoidance of situations that can trigger your anxiety
- Poor concentration
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Unwanted and intrusive thoughts
- Panic attacks
Take a look at this example. You may have intrusive thoughts about your colleagues sabotaging your project to hinder your promotion. A person without anxiety disorder may be a bit worried but will dismiss this idea after a while, especially if there’s no hard evidence in sight. On the other hand, someone with the condition is likely to take that kind of thought seriously.
A person dealing with anxiety may give meaning to a wide range of possibilities even if they’re unsupported by facts. They think of all the reasons such thoughts could be true in the near or far future. As a result, they’re weighed down by stress and apprehension.
How to Overcome and Manage Anxiety
It’s always best to seek a mental health professional who can provide excellent medical advice. They can decide the best approach to overcoming the type of anxiety you’re dealing with. There are different strategies you can do to overcome the condition. Here are just some of them:
You can ease anxiety if you accept that not all intrusive thoughts are true or will be true. You should acknowledge that most of them shouldn’t cause you to worry.
It’s important that you learn to distinguish and identify anxious thoughts so you can make sound judgments. And by taking note of those ideas every time they come up, you’ll be able to prevent them from getting the best of you moving forward.
You can decide to pursue an acceptance-based approach in handling your anxiety. With this, you can let the thoughts come and go on their own. You don’t have to focus on fixing them or resisting the urge to believe them. Instead, you simply accept them and move on.
There are a number of coping strategies recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). You can try simple methods such as meditation and deep breathing exercises to calm your anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques and mindfulness may work as well. Research shows that if you practice mindful meditation, you may feel a reduction in your everyday stress and anxiety levels.
Another strategy worth looking into is called cognitive restructuring. This can aid you in changing the way you look at situations and, in turn, help lessen your anxiety. The strategy is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Cognitive restructuring critically evaluates the different negative, intrusive, and biased thoughts that enter your mind. The questions asked can help you have a more balanced viewpoint.
To overcome your anxiety, you need to confront your worries instead of avoiding them. You have to face situations even if they trigger your nervousness. In exposing yourself to them, you’ll learn that nothing bad will happen should they occur again. You’ll also discover that negative outcomes could have silver linings.
Repetition may go hand in hand with exposure. Keep putting yourself in such situations until they’re no longer anxiety-inducing.
Taking Care of Your Health
According to studies done by various academic research institutions, your anxiety level may also depend on the types of food and drinks you consume. Eating food with plenty of saturated fat and sugar is likely to raise your anxiety levels.Going for healthy options and avoiding processed foods can improve your mood over time. Be mindful that coffee can stimulate your nervous system and possibly make you more anxious.
The ADAA recommends 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. They also suggest that you jog, walk, cycle, or dance three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes.
Regardless of your preferences, the crucial thing is to stay as active as possible. If hitting the gym is inconvenient or expensive for you, that’s fine. You can simply walk around your neighborhood for 10 minutes, which can already be beneficial for your health and well-being.
Remember that you can always start small. You don’t have to pressure yourself to do intense workouts right off the bat. That way, you won’t feel like giving up due to exhaustion, and you’ll be able to exercise at your own pace.
Physical activities may improve your concentration. You can sleep better and experience lower stress levels. If you have anxiety, doctors advise that you exercise on top of getting therapy or taking medication.
Setting Achievable Goals
Doing this can help you develop a more positive outlook about your achievements and life in general. Constantly steering clear of situations that can cause your anxiety may not be beneficial in the long run. So instead, strive to look at situations from a positive perspective so they’ll seem less scary.
You can talk to your family members, your friends, and even your doctor to get the support you need. You may also consider joining local support groups where you can share stories, get tips, and give encouragement to others.
Peer-reviewed studies have shown that when you connect with nature, it’s possible for you to ease your anxiety in the process. This is because being in a natural environment can boost your overall mood.
Try going outside during work breaks or going on weekend adventures in the great outdoors. You might also want to hike in the woods nearby or build a bonfire.
Being anxious and fearful can greatly affect your daily life. When you feel that your anxiousness is severe and lasts for a long time, you should consult a mental health professional.
Yes, it’s true that anxiety is common, but it’s treatable. The usual treatments for anxiety are psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Your mental health care provider is the best person to decide which treatment is most suitable for your condition. You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for more information regarding treatment facilities in your area in case you have no idea where to start.
Taking prescription medication can be of great help to you. It can serve its purposes in the short term. Medication is more effective, however, when it’s combined with therapy.
Psychotherapy or talk therapy can be beneficial in treating anxiety disorders. Talk therapy may involve the following:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and mindfulness strategies are used in addressing anxiety. ACT encourages you to make certain behavioral changes to overcome your condition.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on identifying and understanding the way you think and behave. According to the ADAA, through CBT, you can start feeling better anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks of treatment. In every session, you’re given homework that can help you progress during therapy.
This is a type of CBT that gradually exposes you to things that make you worry or frighten you. Through constant exposure, you’ll eventually feel less anxious about situations that used to cause you extreme stress. Exposure therapy is used to treat phobias and OCD as well.
Overcoming anxiety isn’t easy. But even though the journey may be personal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do it alone. There are people out there who can support you in improving your condition.
Get the help you need to address your anxiety by turning to Counseling Now. Our team of mental health professionals prepares individualized treatment plans for each of our clients. Take note that the effects of each treatment may vary from person to person.
There are different anxiety types to consider in narrowing down your condition. With Counseling Now, you can be sure that you’ll get the right diagnosis. This increases your chance of healing from anxiety completely. Get in touch with our experts today.