Anxiety: The Stress That Never Stops
By: Sarah Fader
Updated February 15, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Heather Cashell
Have you ever found yourself chewing your nails before a big test, or facing butterflies upon the sight of your crush? These are normal anxiety responses that many face on a regular basis. On average, most people spend less than an hour worrying. However, those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can spend five hours or more each day worrying about various relationships, events, their surroundings, and even the having anxiety.
Currently, 18.1 percent of US citizens between 18 and 54 are living with an anxiety disorder. However, few seek help for worry of what others may think. It is likely that many still don't believe Anxiety disorders to be a legitimate mental illness. This, coupled with the stigma towards mental illness in general, can contribute to people not seeking treatment. Anxiety disorders are distressing and debilitating. Symptoms often start small, like slight mood changes,
with the potential to develop into persistent fear, insomnia, isolation, and more.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are not just periods of prolonged worry. Anxiety sufferers are sometimes told that stress will go away on its own. However, where stress is helpful in some situations and serves the biological purpose of survival, an anxiety disorder causes repetitive and prolonged worrying, panic, fear, and other physical symptoms. There are many different types of anxiety. For example, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD for an abbreviation is one of several anxiety disorders. Those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience symptoms daily. Their anxieties are distorted and unrealistic, and GAD sufferers are not affected by any one stressor. Everyday stresses such as finances and health can lead to severe discomfort and often muscle tension.
Social Anxiety, on the other hand, is brought on by social situations such as gatherings, work, or school. One often avoids contact with others for fear of humiliation. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) usually presents in one of two ways. The first is speaking to others, public speaking, etc. The second involves more specific fears such as using public bathrooms or eating in public places.
Thirdly, Panic Disorder can arguably be one of the most debilitating anxiety disorders. Characterized by recurrent panic attacks that come on unexpectedly and seem to have no apparent cause. Those suffering from the disorder frequently experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, terror, chills, and the fear that one is dying. These episodes often occur multiple times a day and can even take place while the sufferer is asleep.
What Is Anxiety Really?
Anxiety is a serious mental illness affecting one in thirteen people worldwide. In North America, ten percent of citizens suffer from this mental illness. Many equate anxiety to stress, however, there is quite a difference. While stress in most people is short-lived and often solvable, anxiety plagues the lives of individuals on a daily basis.
These feelings of anxiety are more than the butterflies when you meet your date, and can lead to painful ulcers of the stomach lining if not treated promptly and properly. Anxiety in patients frequently raises blood pressure, makes it difficult to breathe, and causes problems with sleep. Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed by constant feelings of dread, persistent troubling thoughts, difficulties in a social situation, compulsive behaviors, isolation, trembling, panic attacks, and difficulties concentrating.
As noted above, there are many different types of anxiety. Those are a few of the most prominently recognized anxiety disorders. However, these disorders include GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder), Panic Disorder, Specific Phobias, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
How To Tell If You Or Someone You Know Is Suffering From Anxiety?
It can take some time to make a diagnosis of Anxiety. As discussed above, all humans experience some form of anxiety or worry in their day to day lives. When faced with an important decision, or a problem, it is natural to get a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty, even fear. However, these anxieties are minor and soon pass.
Most people are able to work and engage in social activities, even if they have experienced anxiety. However, for those with Anxiety Disorder, the anxiety plagues them to a point that can affect their quality of life and even their health. Those with Anxiety frequently feel overwhelmed, uncertain, fearful, and stress. This anxiety can even become debilitating, with some sufferers secluding and neglecting themselves, along with the physical exhaustion and degradation of the disorder itself.
Those with anxiety can suffer from persistent worrying thoughts throughout the majority of their week, persisting six months or longer. Anxiety disorders impede one's ability to retain stable relationships and live an enjoyable life. It can lead sufferers to be tense and easily startled.
Symptoms also include feelings of dread, irrational fears, anxiety in social situations, insomnia, extensive self-consciousness, compulsions, and consistent self-doubt. As well, persistent invasive negative thoughts can impair one's ability to concentrate, make decisions. One of the most noticeable symptoms of Anxiety Disorders is panic attacks.
As well, while Anxiety is a mental illness, it comes along with a host of debilitating physical symptoms as well. These can include muscle tension, dry mouth, sweaty palms and/or feet, night terrors, night sweats, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, numbness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and frequent indigestion which can lead to ulcers. Also, many with Anxiety suffer from significant restlessness and have trouble sitting still or calming down. Trembling, twitching is common as well.
How Can You Take Anxiety Into Your Own Hands
The first step to bettering oneself and managing anxiety is to learn more about it. So you're on the right track. Do a little research for yourself, learn more about why you're feeling the way you are. This in itself may help to subdue some anxiety. For example, did you know that anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses across the world?
Surprisingly, anxiety is more common in developed countries than those which are still developing. Currently, the United States is considered to be the most anxious country in the world. Anxiety disorders affect more than 18 percent of adults in the country. As well, anxiety comes along with many long-term risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure problems.
Keeping this new knowledge in mind, one can then take the next steps towards taking anxiety into their own hands. Getting a grasp on one's anxiety is no easy task, however with practice and willpower there are methods that can help ease the symptoms of your anxiety that don't involve any sort of doctors or medicines at all. The first one being calming your breathing.
When individuals become anxious, it is common for breathing to speed up and even become difficult. This can lead to dizziness and can worsen anxiety as a whole. One method of controlling breathing is often called "Square Breathing." Upon signs of anxiety, it is important to focus on your breaths. First, breath in slowly through your nose, counting to four in your head. Hold that breath for another count of four seconds before releasing the breath slowly out through your mouth counting to four again. Pause for one last count of four before repeating with a breath through your nose.
Not only can this help you focus and calm your breathing, but as well, it becomes hard to focus on much more than both breathing and counting. This in itself can help to subside the initial thoughts which provoked the anxiety, to begin with.
How To Speak Up
Even with self-help strategies, dealing with anxiety alone can be difficult. This becomes even harder without the support of those that you love and those whom you know you can trust. While many fear the stigmas held towards anxiety, a support group is an incredible resource to have, especially when struggling to overcome anxiety. Keep in mind that you are not alone and that there is help.
A good starting place can be family or close friends. Ultimately, these people are here to help and support you. Sometimes, family and friends may not be available and a support line may be a better alternative.
Adolescents may be more comfortable using technology or a TEEN LINE. It can be as simple as texting "TEEN" to 839863. You can be connected to speak to a teen anytime between 6:00 pm-9:00 pm PST. Or call their phone lines 800-TLC-TEENS, open until 10:00 pm PST. You can even email or speak on their message boards.
Many sites offer help for those who feel they have no one else to speak to. One of these is BetterHelp. The BetterHelp website is accessible from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. So far, they have been able to help over 200,000 people achieve their mental health goals. They match you with a counselor who specializes in your needs from their 2,000 certified therapists and gives you one on one confidential chat with them. You can message your counselor at any time. Before a big test, after an argument with your friend, or if you're just stressed. They can help to advise you, make recommendations, and simply be a listening ear. More affordable and convenient than any in-person therapy, BetterHelp lets you talk to your counselor through, online chat, as well as video or voice call.
Ultimately the most important thing to remember for anyone with anxiety is you are not alone and help is available. It is important to reach out and get help. No one ever has to be or feel alone.
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