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).
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.
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 private 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can anxiety last for months?: Anxiety is actually quite common; in fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is the most common mental illness, affecting up to 40 million adults. Anxiety is different for everyone. For some people, they may have feelings of anxiety for a few minutes; for others, it can last for weeks, months, or even years if left untreated. In some instances, it can become so severe that it interferes with a person’s daily life, growing into what is called an anxiety disorder.
Why do I have anxiety if I'm not stressed?: People often make the mistake of equating anxiety with stress. Although anxiety is an emotional symptom of stress and stress can cause anxiety, they are not synonymous with each other. It isn’t unheard of for someone to experience anxiety for no reason. In these cases, anxiety usually has a trigger of some kind but the victim is unaware of what that trigger may be. These moments of anxiety are a result of the body engaging in a “fight or flight” response in an attempt to prevent harm in what it believes to be a life-threatening situation. However, the body can misinterpret a situation as harmful, which leads to someone experiencing anxiety for no perceived reason.
How do I permanently stop anxiety?: It can feel like anxiety will never go away, like a backpack of boulders you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. However, it is possible to stop anxiety for the rest of your life, as long as you’re aware of the symptoms and know how to stop them before an episode starts. Some important tips to beat your anxiety forever include practicing your deep breathing exercises, eliminating soda and high-caffeine foods from your diet, practicing self-care, maintaining a good sleep schedule, and practicing good mindfulness by accepting that feelings do not equal facts. It can be a challenging path to get to where you want to be, especially if you’ve been living with anxiety for a period of time, but it is possible with the right tools in hand.
Why can't I stop worrying about everything?: People do have concerns and worries from time to time, but if you find yourself worrying all the time, then you may have a generalized anxiety disorder. This excessive worrying can have negative effects on the body, such as restlessness, an inability to concentrate, and muscle tension. Roughly 6% of the U.S. adult population experience symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Thankfully, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy, as it teaches the person living with a generalized anxiety disorder how to regain control of their life by implementing specific skills to curtail anxiety or avoid it altogether.
Does ignoring anxiety make it go away?: Unfortunately, ignoring anxiety does not make it go away. The worrying thoughts will simply continue and may make it more difficult for you to function in your every day life. Consider therapy to help you break this cycle of thinking, as well as implement a few exercises to help you along the way, such as deep-breathing exercises and admitting to yourself that you may have an anxiety disorder. Giving a name to what you’re experiencing is the first step to finding the help you need.
What causes constant anxiety?: There is no specific trigger for constant or chronic anxiety, since people are affected by it differently. One of the more common triggers is a traumatic event occurring in someone’s life who is already prone to anxiety. However, constant anxiety can also be caused by underlying medical illnesses such as respiratory disorders, heart disease, and chronic pain. A person is also more prone to anxiety if they have a blood relative who also suffers from anxiety.
What are 5 emotional signs of stress?: When a person experiences stress for a long period of time, they will start to exhibit specific emotional signs. Without help, these emotions will feed off each other, leading to the person feeling worse. These five emotional signs of stress are anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, and frustration. Please be aware that this form of sadness is more than just feeling unhappy; it’s a severe emotional form of stress that, if left untreated, can evolve into depression.
Being aware of the presence of these emotional signs is the first step in realizing that there is a problem and that help should be sought. If you feel as if you’re experiencing any or a combination of the aforementioned symptoms, please call text HOME to 741741.
How long can anxiety last?: It can be complicated to say just how long anxiety lasts, as it is different for different people. Some people may suffer with a generalized anxiety disorder and have anxiety every single day for several months, while other people can go for long lengths of time before experiencing another episode of anxiety. To be fair, anxiety never really goes away; but it can be made less stressful to deal with by seeking a therapist who can provide help to regain control over one’s life.
Is anxiety caused by stress?: Although anxiety can be triggered by a number of things, stress is one of the most common triggers. In turn, having anxiety can lead to more stress, creating a vicious cycle that seems difficult to break. Recognizing the signs of anxiety early, such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shaking, and trouble sleeping for example, gives a person with anxiety a head start on seeking the help they need from a therapist.
Does CBD help anxiety?: CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is commonly subscribed in the treatment of anxiety. In 2020, 49% of Americans who used CBD were using it to treat anxiety and stress. This isn’t to say that CBD is a cure for anxiety, but it is highly effective at helping to ease anxiety. Out of all of the respondents in SingleCare’s 2020 survey, CBD was proven to be effective for 68% of the people using it.
What vitamins help with anxiety?: In addition to seeking the help of a therapist and practicing anti-anxiety exercises, there are a number of natural supplements that can be included in one’s diet to reduce anxiety. One of the more supplements is vitamin D, which can be found in natural sunlight. But this can be difficult to obtain during the winter months, so it doesn’t hurt to add vitamin D supplements to your daily regimen. It works by affecting the dopamine pathway of the brain; dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for motivation and improving mood.
Magnesium and valerian root can also help to ease anxiety by regulating the hormones that are produced in the stress response, as well as improving the quality of sleep, respectively.
What to drink to calm nerves?: Another way to help anxiety is consider drinking tea. Forget the black tea, however; chamomile and green teas have been shown to reduce anxiety. Chamomile tea is one of the most popular stress-relieving teas in the market, and is so gentle that it can be provided to young babies who have trouble sleeping. In fact, one study in 2016 revealed that long-term use of chamomile tea or extract has been shown to reduce moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalize anxiety disorder.
Green tea is rich in an amino acid called l-theanine, which, when ingested on a regular basis, can lead to consistently lower levels of stress, a contributing factor of anxiety.
Is overthinking a sign of anxiety?: Overthinking may not seem like a serious issue, but when it starts to involve focusing on the negative, then it can have some detrimental effects on your mental health. It can lead you to what is called “analysis paralysis,” where a person is stuck in the trap of overthinking to the point that they can’t take any positive actions regarding their life. When it comes to anxiety, it’s unclear whether overthinking can lead to anxiety or if anxiety increases the likelihood of overthinking.
How can I beat anxiety?: The road to recovering from anxiety is a long and challenging one, but it is possible to beat it, when provided with the right steps and right support. Effective self-care, such as having a regular sleep schedule, skipping caffeine, and eating healthy meals is one of the more important steps one can take to get the physical body feeling well again. For the mental aspect of one’s health, breathing exercises, speaking to a therapist, and self-expression through writing, art, or music can provide the means to vent negative emotions and/or feelings.
What to do when you can’t stop worrying?: If it becomes difficult to stop worrying about anything and everything, then it is more than likely you have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s quite common so there are already plenty of resources available to help curtail the problem. Text HOME to 741741 so that you can be connected with a crisis counselor to help you figure out the steps you should take to receive the counseling that you need.