Anxiety: The Stress That Never Stops
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 anxiety disorder itself.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 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, but they always have the potential to develop into persistent fear, insomnia, isolation, and more.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
A generalized anxiety disorder is 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. The chronic anxiety seems to never end. 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. They can have trouble sleeping or maintaining relationships because of the anxious thoughts.
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. It is 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 with 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 a generalized anxiety disorder. 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 problem, it is natural to get a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty, or 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 an Anxiety Disorder, the anxiety plagues them to a point that can affect their quality of life and even their physical and mental health. Those with Anxiety frequently feel overwhelmed, uncertain, fearful, and stressed. This anxiety can even become debilitating, with some sufferers secluding and neglecting themselves, on top of 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.
While Anxiety is a mental illness, it comes 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 and 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, and millions of people suffer from GAD symptoms?
Surprisingly, anxiety is more common in developed countries than those which are still developing. More people in these developing countries exhibit GAD symptoms while experiencing anxiety. Currently, the United States is considered to be the most anxious country in the world, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety disorders affect more than 18 percent of adults in the country. Additionally, generalized anxiety disorder 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 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 TEENLINE. 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. 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.
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
How do you deal with never ending anxiety?
If you feel like you have anxiety that is never ending, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder gets treatment much like other anxiety disorders, with a few main treatment options. Usually, these treatment options include anti anxiety medication, cognitive behavioral therapy or commitment therapy, or a mix of these approaches. In cognitive behavioral therapy, patients usually learn several anti anxiety relaxation techniques, including professional medical advice for mitigating the physical and physiological symptoms of anxiety to treat GAD. This is where a medical professional can be especially helpful in the treatment process for a generalized anxiety disorder.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can also offer ways to react and respond to environmental factors that can trigger anxiety. With this treatment, patients also learn how to identify the signs of stress, symptoms of anxiety, and how to react to these things in the moment. CBT teaches tactics that target the mental and emotional response of the patient to their situation, and how certain characteristics of their own reactions can mitigate the effects of their generalized anxiety disorder.
Other professional medical advice for treating high functioning anxiety is to make lifestyle changes to promote overall healthy. For instance, a healthy diet, consistent sleep schedule, and regular exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
Can prolonged stress cause anxiety?
Prolonged stress is actually one of the leading causes of anxiety, along with these other causes:
- Changes at work, such as a new job or loss of a job
- Lack of friends or support during a specific season in life
- Changes in friends, such as changing schools or moving to a new place
- Abuse (verbal, sexual, physical, and/or emotional)
- Relationship problems (with friends, family members, and/or a romantic partner)
- Emotional shock, often following a traumatic event in life
- Pregnancy, giving birth, and/or transition into parenthood
- Death or loss of a family member / loved one
People who experience prolonged stress are at a much higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder or clinical depression. They may also suffer from physical symptoms of stress, such as trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, stomach problems, and headaches. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, prolonged stress can lead people to constantly feel tired, which can lead to a whole host of other mental and physical health issues. One of the most common issues is generalized anxiety disorder.
When your anxiety is too much?
When you feel like your anxiety is just too much, there are many different ways to solve problems arising from your generalized anxiety disorder. Some of these solutions are great for the here and now, while others are more long term lifestyle changes.
One of the most effective ways to beat anxiety in the moment is deep breathing. Taking deep breaths is great way to relieve stress in general, and it’s a strategy that you can use as soon as you start to feel the fight or flight response kicking in. Whenever you are faced with a specific trigger or you start to feel anxious, take several deep breaths to help clear negative thoughts and calm your body and mind.
Reducing stress in your life overall is another way to help treat an anxiety disorder in both the short term and long term. While you can’t just stop worrying and make a generalized anxiety disorder go away overnight, there are a few lasting lifestyle changes that can help you stay healthy, which can help reduce anxiety symptoms and set you up for a more successful recovery from your generalized anxiety disorder.
This one is important: you need to get enough sleep! Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep – even if it means you need an extra hour or two of sleep each night – can really help to reduce anxiety symptoms. Getting enough sleep can eradicate your difficulty concentrating, and you’re less likely to worry excessively when adequate sleep is a normal part of your life.
Next, you should include exercise in your daily life to treat GAD. This doesn’t mean you have to live at the gym: you can take a stroll around the neighborhood or practice yoga exercises at home to manage stress and relax your brain and body. Exercising consistently can reduce feelings of anxiety and promote muscle relaxation; when you relax, it’s easier to manage your anxiety. Also, it’s best if you exercise in the great outdoors.
Additionally, you can limit alcohol intake, cut back on caffeine, and stop using recreational drugs to help manage feelings of anxiety. Alcohol, caffeine, and drugs affect both the physical body and the mind, and they have lasting effects on your physical and mental health. Even though you may drink these beverages to relax, consistent consumption can actually add to the tension in your life by increasing your body’s production of stress hormones. Instead of drinking caffeine or alcohol, have a clear glass of water to stay hydrated and set your mind and body up for success.
Meditation is another method to treat anxiety. Meditation is the process of calming your mind and body so that you can rest and relax on a deeper level. For extra support with meditation, you can get help from a professional, or even start out with videos and resources available for free online. Making meditation part of your daily life doesn’t have to be a difficult or serious thing: it’s just about getting into a space where you don’t feel restless, and taking the time to relax and reflect.
Some medical professionals might recommend medications as a means of coping with generalized anxiety disorder when self help isn’t enough. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, anti anxiety medication is specifically formulated for treatment of an anxiety disorder, so before taking any medicine for anxiety management it’s crucial and necessary to talk with a doctor and get a clear diagnosis for an anxiety disorder.
Finally, seeking support from a mental health professional or a support group is a great way to treat a common anxiety disorder. Therapy treatment provides a safe space where you can manage settings and securely process your stress and anxiety. Most therapists will use a cognitive behavioral treatment to help you identify the triggers for your anxiety, and to really recognize what causes the stress. Then, the treatment will focus on different ways to manage the stress and anxiety. The treatment can help you establish and maintain necessary skill and strategies that will help you cope with stress and anxiety for the rest of your life.
Support groups operate much in the same way. Support groups are a great option for people who don’t feel comfortable approaching friends or family members about their anxiety disorder. In a support group, you are free to talk with other people who have the same symptoms, and who are also looking for techniques to manage their symptoms and negative emotions. You can hear the personal stories of others who worry excessively, and you can share your own personal life experiences, too. These groups are led by a mental health professional.
What does crippling anxiety feel like?
Crippling anxiety is a mental health issue that usually presents itself in the form of panic attacks. Panic attacks occur when a person’s body loses control and reacts sharply, quickly, and extremely to the stress or traumatic event that triggers their anxiety with the standard panic symptoms. When a person exhibits panic symptoms, they have a pounding heart, rapid and shallow breathing, and extremely tense muscles. They are often unable to communicate throughout the course of the panic attack.
Of course, only a mental health professional can offer diagnosis and treatment for an anxiety disorder. If you, a friend, or a family member is experiencing crippling anxiety, you should reach out to a mental health professional for treatment options.