Are You Worried, Or Is It Anxiety?
Part of being human is feeling anxious, worried, or scared occasionally. However, if those feelings linger and worsen over time, leaving you feeling as if the world will come crashing down on you at any second, you may have a mental health condition related to anxiety. Read on to learn how to tell the difference between regular worry and anxiety, recognize the symptoms, and the various ways therapy can help you learn to manage the effects of an anxiety disorder.
What Is Anxiety?
According to the mental health experts at the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the cognitive processes your body and brain utilize in response to danger, hardship, fear, and worry. Anxiety typically causes tension, worried or fearful thoughts, and physical changes like a racing heartbeat. While anxiety is a regular human emotion, it is meant to be a temporary experience to ensure you’re aware of potential dangers. Those feelings should fade when the risk passes, but for people with anxiety disorders, they stick around and often get worse with time.
When Does Anxiety Become A Disorder
Nerves, feelings of anxiety, and worry are expected—as is their temporary nature. If your anxiety symptoms don’t go away, lingering to cause functional impairment and substantial distress, you may have an anxiety disorder. According to a recent study, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. When the emotion works as it should, it serves as your body’s early warning system and a powerful motivating tool. The adrenaline rush of anxiety can help inspire you to act when in danger or push you to work harder to complete an important project on time.
Speak to your healthcare provider to ask about an anxiety disorder assessment if your feelings of worry or anxiety involve persistent, intrusive concerns, cause you to avoid certain situations, people, or places, or you experience physical reactions such as a racing pulse, dizziness, shaking, or sweating in a tense situation.
“Many people worry about things such as health, money, or family problems. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.”— National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
What Does Anxiety Look Like? Signs And Symptoms
Behavioral—Significant changes to your sleep patterns, shifts in your eating habits, or active avoidance of places, people, or situations that may cause anxiety
Physical—Stomachache, increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, headache, unexplained pain, muscle tension, hyperventilation, or other breathing problems
Psychological—Intense sense of impending doom or persistent danger, mood swings, trouble controlling worry, stress, difficulty making decisions and concentrating, disorientation, “brain fog” or your mind going blank, and lingering feelings of nervousness
What Causes Anxiety?
Science has not determined a definitive cause for anxiety. Instead, the medical community believes a complex interaction of multiple biological and environmental factors causes anxiety disorders. Genetics, developmental experiences, variations in brain chemistry, personal history, and your body’s response to danger can all contribute to whether you develop an anxiety disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
You may persistently feel worried, fearful, or anxious about many things in your life. Symptoms of this disorder often interfere with multiple areas of your day-to-day life, such as work, school, or relationships.
Sudden, overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety that occur without warning and sometimes without apparent cause. Panic attacks typically last several minutes, severely impact your functional ability, and cause intense anxiety about future episodes.
Social Anxiety Disorder
You likely experience painful shyness to the point that you have trouble functioning in social situations. Anxieties with this disorder typically focus on rejection, ridicule, or judgment in social or performance situations.
Phobias are extreme feelings of fear and aversion to specific objects or situations, such as heights or enclosed spaces, that cause intense reactions when encountering the feared subject.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Humans develop emotional attachments to the people we care for deeply. Some people experience extreme distress, worry, and fear when separated from their attachment figures. You may have separation-themed nightmares and immensely dislike being alone.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Persistent anxiety symptoms and stress reactions months or even years after a traumatic event. Many people with PTSD experience nightmares, flashbacks, and unexpected triggers related to their trauma, often causing extreme adverse reactions and significant emotional distress.
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders
While it may seem as simple as looking up the symptoms of anxiety disorders and seeing which ones fit your situation, diagnosing mental health disorders requires the assistance of a physician, therapist, or another healthcare provider. If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, speak to your doctor or therapist to ask about an evaluation.
The process will start with a medical history and possible physical exam to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Your healthcare provider will likely use a series of assessment tools to identify your symptoms and their severity. After receiving a diagnosis of a specific anxiety disorder, they will likely refer you to a specialist or begin developing a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce your symptoms.
Treatments For Anxiety Disorders
Recent studies show that most treatment plans for anxiety disorders involve medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Many mental healthcare providers use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help patients recognize harmful thought patterns and behaviors, shifting them to more effective options with the support and guidance of a professional. CBT also teaches practical coping and communication skills.
Coping Skills To Manage Symptoms
Keep a journal to track your anxiety triggers, emotional reactions, and which coping skills helped you through the situation.
Establish practical morning and bedtime routines to stay productive and relaxed.
Prioritize your mental health.
Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to help you learn discipline and focus.
Reframe your perspective and focus on positive thinking.
Build an array of coping skills that evolve with you.Do You Have An Anxiety Disorder?
What Does Anxiety Look Like In Children And Teens?
Anxiety in children and adolescents often presents differently than it does in adults. Young children cannot usually identify and understand their emotions, so physical symptoms like frequent stomachaches and headaches are common. Teenagers experiencing anxiety may demonstrate more behavioral symptoms, such as social isolation, a drop in school performance, changes in sleep or eating patterns, moodiness, and a tendency to be confrontational.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Anxiety
If medication isn’t a good fit for your situation or you’re looking for ways to manage your symptoms in addition to traditional treatments, researchers at the University of Minnesota suggest lifestyle changes to help you control anxiety. Remember that the stronger your body is, the better it works. Your physical health can significantly impact your neurochemistry. Ensure you eat a balanced diet, get plenty of regular physical activity, and maintain healthy sleep hygiene. Avoid alcohol and substance use, use positive affirmations to reassure yourself in tense situations, and practice a mindful lifestyle.
The most common mental health condition among adults in the US is anxiety.
Nearly 30% of American adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.
— The American Psychiatric Association
How Therapy Can Help You Manage Your Anxiety
If you’re experiencing trouble managing your anxiety symptoms and it interferes with your ability to function in multiple areas of your life, consider speaking to a licensed therapist online through BetterHelp, a virtual therapy platform. If you are seeking help for your child, TeenCounseling provides treatment for children from 12 to 19. Therapy can help you identify thought patterns and behaviors that may be negatively impacting your life, helping you shift them toward healthier habits. A therapist can also help you develop communication and practical coping skills to manage your stress and anxiety.
The most common treatment for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy, and recent studies show that online CBT can be as effective as face-to-face treatment.
Worry and fear are standard parts of life, but if yours lingers and gets worse over time, you may have an anxiety disorder. The information presented in this article may help you understand how persistent anxiety can affect you and how therapy can help manage symptoms and their effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Self Diagnose Anxiety?
While it may be easy to look up symptoms of anxiety online and compare them with your own experiences, the best way to receive advice, diagnosis, or treatment of anxiety is by consulting your doctor. Health care professionals are more reliable than any online source, regardless of the professional pedigree claimed in any given article. You can also try an online anxiety quiz, but they are not a substitute for actual diagnosis or treatment. Consulting a medical professional is the most efficient way to stop anxiety from interfering with your life.
What Are The First Signs Of Anxiety?
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have anxiety, there are a few signs or symptoms that can indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. Be aware that these signs can be the result of something else, such as not feeling well for one particular day, or the symptoms could be a part of their personality. If these symptoms occur constantly and affect one’s quality of life or mental health, then they could be warning signs of anxiety:
- Excessive worrying
- Lack of energy
- Having trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Panic attacks
- Being distant from friends and family
- Muscle tension
- Pounding heart
The safest bet is to consult your doctor for advice diagnosis or treatment of anxiety or bipolar disorder, depending on your circumstance.
How Do I Know If I Experience Anxiety?
Analyzing your response to stressors in your life can help determine if you could have anxiety. While it's natural to experience normal levels of anxious feelings and worry in everyday life in situations like getting a new job, sometimes these negative thoughts can cause deeper concerns. If you think that your mental health is being negatively impacted by your worries, then you may consider consulting your primary care provider and undergoing a professional diagnosis for anxiety. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can include the following:
- Your worrying is affecting social relationships, academic performance, and career path
- You may also experience a fear of dying
- You are experiencing constant physical symptoms, such as restlessness, insomnia, high blood pressure, unusual bodily sensations, or getting tired easily, along with your excessive worry
- You cannot let go of your worries and fears
- You are experiencing physical symptoms, such as feeling shortness of breath, chest pain
While the above signs apply to generalized anxiety disorder, there are also separate signs for separation anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and disorder panic disorder. You can ask a doctor for a disorder treatment specific to each of these anxiety types.
Furthermore, most patients who have bipolar disorder may also exhibit symptoms of anxiety. A combination of bipolar disorder with anxiety disorder can result in other health complications as well.
You can also use an anxiety quiz available freely online, but this should not be a substitute for an actual diagnosis or treatment from a health care professional.
What Does Mild Anxiety Feel Like?
Mild anxiety can impact various parts of your life and, if left untreated, lead to other, more severe mental health conditions, such as panic disorder. This type of anxiety can be experienced in early childhood and last through adulthood; however, it can also exist in childhood and not resurface in later years. Those experiencing mild anxiety may feel shy or exhibit symptoms of social anxiety or excessive worry in social situations. Those will mild anxiety may experience excessive worry
Those with bipolar disorder can also experience mild anxiety as well. Bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders can be common in children.
Taking an anxiety quiz can help you identify symptoms of mild anxiety and worry, but they should not be substituted for an actual diagnosis or treatment.
How Do I Get Diagnosed With Anxiety?
You can get officially diagnosed with anxiety by a mental health professional who had evaluated your needs. You can either research a professional on your own or get a referral from your primary care provider. After scheduling a therapy appointment, the therapist will ask questions about potential symptoms to help understand what type of anxiety disorder you exhibit.
Is Anxiety A Mental Illness?
In the United States, over 40 million adults over 18 years of age are affected by anxiety disorders, making it the most common mental illness in the country. Anxiety is a mental illness because it affects the natural functions of the brain, much like other disorders, as an ADHD overview will show. For instance, anxiety disorders can cause intense fear or worry, which may paralyze or prevent the affected individual from continuing to exhibit regular behavior.
How Long Can Anxiety Last?
During an anxiety attack, even if an episode seemingly lasts for a few minutes, each minute may feel like an hour of unrelenting pain and fear. Additionally, the end of one anxiety attack can lead to another attack. While this is not common, you can try to prevent escalating anxiety attacks at the moment by performing simple breathing practices. If you find yourself experiencing intense anxiety, the best way to calm yourself at that moment is to take a deep breath and think positively about your ability to get through.
If you believe that you are experiencing intense anxiety attacks, but have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, then you can take an anxiety test to see if you need further medical attention.
How Do You Calm Down Anxiety?
You can try to calm down your anxiety by simply taking a deep breath in and out during an episode. By grounding and encouraging yourself with positive thoughts of getting through the episode, you can draw on your inner strength. It is important to remember the control you have over your thoughts and try to steer your thinking toward peacefulness and self-belief.
If you want to check to see if you are exhibiting symptoms of an anxiety disorder, then utilize an anxiety test and see if you should consult your doctor about personalized strategies. An unverified anxiety test cannot replace medical advice diagnosis, but it can provide you with more language to describe your anxiety symptoms and their severity. Then you can decide to see a doctor about anxiety treatment. Having a health care professional provide medical advice and diagnosis will be important to devise the most effective treatment plan.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety causes could come from multiple factors. Genetics as well as environmental factors can influence anxiety. Uncontrollable factors, like a predisposition to anxiety or experiencing poverty or abuse, can cause anxiety. An anxiety disorder test cannot determine the cause of your anxiety but will help you identify if you are exhibiting the symptoms.
If you are facing or witnessing the abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Does Anxiety Go Away If You Ignore It?
Anxiety likely will not go away if you ignore it, and it could get even worse. The more you try not to think about your anxiety, the more you build up those feelings, until they can burst out in a more intense episode.
The best way to approach anxiety is to consult a doctor, or if you are not ready to take that step, take an anxiety quiz on your own. These quizzes should not be a substitute for an official diagnosis or treatment of a social anxiety disorder. A health care doctor can provide different treatment options to help you overcome your anxiety and worry so you can feel less anxious.
What Are The 6 Types Of Anxiety Disorders?
The six types of anxiety disorders are distinct from one another since they exhibit different symptoms. All anxiety disorders are serious and should be diagnosed by a medical professional. Each type of anxiety falls under these six categories.
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Separation anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
In recent years, PTSD and OCD have been commonly considered to be their types of mental health disorders. But you may discover that some articles about anxiety will group the two types of anxiety disorders. Another type of disorder associated with anxiety disorders is bipolar disorder. If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, then there is a chance that you have an anxiety disorder as well. If you feel that you do have either PTSD or OCD, consult a doctor about them in particular, as they may require different diagnoses or treatment methods.
Can Anxiety Be Cured Completely?
Whether you have been experiencing anxiety since you were a child or it began during adulthood, a positive mindset about controlling anxiety is the best approach. One way to reduce anxiety is to consult a medical professional and discuss advice diagnosis or treatment options. While a doctor might not be able to cure your anxiety immediately, just putting a name to your specific anxiety and knowing that you are utilizing the best resources can be an initial relief.
One of the best ways to control your anxiety is through cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. Through these talk therapy sessions, your doctor can help you understand your thought patterns and come up with problem-solving strategies that can improve your mental health and excessive worry.
When Should You See A Doctor About Anxiety?
You should see your doctor about anxiety and excessive worry if your anxious brain is starting to disrupt your way of life. Medical advice diagnosis or treatment can help you handle your anxiety, or at least understand it. A clinical social worker in human services or an associate professor may be able to provide support for your excessive worry and give you tools for problem-solving when the worry takes over.
Anxiety may become detrimental to students who think academic performance is not meeting previous standards and could have an indication of anxiety negatively impacting their lives.
Essentially, if your anxiety is making things worse in any capacity, consult a doctor or take an anxiety quiz (that should not be a substitute for an official diagnosis or treatment). Be kind to yourself as you try to pinpoint emotions and stressors that may seem upsetting.
What's The Worst Type Of Anxiety?
There is not the worst type of anxiety, per se. Anyone who experiences an anxiety disorder can be affected in large and small ways. Some anxiety disorders may be a nuisance, while others disrupt daily life, and anyone who is experiencing anxiety in any capacity deserves understanding and personalized medical attention.
Can Anxiety Last All Day?
The length of anxiety depends on the episode. Some episodes may only last minutes, while others can last for days or even longer. Through these long periods, you may develop physical symptoms of anxiety disorder, such as eating disorders and binge eating. If these symptoms are hurting your life, then you should see a doctor for more help to treat your anxiety disorder symptoms.
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