How To Manage Anxiety

Updated March 20, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting about 18.1% of American adults. That is over 40 million people in this country who live with some form of anxiety disorder. And it is not just an American problem as, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 264 million people worldwide experience an anxiety disorder of some kind. This means that treatment options have been studied extensively to cope with anxiety, and mental health professionals are equipped to use effective treatment options. 

There are several types of anxiety disorders, and each one has its own set of symptoms, risk factors, and treatments. Taking therapy for reducing anxiety will be very beneficial to your ability to better understand yourself and further your development.

When The Burden Of Anxiety Gets To Heavy

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by continuous and irrational worry about different aspects of your life. It can cause you to worry over normal things that are usually not a threat, but the fear and anxiety can make them seem like major issues (i.e., your relationships, money, job, school, or health). You may have an unrealistic worry about normal things such as driving or taking the bus or thinking that something horrible is going to happen to you. Some of the common symptoms of GAD are:

  • Dwelling on things that might go wrong

  • Nightmares

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Sweating

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Trouble making decisions

  • Restlessness

  • Fatigue

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

  • Headache

  • Inability to let go of worries

  • Trouble getting through daily activities

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 2.2 million people worldwide. One-third of these people have their first episode as a child or teenager. This can be a severe and sometimes debilitating disorder that can cause unwanted recurring thoughts, sensations, or behaviors. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Cleaning things constantly, like washing hands hundreds of times a day

  • Repeating things, such as a phrase or name, several times

  • Checking to see if the doors are locked or the oven is turned off over and over

  • Arranging and ordering things, like putting shoes or books in order

  • Obsessive, intrusive thoughts that can lead to compulsions

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically affects those who have experienced a traumatic situation such as an attack, abuse, or accident. It may have been a natural event like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or a terrorist attack. It could also be from being in combat or working as a first responder such as a police officer, paramedic, or firefighter. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are generally severe and include:

  • Nightmares or night terrors

  • Inability to sleep

  • Fear of loud noises

  • Avoidance of friends and family

  • Flashbacks

  • Edginess

  • Self-medicating with alcohol or recreational drugs

  • Avoidance of crowds or public places

  • Inability to work or go to school

  • Physical symptoms like shaking, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, nausea, headaches, dizziness, or muscle tension, and even anxiety twitching

  • Outbursts or reenacting the traumatic episode when triggered

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) usually shows up in adolescence or early adulthood, with 80% of those with SAD showing signs before they are 20. This disorder can be characterized by the irrational fear of any kind of social situations such as talking to people, going to a party or other social gathering, speaking in front of a group, or meeting new people. Some common signs might include:

  • Problems making friends

  • Fear of being judged

  • Sweating, shaking, and blushing

  • Avoiding crowds

  • Nervousness

  • Racing thoughts

  • Not wanting to go to school or work

  • Fear of being humiliated

  • Extreme self-consciousness

  • Anxiety when meeting people

  • Fear of being rejected

  • Worrying constantly about a social event

Panic Disorder

Approximately three percent of adults in the United States have had a panic attack at least once in their lifetime. However, this number may be much higher because many might not recognize the signs and stress of panic disorder or a panic attack. Panic attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks because of the rapid, pounding heartbeat, chest pain, and feeling of impending doom. These are the main three symptoms, but here are some others:

  • Racing thoughts

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling very hot or very cold

  • Numbness of extremities

  • Headache

  • Lightheadedness

  • Shaking or trembling

  • Extreme fear

Specific Phobias

A phobia is an unrealistic fear of something that is so severe that it can affect your daily life. Although fear can be a good thing, in cases of phobia, it may be a complication that can affect your career, relationship, or even your health from the stress. The top ten phobias in the United States include:

  • Aerophobia - The fear of flying

  • Mysophobia - The fear of germs

  • Claustrophobia - The fear of enclosed spaces and small spaces

  • Astraphobia - The fear of thunderstorms

  • Cynophobia - The fear of dogs

  • Agoraphobia - The fear of leaving home

  • Acrophobia - The fear of heights

  • Ophidiophobia - The fear of snakes

  • Arachnophobia - The fear of spiders

  • Trypophobia - The fear of a specific pattern of holes like honey combs

How To Manage Anxiety

So now that we have a list of different anxiety disorders, it's important to understand how to deal with anxiety and manage mental illness, as well as the stress that can come with anxiety and panic attacks, in order to make anxiety symptoms go away once and for all. There are various techniques and strategies, such as mindfulness practices, therapy, and medication, that can help individuals learn how to deal with anxiety and improve their overall mental health. 

There are several techniques you can try at home, some medications you can get from a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, natural remedies that may help, and therapy that you can participate in to help in dealing with anxiety and anxious thoughts such as relaxation techniques in everyday life for when you are feeling anxious. Not all of these work for everyone, and it may take more than one to get your worries under control. For example, you may need to use medication as well as therapy, or an herbal remedy with coping strategies and relaxation techniques like meditation.

When The Burden Of Anxiety Gets To Heavy

Home Techniques

These techniques and coping strategies are in no way a replacement for anxiety therapy for professional and medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, but they may help you in the meantime. Sometimes it may just help to take a few deep breaths and close your eyes to escape from the brain’s response to its own thoughts. Or you can try to focus on something different like a hobby or sport. There is little to no danger in any of these strategies. Practice them to relieve anxiety. Here are a number of things you can do that are proven to help manage symptoms of anxiety and stress:

  • Exercise: Any kind of exercise can increase endorphins and improve your mood. Start to exercise slowly and gradually increase your exercise to the right amount to manage your anxiety. If you are so inclined, you can combine exercise with group activities with family or friends for socialization.

  • Meditation: Similar to deep breathing, meditation can center you and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, potentially helping you relax and improve your health. Breathing deeply and exhaling slowly can alleviate anxiety and help you to stay healthy mentally, research shows. There may be danger in trying to control your thinking too much, and it might be important to practice simply being mindful of your thoughts.

  • Yoga: The physical, spiritual, and mental discipline required to practice yoga can help you focus on muscle groups and relax your mind, especially for people affected by anxiety and related health problems. Yoga can help to bridge the gap between mind and body.

  • Music: Listening to music is proven to relax some people.

  • Pets: According to research, just petting an animal can reduce anxiety and blood pressure, and release endorphins.

  • Journaling: Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings about work, family, and life can help you deal with your worries and manage emotions to stay healthy.

  • Sleeping: Not getting enough sleep can make anyone anxious and lead to other health conditions. Try getting enough sleep to heal your body and mind and alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Natural Remedies

Many people with feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders might not want to take any kind of pharmaceutical drugs to cope, such as antianxiety or antidepressant medications. There are other strategies like natural remedies that have been reported to be successful for some of these disorders and mental health. These include:

  • Gingko Biloba

  • Melatonin

  • Ginseng

  • Chamomile or other herbal tea

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin D

  • Eliminating or reducing caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol

  • Essential oils for aromatherapy

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) oil

As all of these substances can have side effects or can react with other substances, remember to directly consult a professional before consuming any remedies, even if they are deemed as natural.

Medications

There are many different types of medications as strategies for anxiety. Some of these are antianxiety drugs like benzodiazepines, and others are antidepressants, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Always discuss all potential medication options with your doctor or psychiatrist beforehand, to avoid any negative side effects.

Which Therapy Is Best For Your Anxiety Disorder?

Another one of several strategies for treating anxiety disorders is therapy, and there are many different types of therapy for anxiety support, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, psychodynamic therapy, and group therapy which all can help feelings of anxiety.

While each person is different, for most people undergoing treatment for anxiety, CBT is the preferred method. This is a talk therapy that can teach individuals how to recognize and control feelings and thoughts to change their emotions and behavior. Although it is not a physical cure, it is often more effective than medication or natural therapies in that it helps a person face their feelings and deal with them head-on. There are different types of CBT, which include:

  • Psychotherapy: Deals with the past and helps understand the issues that may have caused the anxious thoughts.

  • Behavioral Activation: Most often used for depression, it can also ease anxiety by helping monitor your moods and engage in positive activities to negate those moods.

  • Interpersonal Therapy: This is a 12 to 16-week program that follows a system of symptom formation, personality issues, and societal issues.

  • Exposure Therapy: This is a common CBT technique and is excellent for PTSD, OCD, and phobias because it exposes you gradually to the things that make you anxious to slowly teach you that they’re not a threat.

Talk To Someone As Soon As Possible

Whether you choose to do CBT, group, mindfulness, or psychodynamic therapy for support, you can do this online with BetterHelp, no in-person appointment needed. In fact, you will not even need to leave your home to get treatment. All you need is an electronic device such as a smartphone, computer, or tablet and the internet. You will be able to send messages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to a counselor or therapist for anxiety who can help you with your disorder, no matter which type you have.

Takeaway

Anxiety is incredibly common, but also quite treatable. We particularly recommend online cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety disorder as it has been proven effective in the treatment of anxiety, phobias, PTSD, depression, and more. In other words: therapy works. Get in touch with BetterHelp to get started.

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