Struggling with Anxiety? What you need to know
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial under some circumstances, such as when taking a test, giving a speech, or running a race. It often makes us aware of a future concern by alerting ourselves to potential dangers and ensure we are paying attention. Fear is one of the most common emotional responses to a potential threat that can be displayed through our automatic fight or flights responses in the face of what may be causing the anxiety.
Many symptoms of anxiety come and go while placing no major interference on our day-to-day lives, however in cases where symptoms are causing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, then it may be the sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders differ from standard feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive feelings of fear or anxiety. There are several types of anxiety disorders that individuals can be diagnosed with including the following:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Phobias, Specific Phobias
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
In some cases, the source of anxiety may not be known. However, some common triggers of anxiety could include any of the following:
- A stressful work environment or job
- Chronic pain or illness
- Comorbidity with another mental illness such as depression
- Phobias (i.e. claustrophobia -fear of small spaces, etc.)
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Withdrawal from substances such as alcohol, drugs, or certain medications
- Side effects of certain medications
The general symptoms of anxiety that can appear in both diagnosed and undiagnosed anxiety includes:
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing and shortness of breath
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Increased restlessness and trouble concentrating
- Sleep difficulties (difficulty falling asleep or uninterrupted sleep)
- Dry mouth
- Body temperature changes (chills or hot flashes)
- Apprehension and worry
- Increased fear and distress
- Numbness or tingling
The exact causes of anxiety disorders can be difficult to pinpoint, but genetic and environmental factors are likely contributors to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Generally, risk factors for anxiety disorders can be captured within the following factors:
Anxiety disorders have been visible among biological relatives within families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can actually produce the disorders. Additional factors suggest that some physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias, caffeine consumption or other substances/medications, can trigger symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, having a qualified medical doctor perform a physical health examination can be valuable in the evaluation of a possible anxiety disorder. Furthermore, exposure to trauma or negative environmental events early in life can also be considered factors in producing or exacerbating symptoms of anxiety.
Treatment Options & Strategies
Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t always seek help and explore treatment options. Anxiety disorders are treatable and there are a number of effective treatments available. While each specific form of anxiety disorder has its own unique characteristics, most respond well to psychotherapy and medication. These forms of treatment can be provided alone or in combination and have the ability to help you overcome the symptoms and lead a more productive lives.
- Medications – antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and beta-blockers are commonly prescribed medications used to treat anxiety. The aim of medication-based treatments is to stabilize brain chemistry, minimize and prevent symptoms of anxiety appearing. To explore medication-based treatment, the first step is to contact your doctor to discuss any concerns and undergo assessment. This can help to understand if there are other health concerns potentially impacting your wellbeing and exacerbating your symptoms. It is important to note that medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but can give significant relief from symptoms.
- Psychotherapy – Talk therapies such as Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can be helpful forms of treatment utilized to understand the source or cause of symptoms. Additionally, psychotherapy can provide more effective ways of thinking, reacting and behaving to help reduce and eliminate symptoms of anxiety through the development of healthy coping strategies.
There are a number of lifestyle changes individuals can make to lessen the intensity or frequency of anxiety symptoms on their own. Many of the self-care or self-help remedies you can incorporate involve taking care of your physical self, participating in healthy activities, and eliminating unhealthy ones. Some of the ways you can mange your symptoms and work to cope more effectively include:
- Practice yoga, meditation, deep-breathing, or learn additional relaxation techniques to help calm your body and mind
- Stay active and incorporate exercise into your day-to-day routine
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Get enough sleep and create a healthy sleep hygiene routine
- Write your thoughts and feelings down (in a journal, a note on your phone/tablet, etc.)
- Joining a support group (in-person or online)
- Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine intake
- Talk to someone (family member or friend) when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you
- Educate yourself on the topic of anxiety and learn what may be triggering your anxiety
- Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help and support
Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders with symptoms of anxiety affecting the majority of individuals at some point in their lives. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety and is looking for additional support, then I invite you to reach out today and book a free 15-minute consultation.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013. ). What are Anxiety Disorders.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2013). Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml#part_145335