Anxiety is normal. Any time we are facing a stressful situation that carries with it the possibility of failure or a negative outcome, we all feel a little anxious. In fact, anxiety is a helpful and useful emotion. It alerts us of danger, keeps us out of harms way, ensures that we are properly prepared for challenges and spurs us to take action.
However, for people with anxiety issues or disorders, anxiety is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, overwhelming and can become debilitating. It is an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, and it can interfere with daily activities.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.
What is Anxiety and what are it’s causes?
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. Mild anxiety is tepid, unsettling, and is usually short lived. Severe anxiety can be extremely disabling and is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or function normally.
Simply put, people with anxiety have reactions and feelings disproportion with what would be normally expected in that situation.
The exact cause of anxiety is unknown and can be caused by a host of factors including:
- Medical issues
- Brain chemistry
- Substance abuse
- A combination of any of the above symptoms
More often than not anxiety is triggered by external circumstances, but it is possible that people with anxiety can enhance feelings of anxiousness with “negative self-talk.” And, while the exact cause of this disorder cannot be pinpointed, scientist do know that it is not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing, which is the case with other mental disorders.
Daily life for people with anxiety
It can appear that people with anxiety lead normal and worry free lives but the reality is they face daily struggles that may not be apparent to others.
People with anxiety can feel incredibly isolated, lonely, and afraid. The only escape from the grip of anxiousness is during sleep and even then, true rest evades the sufferer many nights. The anxious mind is so clouded that it can barely distinguish reality from the perceived reality created in the mind.
Here is a glimpse of just some of the pain people with anxiety disorders endure
Worry and fear are persistent and relentless
There is no break from the feelings of fear and worry. As these feelings linger, they grow and then morph into hoplessness and depression. The constant thoughts seep into your mind invading your thoughts and chasing away any type of peace. Once it’s claws are locked into the mind, it doesn’t let go. It dictates your thoughts and haunts your dreams.
Anxiety manifests itself physically as well as mentally
Along with the mental and emotional torment, people with anxiety can experience a host of physical symptoms including:
- Burning skin
- Churning stomach
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness or “pins and needles” in arms, hands or legs
Because each body is chemically unique, the type, intensity, duration, and frequency of anxiety symptoms will vary from person to person. For example, one person may experience just one or two mild symptoms, whereas another person may experience all of the symptoms and with greater severity.
The inability to differentiate between a stressful and harmless environment
Eventually the brains of people with anxiety can not distinguish between true stress and harmless situations. The brain adapts and becomes used to the continuous agitated state produced by anxiousness and process all situations the same way. Everything becomes stressful.
Those who deal with anxiety frequently develop depression
As if living under the constant mental strain of an anxious mind isn’t enough, people with anxiety frequently develop and battle depression. The isolation and hopelessness that develops and clutters the mind consumed with constant stress can easily turn into depression.
Many people with anxiety disorders understand that their thoughts are irrational, but they still can’t stop them
This is by far one of the most difficult aspects associated with battling anxiety.
Sally R. Connolly, LCSW, a therapist at Couples Counseling of Louisville in Kentucky told Everyday Health:
“It’s a cycle. When you get anxious, you tend to have this pervasive thinking about some worry or some problem and you feel bad about it. Then you feel like you’ve failed, and you move to depression.”
You try to correct these thoughts and feelings but anxiety is a tough beast to tame. It is a silent monster, sabotaging your mind and no matter how hard you fight, it does not let go.
Anxiety disorders are treatable. The exact treatment approach depends on the type of disorder. One or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:
- Medication: Certain drugs can be used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders such as antidepressants and other anxiety-reducing drugs.
- Psychotherapy: This is a type of counseling that addresses the emotional aspects of mental illness. It is a process in which trained mental health professionals help people by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This is a particular type of psychotherapy in which the person learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Relaxation therapy
People with anxiety can live a full and productive life if they seek help.
Featured photo credit: Sander van der Wel via commons.wikimedia.org