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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

5 Types of Anxiety and How to Deal with Them

5 Types of Anxiety and How to Deal with Them

Anxiety can really chip away at our happiness if we don’t learn how to be and cope with it.

There’re so many different types of anxiety that can show up and steal perfectly enjoyable moments from our lives. It’s a beast of an emotion that can range from mildly uncomfortable to utterly crippling. In the simplest of terms, Anxiety is Worry. To which degree that we stress and worry is what increases or decreases our anxiety.

Anxiety seems to be the new buzz word given our fast moving society and need to always be one step ahead of the game. As a therapist, it’s a common symptom that brings many clients into my office.

As always, when we gain more knowledge about a topic, it becomes less scary. When something becomes less intimidating, we’re able to battle it with more confidence and success. This forces the beast (anxiety) to lose its power in order for us to allow it to pass and be gone.

With that said, I’ll point out 5 different types of anxiety, discuss what they look like and how to deal with them. After all, the trick is to No thy enemy, right?

1. Generalized Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety is one of the more common types of anxiety. In a nutshell, generalized anxiety is described as having an excessive and exaggerated sense of worry about everyday life events for no obvious reasons.

When it comes down to it, stress is stress, regardless of whether the worry is factually legit or not. Events can be benign and simple, yet cause us a ton of angst.

Generalized anxiety has the ability to lower the quality of our life as it grows and becomes louder. A little worry here or there, can be typical, although when worry turns to stress and daily rumination about all the things that could go wrong is standard, this type of anxiety can start quickly over taking our lives.

2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

People with obsessive compulsive disorder can have obsessive thoughts and urges or compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Some individuals diagnosed have both obsessions and compulsions.

With OCD, your thoughts and actions feel uncontrollable, therefore you feel unable to function normally, which greatly effects everything in your life. Work, school, relationships, you name it, suffers because of the fixated need and want to do the compulsive behavior or obsession.

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Obsessive thoughts can range from the need for things to be in a particular order to a fear of hurting one self. Compulsive habits can be anything from repeatedly washing hands to checking if the lights are turned off several times more than necessary. These “ritualistic” behaviors are unique to the person and can effect anyone who loves them.

As it sounds, this disorder tends to be more obvious since the behaviors or thoughts encourage a person to do behaviors in ways that go out of the realm of what is deemed “normal.”

3. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety is when the thought or actual interacting with other people causes irrational anxiety. The irrational fears can show up in a variety of ways; worrying about how the interaction is going to go, if judgement will occur, fear of embarrassment and concern around saying something “wrong” or “foolish.”

Social anxiety is very isolating which further perpetuates the unhealthy cycle of keeping to one’s self and strengthening delusional fears due to isolation.

4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Defined by WebMD,[1]

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened.”

Also known as, PTSD, is a disorder that causes feelings of intense fear or helplessness within the individual.

The grey area with this anxiety disorder is that trauma is relative. Meaning, what’s traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to another. Unexpected tragedies like deaths, losses, natural disasters are events that our society tends to view as “traumatic.”

Although when PTSD comes from such things as our exposure to abusive intimate relationships or experiences in which we uniquely felt traumatized, the warning signs can go under the radar (be unacknowledged) or be misdiagnosed.

Some common symptoms of PTSD are shock, anger, nervousness and fear. Ruminating about the trauma, flash backs, nightmares and a loss of concentration and inability to function well can also appear. Usually symptoms show up within 3 months of the specific traumatic incident.

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5. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is when you avoid places or situations that you anticipate will cause you panic by triggering feelings of being trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape from the situation that’s triggering your panic. Agoraphobia symptoms center around the fear of leaving home, which creates worry of being exposed to crowds, enclosed spaces and, essentially, any environment that provokes anxiety within the person.

When your fear is so overwhelming that you become unable to leave your home this results in a lack of functioning, loss of quality of life and can lead to isolation and depression.

How to Cope with Anxiety

With whatever type of anxiety you’re dealing with, please know that there’re things that you can start doing for yourself right now to help alleviate the symptoms your experiencing.

I once heard high anxiety cleverly described as being “trapped within your own self imposed prison.” The good news with this is that you hold the key to your own prison cell, my friend.

With commitment and attention, you can find relief of symptoms, and, ultimately more overall peace.

Here are some tips on how to do so:

1. Question It and Dumb It Down

A go-to technique for me when a client is struggling with anxiety, is to start chipping away at the beast by questioning it and dumbing it down.

For example, I always go right to the jugular and ask what the fear is about.

The truth is, the chances of our biggest fear happening is slim to none. Usually too, when someone is struggling with high anxiety, they need some assistance getting their scale of stress assessment back on track, which is where “dumbing it down” comes into play.

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When we have anxiety, our scale of what’s a big deal tends to be out of wack. Meaning, we start stressing over things that are relatively “normal” aspects of life. You see this with road rage or, generally, anytime the level of reaction within a person doesn’t align with the actual event.

I find that once I put words to the fears of my clients who are battling anxiety, the emotion often looses it’s power and doesn’t seem as bad.

2. Breathe Babe

Learning ways to calm and clear your mind by practicing self soothing techniques is a key to our overall health and level of happiness.

We were all born knowing how to breath naturally from our bellies (diaphragm.) As we grow and are exposed to life’s pressures, we can begin to breath from our chest, which is defined as shallow breathing. This type of breathing is linked to individuals with anxiety.

Think hyperventilation, which is a psychosomatic response to stress and panic. Learning and practicing breathing techniques that are geared toward slowing your breathing will calm your system down.

Practices such as yoga and meditation are great skills to hone in order to practice helpful breathing techniques.

3. Move That Body

Tapping into your physicality and moving your body regularly is a must, but it can be a saving grace when it comes to those of us who struggle with anxiety.

Releasing natural endorphins through exercise can help boost your mood which will help fight off those nagging feelings of worry.

4. Face Your Fear

With whatever you’re dealing with in life, nothing will completely go away until you directly and purposefully confront it.

When you’re able to muster up the courage to challenge the irrational worries that you have, they will lessen or even completely disappear.

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You see the truth of anything that you’re brave enough to face directly. This holds true with sitting and coping with our anxiety. It’s common to want to escape the wraths of anxiety by constantly being so busy and pushing the emotion away. Although this may quiet it for some time, eventually it will resurface, as anything will that’s not dealt with completely.

Remember friends, the only way to get through something is to to go directly through it. There’s no short cuts when it comes to coping with anxiety or life, if you’re living it truthfully.

Here’re some tips to help you face your fear: 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

5. Watch Your Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Our bodies are similar to gas tanks. What we put into our system absolutely effects its preformance.

If you struggle with anxiety, be mindful of your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that will rev up your system and is known to increase your anxiety. A withdrawal side effect of alcohol is increased anxiety.

Most importantly, increasing your body/mind connection by becoming more aware of how you uniquely feel when you put certain substances and foods in your body is essential to your overall health.

Final Thoughts

I know that if you’re currently in the grips of anxiety’s strong hold, it can feel like it will never lessen. Please know it can and please know that it will with commitment to doing the positive self care to combat it.

Once you start to look at your habits, your self talk and your self care patterns, you can start to get a handle on it. With more tools in your back pocket to confront anxiety and put it in its place, you will feel relief and an overall higher quality of life.

More Articles About Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Ernest Brillo via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kim Egel

Kim Egel is a licensed therapist whose private practice is centered around the concepts of the mind, body & soul connection.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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