Anxiety

Do you often feel restless, agitated, or overwhelmed with worries about what might go wrong? Anxiety can make it difficult to succeed at work or school, maintain healthy relationships, and enjoy life

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Key points

Overview

Do you regularly experience anxiety, lack of motivation, relationship issues, and intrusive thoughts? Do you often feel insecure and constantly worry about others’ opinions? These emotional challenges could be indicators of an anxiety disorder. The good news is that anxiety often responds positively to effective treatment.

Anxiety is extremely common

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than one in five US adults between 18 and 60 experienced an anxiety disorder in the last year.

Even before the onset of Covid-19, anxiety was already on the rise, and the epidemic further exacerbated this ongoing trend. Psychologists and social workers observed a notable escalation in the intensity and frequency of emotional problems both prior to and during the pandemic. The University of Vermont’s “Hedonometer” even registered the lowest level of human happiness ever documented in the United States.

Modern life creates a perfect storm for anxiety. Remote work, reduced social interactions, weakened family bonds, prolonged indoor time, excessive screen exposure—these elements collectively contribute to heightened anxiety levels. Managing stress has become increasingly challenging for many, leading some individuals to resort to self-medication through alcohol or adopting other detrimental coping mechanisms.

Anxiety levels, once elevated, tend to persist or increase

Our brains are instinctively programmed to react to anxiety. This primal mechanism serves us well in recognizing threats, be it a bear emerging from the woods or a speeding car approaching. In situations where time is of the essence, like catching a plane or meeting a work deadline, anxiety propels us forward, granting an extra surge of energy to rise to the challenge.

When we fail to respond adequately to anxiety triggers or when these triggers persist, we risk becoming entrenched in stress-induced mental patterns. This can lead to the development of unhealthy coping mechanisms and negative thought patterns that perpetuate anxiety even after the initial trigger has subsided.

There are many types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety can manifest in different ways, varying between individuals and across different stages of life. Conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, social anxiety, and phobias are just a few examples of anxiety-related disorders, each presenting unique symptoms and challenges.

Symptoms

Your symptoms can vary depending on the specific anxiety disorder you experience.

Social anxiety may hinder your ability to express yourself at work or school, engage in social situations, or even make it challenging to leave your home.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) typically involves persistent feelings of anxiety or apprehension. Additional symptoms may include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, irritability, headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pain.

Panic attacks can involve rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, chest pain, or a sense of losing control.

Phobias entail an intense fear that surpasses the actual threat posed by an object or situation. Examples of phobias include fear of flying, heights, or enclosed spaces.

Causes and risk factors

The development of an anxiety disorder is influenced by a combination of hereditary and environmental variables. Adverse life experiences, exposure to challenging environments, and a family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions can increase the likelihood of experiencing difficulty in managing anxiety.

Moreover, certain physical conditions like thyroid disorders and heart arrhythmias are associated with an elevated risk of anxiety disorders. Additionally, the consumption of high doses of caffeine or substance abuse can heighten the likelihood of experiencing anxiety symptoms.

Treatment for anxiety

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” has proven to be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. To achieve positive outcomes, it is crucial that therapy is tailored to address your unique experiences. By selecting a therapist and therapy approach that aligns with your needs, you can regain equilibrium in your life. You can experience a future with reduced worries, increased serenity, and enhanced contentment. It is possible to be fully present and embrace a more enriched and purposeful existence.

Extensively Researched, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) equips individuals with alternative thinking patterns, responses, and reactions to effectively diminish anxiety and fear.

Exposure therapy, a CBT technique for anxiety disorders, aims to address underlying worries and enable individuals to confront avoided activities. This approach encourages engagement and is often complemented by relaxation exercises to optimize the treatment process.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) employs mindfulness, goal-setting, and other strategies to alleviate discomfort and anxiety effectively.

Incorporating medication into your treatment plan can provide invaluable assistance. It can help stabilize your mood, enhance your functional capabilities both at home and work, and motivate you to prioritize self-care. Medication often complements psychotherapy and holistic care, reinforcing your commitment to healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise routines.

More information

Anxiety Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder

Henning, M., Subic-Wrana, C., Wiltink, J., & Beutel, M. (2020). Anxiety Disorders in Patients With Somatic Diseases. Psychosomatic Medicine.

Nelson, H., Cantor, A., Pappas, M., & Weeks, C. (2020). Screening for Anxiety in Adolescent and Adult Women. Annals of Internal Medicine.

What’s the difference between stress and anxiety? American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/anxiety-difference