Dealing with anxiety can be challenging – for many people, it can be a daily struggle that affects every aspect of their life. While it’s normal to feel anxious in certain situations, such as before a big presentation or a job interview, excessive fear and worry can be indicative of an anxiety disorder. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of anxiety disorders, the symptoms of anxiety, and when it’s time to seek professional help.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults. Different types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by constant worry and fear, while Panic Disorder involves sudden and unexpected panic attacks. Social anxiety disorder is the fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations, and specific phobias are irrational fears of specific objects or situations.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition that is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety. People with GAD often feel like they are constantly on edge and may experience symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. GAD can be debilitating and interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a condition that is characterized by intense fear and anxiety in social situations. People with SAD may avoid social situations altogether or experience symptoms such as sweating, racing heart, and difficulty speaking in a social setting. SAD can be a very isolating condition that negatively impacts work, school, and personal relationships.
Panic disorder is a condition that is characterized by recurrent panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense fear or anxiety episode that occurs suddenly and typically lasts several minutes. People with panic disorder often live in fear of having another panic attack and may avoid places or situations where they have had previous attacks. Panic disorder can be debilitating and interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Agoraphobia is a condition characterized by fear and anxiety of situations where escape might be difficult or help might not be available during a panic attack or other medical emergency. People with agoraphobia often avoid public places such as crowded streets, theaters, or airports. Agoraphobia can be very isolating, negatively impacting work, school, and personal relationships.
A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as heights, flying, snakes, or needles. People with specific phobias will often go to great lengths to avoid the object or situation that they are afraid of. Specific phobias can be very debilitating conditions that interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD often feel like they must perform certain rituals or activities to prevent something terrible from happening. OCD can be debilitating and interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts following a traumatic event such as combat exposure, child abuse, or a natural disaster. PTSD can be debilitating and interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety disorders vary depending on the type of disorder, but common symptoms include excessive fear or worry, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Panic attacks are also common in anxiety disorders and can be terrifying for people who experience them. Panic attacks often involve sudden fear or discomfort, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and difficulty breathing.
- Feeling restless or on edge: Do you ever feel like your thoughts are swirling around in your head, and you can’t quiet them down? Does tension seem to tighten around your chest, and a never-ending cloud of anxiety holds residence inside your mind? Are there days, hours, or minutes where your tired eyelids can’t ward off that outwardly feeling of restlessness and edginess? You’re not alone. Everyone faces these moments where feelings of unrest bubble up to the surface, seeking recognition and acceptance. The first step in overcoming this discomfort is removing the stigma attached — everyone deserves companionable understanding during their times of uneasiness. No matter its cause or how deep it develops, no one should ever be defined by restlessness or on-edge sentiments.
- Having a hard time concentrating: Staring absentmindedly at the same page, a nagging feeling of restlessness takes over. The hours feel like days, as it’s difficult to muster any real focus. Moving from one task to the next doesn’t prevent the mind from slowly drifting away. It’s almost as if there’s an invisible barrier between intentions and results, concentration eluding even in stone stillness. Motivation replicates itself in moments yet unheard and unseen. Tranquillity remains within reach, yet only just.
- Feeling irritable: The pressure from my incessant thoughts had me feeling irritable. I felt the strong urge to escape reality and lose myself in the peace of nature, but I knew that wasn’t the best thing for me at the time. I needed a distraction to take my mind off these unresolved issues. A nap seemed ideal, and so that’s what I decided to do to alleviate whatever angst had resulted in my increasingly erratic behavior. With heavy eyes, slow, steady breathing, and an aberrance in control, I closed my eyes, hoping sleep would be enough to calm the storm inside my head. Unfortunately, it only provided short-term relief because when I awoke drained of energy, my thoughts were still running rampant and incredibly backed up.
- Having muscle tension: Muscle tension can cause the body to feel tense, stiff, and restricted. Unwinding these problems can be beneficial to one’s well-being. People often feel much better after physically relieving the stress by stretching or massaging the problem areas. Taking the time to relax each muscle group mindfully allows breathing habits and posture to realign back to their natural state as well. Incorporating mindful techniques like deep breathing into everyday life can help massively in keeping muscles loose and avoid build-up. With appropriate rest and relaxation, individuals will begin to feel more open, refreshed, and energetic!
- Difficulty sleeping: Are you finding it increasingly difficult to get deep, restful sleep at night? Are late nights getting the best of you, leading to groggy mornings that make you want to hit the “snooze” button rather than head off to tackle your day? Does tossing and turning lead to a fitful sleep that quickly slips away? Millions of people now suffer from inadequate sleep, compromising everything from their performance on the job to their overall state of physical health. Don’t let difficulty sleeping hold you back–plenty of tips for reclaiming those powerful hours of rest.
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems: Having episodes of dramatic stomach pains has become part of my daily routine. I visit the restroom more often to relieve the intense pressure and bloating in my abdomen, hoping things get easier in time. My overall body aches make it hard to concentrate on anything else other than finding a moment of peace from the waves of nausea and cramps coming over me. As frustrating as this has been, I know how important it is to understand both the causes and solutions to gastrointestinal problems. With luck, pretty soon I’ll be back living life without a constant reminder that my gut health isn’t what it ought to be!
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded: Do you ever feel like the world is spinning around you? Is the floor swaying beneath your feet? Are you finding it hard to stay steady and focused? If so, you may be feeling lightheaded or dizzy. This can result from becoming tired and overworked, not eating enough, dehydration, or even anxiety. However, if this sensation persists or worsens, it’s time to see a medical professional. They can conduct the necessary tests and determine if the dizziness is caused by something more serious.
- Having cold or sweaty hands: Cold hands lend a chill of worry, especially during summer months, when having them should signal enjoyment. Even when it seems like everyone else is wearing sandals and shorts, you hunker down with your hands deep in your pockets or crossed tight against your chest. Your feet are in their stifling socks, but all you remember are those chilly digits and their tale about your composure and care. Sweaty hands, however, are the kiss of death. Aside from being slippery and a little embarrassing, that envelope of damper tells onlookers they can expect unsteadiness or low confidence. You swear silently as you bum another towel to rinse away the clamminess before another meaningful conversation or upcoming career moment passes quickly out of reach.
- Shortness of breath: A feeling of tightness around the chest began to grow. Panic rising, each inhale felt like a struggle as her lungs pleaded for air. She tried to remain calm, laboring through wheezing breaths. The room grew smaller around her; she could feel the walls pressing in with every exhale. Shortness of breath overcame her and suddenly, it felt like no oxygen was in sight.
- Increased heart rate: Beating faster and faster, your heart rate increases. An accelerated pulse pounding through your veins indicates heightened anxiety or excitement. Your breathing calibrates with increasing intensity as your mind lurches into gear to respond to the stimulus. Every inch of you quivers in anticipation of what’s to come next as energy tingles from the tips of your toes to the center of your being, driving arousal higher than ever.
When to Seek Professional Help
While occasional anxiety is normal, if your concern is persistent and affects your quality of life, it’s time to seek professional help. Anxiety disorders can affect your ability to work, socialize, and even perform daily tasks like driving a car or grocery shopping. If you find yourself avoiding situations that trigger your anxiety or experiencing panic attacks, it’s time to seek help. A mental health professional can help you overcome your fear through therapy, medications, or a combination of both.
- If your anxiety is impacting your ability to function on a daily basis.
- If your anxiety is causing you to avoid certain activities or situations.
- If your anxiety is interfering with your work or school performance.
- If you are using alcohol or drugs to cope with your anxiety.
- If you are experiencing panic attacks or other physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating, racing heart, or difficulty breathing.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harming behaviors.
- If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are not seeing improvement with self-help methods or over-the-counter medications.
- If you have a family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions.
- If you have experienced a traumatic event or are dealing with chronic stressors.
- If you feel like you cannot cope with your anxiety on your own and would like professional help
Anxiety disorders can be overwhelming, and they require proper treatment to manage. If you’re struggling with anxiety or suspect you have an anxiety disorder, it’s crucial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help diagnose your disorder and create an individualized treatment plan to manage your symptoms. Don’t delay seeking help – with the right treatment, you can overcome your anxiety and start enjoying life again.
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