What is anxiety?
There is a big difference between occasional anxiety and an anxiety disorder. It is normal to be nervous about a presentation or a big speech, but an anxiety disorder is more than that. You may experience debilitating worry or fear that interferes with everyday life, or keeps you from leaving the house. You may find yourself avoiding certain places or situations to avert anxious feelings.
Anxiety can occur co-morbidly with other psychiatric disorders- meaning it can be present in addition to another disorder. It can also occur by itself. Anxiety affects people of all ages and genders, and stems from a variety of places, including a traumatic experience or a specific phobia. Anxiety may also be due to additional medical issues. In these cases, worrying about one’s health may become so overwhelming that it distracts from everyday life.
Like many other disorders, the symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and psychological. Exact symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety, but in general, you may experience many of the following:
- Nervousness, restlessness, or feeling tense
- Sleeping disturbances, such as difficulty getting to or staying asleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Invasive thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Muscle tension
- Weakness and fatigue
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
Anxiety can be managed effectively through therapy and medication. As with any disorder, the treatment plan of each client is tailored to individual needs. The most common types of anxiety treatments are:
Mindfulness based therapy, or MBT, helps you focus on the sensations that arise during anxiousness. There is great emphasis on staying present and accepting of your thoughts and feelings. Doing so helps release negative thoughts and, additionally, relieve the amount of anxiety experienced. This therapy is shown to be very effective across many disorders, meaning the skills learned through this treatment apply to a variety of life events.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, also helps you focus on present life events. By becoming aware of your current feelings, you will be better prepared to combat future anxieties. CBT teaches skills to manage maladaptive thinking patterns, improve self-confidence, and maintain control over thoughts. These are skills that will carry on long after therapy has concluded.
Therapy and medication can also be supplemented with alternative treatments. Meditation, yoga, self-management, and stress reducing techniques can all help to decrease the symptoms of anxiety. Finding enjoyable activities, such as walking, reading, or photography, can help take your mind off worrisome thoughts. Taking time to participate in favorite activities is a small way to improve your wellbeing and can go a long way to helping overcome anxiety.