What is Anxiety?

It is normal to experience anxious thoughts occasionally, but when these anxious thoughts persist and affect daily functioning it can be considered an anxiety disorder.  Individuals with anxiety disorder have persistent and recurring thoughts of worry or fear that may result in panic attacks.  The actual situation that may be occurring does not reflect the level of terror and worry the individual may be experiencing.  This can lead the person to avoid individuals or situations that trigger their symptoms affecting their daily lifestyle.  There are a few different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and fear of social situations (agoraphobia).  

What causes Anxiety? 

The causes of anxiety are not so clear, but it seems if you have an anxious personality and experience trauma, it may induce an anxiety disorder.  Additionally, high levels of stress have been associated with developing anxiety disorders.  Particularly,  stress about medical issues or other ongoing stressors such as finances, relationships, or family can be triggers for anxiety.  Additional risk factors include having a first degree relative with an anxiety disorder, having another mental health disorder, or even having certain personality traits.  Oftentimes, drug or alcohol use or withdrawal can worsen anxiety symptoms. 

What are the symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders can manifest themselves in different ways and be triggered by various things.  Some symptoms to look out for is if you start to feel a sense of impending doom, feeling nervous or tense, have trouble concentrating, or having an increased heart rate.  You might start sweating, feel weak or dizzy, start breathing heavily, or experience GI problems.  Your anxiety might begin to affect your sleep or cause you to avoid things that might trigger your symptoms.  If your anxiety symptoms start to interfere with your daily functioning, you think you have a physical health problem triggering your anxiety, or you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions, contact your doctor immediately. 

How to treat Anxiety?

It is very important to seek help early for your anxiety, as it is easier to treat if you find it early.  It would be helpful to prevent anxiety by forming supportive relationships, staying active, and finding things you enjoy to do because this can help take your thoughts off of your anxiety. Additionally, it is important to avoid alcohol or drug use because it can worsen your anxiety symptoms.  Psychotherapy has been shown to be very useful in treating anxiety.  Particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where a therapist helps you develop techniques to combat your anxiety has been very helpful in managing anxiety.  In addition to psychotherapy, your doctor can prescribe medications to help treat anxiety.  For more information visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website.

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