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Anxiety

Do you frequently feel restless, on edge, or consumed by worries about what could go wrong? Anxiety can disrupt your performance at work or school, strain family life, complicate romantic relationships, and make social interactions challenging.

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Overview

Do you often feel anxious, uneasy, unmotivated, or struggle with relationship issues? Do intrusive thoughts bother you? Do you frequently feel insecure and worry about what others think of you? These emotional challenges might be linked to an anxiety disorder. The good news is that anxiety usually responds well to 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 COVID-19, anxiety levels were already increasing. The pandemic only intensified this long-term trend. Psychologists and social workers noticed a rise in both the severity and frequency of mental health challenges before and during the pandemic. In fact, the “Hedonometer” at the University of Vermont recorded the lowest levels of happiness ever seen in the United States.

Modern life sets the stage for anxiety. Factors like working from home, reduced social interactions, less time with friends, weaker family connections, more time indoors, and excessive screen time all play a role in rising anxiety levels. Many people are struggling to manage their stress, with some turning to alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Anxiety levels, once elevated, tend to stay high or get higher

Everyone is naturally programmed to respond to anxiety. When our brain detects danger, like a bear emerging from the woods or an approaching speeding car, anxiety helps us take action. If we’re worried about missing a plane, it makes us rush to the gate. When a work deadline looms, it can give us an extra burst of energy to get things done.

When we don’t effectively handle an anxiety trigger, or if it lingers, we can become trapped in stress-induced mental patterns. This can lead to unhealthy and negative coping habits, causing us to feel anxious even after the original trigger is gone.

Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety can manifest in various ways and vary from person to person and throughout different stages of life. Conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, social anxiety, and phobias are all examples of anxiety-related disorders.

Symptoms

Your symptoms may depend on the specific anxiety disorder that you experience.

Social anxiety can make it challenging for you to voice your thoughts at work or school, participate in social gatherings, or even feel comfortable stepping out of the house.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) typically includes ongoing feelings of concern or worry. Additional symptoms may involve feeling restless or on edge, experiencing fatigue, struggling to concentrate, having trouble sleeping, feeling irritable, and experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, stomach discomfort, or unexplained pain.

Panic attacks may include symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, shaking, chest pain, or feeling like things are spiraling out of control.

Phobias are strong fears that are much bigger than the actual danger posed by the object or situation. For instance, someone might have a fear of flying, heights, or being in tight spaces.

An illustration showing the different anxiety symptoms.

Causes and risk factors

The likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder is influenced by both genetics and environment. Experiencing tough life events being in challenging environments, having family members with anxiety, or having other mental health issues, can all increase the chances of struggling with anxiety.

Some physical conditions, like thyroid problems and irregular heartbeats, are linked to a higher chance of experiencing anxiety disorders. Also, consuming lots of caffeine or using substances excessively can increase the likelihood of developing anxiety.

Treatment for anxiety

Anxiety disorders often improve with psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” For therapy to work best, it should be tailored to your unique situation. By finding the right therapist and approach, you can bring back harmony in your life. You can enjoy a life with less fretting, feeling calmer and more satisfied. You can be more engaged in the present moment, leading to a richer and more fulfilling life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people learn new ways of thinking, reacting, and handling situations to decrease anxiety and fear. CBT has been thoroughly studied and proven effective.

Exposure therapy, a technique within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is used to treat anxiety disorders. It works by addressing the worries that fuel anxiety, helping individuals gradually confront the activities they’ve been avoiding. In some cases, relaxation exercises are included alongside exposure therapy.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) uses mindfulness, goal-setting, and various techniques to ease discomfort and anxiety.

Medication can be a valuable support alongside lifestyle adjustments. It might help you balance your mood, enhance your performance at home and work, and encourage self-care. Often, medication works hand-in-hand with therapy and holistic approaches, helping you maintain healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits.

Reach out today

If you’re struggling with anxiety, remember that you’re not alone. Seeking support is a courageous step towards reclaiming your well-being. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Amiee Kauffman Counseling for personalized guidance and compassionate care. You can gain coping skills to overcome obstacles, foster resilience, and create a life filled with peace and fulfillment. Take the first step towards a brighter tomorrow—contact us today.

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