Anxiety affects both your physical and mental health. From symptoms to effective coping mechanisms, we explore everything you need to know about this illness.
Everyone gets anxious from time to time. Life can increase the worry and stress about a wide range of things. Becoming a new parent, losing a job, experiencing a death in the family or moving to a new state are all examples of things that can lead to everyday stress for most people. However, for other individuals, anxiety is a daily part of their life. There are several types of anxiety and each is considered a type of mental illness, which requires treatment and care to keep it managed and under control. Understanding anxiety is your single best tool for making sure you can live your life with it.
People experience anxiety for a variety of reasons. The most common types, according to the Mayo Clinic, are social anxiety, separation anxiety and a specific phobia. Other sources of anxiety include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, adds the National Institute of Mental Health.
Regardless of the type, symptoms are similar and the issue can get in the way of daily tasks and make it hard to keep a job or maintain relationships. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for living with this illness. Learning which ones work best for you is your best bet for learning to live with it.
Generalized anxiety symptoms are usually very much the same, regardless of the type you suffer from. Common ones to look for include nervousness, feeling powerless, feeling a sense of danger or doom, increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, fatigue, a hard time concentrating and hyperventilating, according to the Mayo Clinic. Each case is different and you may experience some or all of the symptoms.
In addition, they may range in severity depending on the situation and might get worse without treatment. Furthermore, each anxiety attack may be different, based on the situation. In some cases, you might have more symptoms or those that are more severe. In other instances, your attack may be minor and easier to deal with.
Specific forms of anxiety produce additional symptoms. For example, separation anxiety, which usually plagues children, causes stress when separated from a loved one, usually the parents. People with a phobia will experience symptoms when exposed to the thing of which they are afraid. Social anxiety causes symptoms in situations where interaction with other people is required. Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving the house and having to do so can cause intense panic. Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves needing things in a certain way and when this doesn’t happen, severe stress can occur.
A panic attack is one of the most severe issues that can stem from anxiety disorders. The person suffering from one often reports that they feel like they are dying or that they are outside their body in a dissociative state during the attack. In fact, many people go to the emergency room, mistaking their panic attack for a heart attack.
Treatment for an this disorder will vary depending on the type and severity of anxiety with which are you are diagnosed. There are several ways you can treat your condition so that it doesn’t interfere with your life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most cases of anxiety are effectively treated with a combination of medications and therapy.
Commonly, both anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are used for anxiety. While they cannot cure the disorder, they can do a lot for controlling it so it is minor or nonexistent as long as the medication regimen is followed. It is important to follow dosage directions very closely as some of these medications can have scary and severe side effects if they are misused. A certain amount of trial and error may be necessary to determine the best medications for you.
The other important aspect of treating anxiety disorders is psychotherapy. This involves meeting with a trained mental health professional to talk it over and work through solutions and techniques to keep it under control during daily life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is the most effective form of psychotherapy. This treatment involves learning new methods for dealing with situations that cause the problem. For example, someone with social anxiety will learn things he or she can do to stay calm when out in public to get through it and prevent embarrassment. Or, someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may work to learn new techniques to provide a sense of comfort and normalcy so that a disruption to the routine doesn’t result in an episode.
The type of treatment you need will depend upon your specific anxiety. Some people need very small doses of medication combined with monthly therapy sessions, while others might need higher medication doses and weekly therapy sessions. It’s important to discuss what’s going on with your doctor or therapist so that you can determine the best course of treatment for you. It’s also vital to follow the treatment plan very carefully to ensure the best results. Usually, you will get a complete written plan that allows you to stick to the program at home without forgetting or becoming confused about what you need to do. In some cases, you can also hire someone who can assist you in working on your treatment plan. This is particularly effective if you have severe anxiety and live alone.
Once you get a diagnosis, you are probably going to spend some time wondering why you are afflicted with the condition. The cause varies among individuals, but it is helpful for many people to understand why they have anxiety, as it can give clues for treating and living with it. The Mayo Clinic reports that some people experience the illness due to a traumatic life event. In other cases, it is a preliminary clue to medical issues, which include diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, cancer, asthma and drug or alcohol abuse or withdrawal.
That’s why it’s so important to talk to a doctor about your anxiety instead of letting it go and learning to live with it. Often, treating a medical condition can also alleviate the symptoms. In addition, anxiety that is left untreated can lead to depression, trouble sleeping, substance abuse, digestive disturbances, headaches and suicide.
In addition to following your medical and mental health treatment plan, you can also make some changes to your lifestyle that can provide further assistance. Exercise is one of the most recommended ways to control your anxiety. This is because it drives your endorphin production, which improves mood and fights depression. Practicing relaxation techniques is another great idea. This might be a warm bath, using scented oils, participating in a yoga class or talking with a friend.
Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol and drugs is also necessary to keep your mood stabilized and prevent addiction issues that can exacerbate anxiety. Getting enough sleep should be another of your priorities. Lack of sleep can alter brain chemical balances, making symptoms worse. Finally, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can go a long way toward helping you stay healthy, body and mind, so that you can live a high-quality life despite suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There have been numerous research studies conducted to learn more about anxiety disorders. Currently, research proves that the condition is likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The National Institute for Mental Health has participated in studies that look at how the various parts of the brain are affected by anxiety. By seeing the brain changes, researchers can make connections between the disorder and the mechanisms of the medications that might help.
Other studies explore how anxiety affects different populations of people, children versus older adults, for example. More research is conducted all the time and the strides being made in the field of mental health are changing and improving consistently. Individuals with anxiety are often encouraged to participate in these studies because they can get access to new medications and styles of treatment, often free of charge. Not only can this help their mental state, but it also contributes information to the study so that new information can be used appropriately.
The quest for a cure continues, but the extensive research done regarding anxiety has come a long way. In fact, most experts say that getting treatment can usually help someone with the illness live a normal, happy life. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, it’s a good idea to speak to a mental health professional for a diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan. Also, be sure to keep in touch with your primary care doctor so that you can be sure your medications for other health issues aren’t interfering with your anxiety pills. This is also important so that your doctor understands your mental health issues and can treat you accordingly when you have an appointment.
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