Mental health is a very high focus these days and anxiety disorders are the most common of mental illness – affecting over 18% of the adult population. Whilst it’s a condition that can often be easily treatable only a small percentage actually seek and receive treatment. The causes can be complex with risk factors such as genetics, personality, significant events in one’s life and brain chemistry all believed to have an effect.
It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in America. Any stressful event in an individual’s life is known to cause it. However, chronic anxiety is neither mild nor brief and it can last for up to six months. It is also known to get worse if the condition is left untreated.
Anxiety disorders, in general, are classified as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobic disorder. Each has its own characteristic symptoms and requires a different line of treatment.
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Anxiety disorder is a broad term that covers many different forms of psychiatric illnesses that include uneasiness, apprehension, worry, fear, bouts of experiencing terror, etc. These are known to affect the psychological and physical health of the individual. Anxiety disorders are known to commonly co-occur with other mental and physical illnesses including alcoholism and substance abuse. Any accompanying illnesses may work to mask the symptoms of anxiety or even worsen them. However, it is important that these illnesses are treated prior to or alongside the anxiety disorder.
There are no specific causes of anxiety – each individual case is different. That said, there are a number of influencing factors which can increase the possibility of developing the condition. These include:
There are also biological reasons that include low levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, exposure to environmental pollutants, increased grey matter, and malfunction of the amygdala in the brain.
Anxiety disorder develops over a period of many years and can begin at any point in an individual’s life. However, the greatest risk of onset is between years of childhood and middle age. No one need fear anything again though, it IS treatable and there are fantastic programs that really do work and there’s one we particularly recommend:
Affected individuals spend the day with worry and tension even if there has been no occurrence that would have provoked the feelings. The concerns may be about health issues, difficulties at places of work, and family problems, among others. Other symptoms are inability to concentrate, getting startled effortlessly, anticipating disaster of some kind for most part of the day, and not being able to sleep or relax easily. Physical symptoms of anxiety include sweating, uncontrolled tremors, headache, upset stomach, frequent urination, lightheadedness, etc.
To know if you’re at risk we’ve identified a number of specific anxiety symptoms and signs of anxiety disorder.
When it comes to the symptoms of anxiety there are two distinct categories – mental and physical. Let’s look at both in turn.
You may have difficulty controlling thoughts which appear to be racing all the time and completely confusing. The best way to describe this is like you’re over thinking and unable to control these rapid, random, illogical thoughts. This, in turn, makes it incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything.
You may feel like something bad is going to happen … acute fear, panic or dread. You’re expecting this doom and alert to it all the time.
This leaves you irritable, unable to sleep properly and your appetite may change – you either can’t eat or can’t stop eating. You want to escape the situation but feel unable to do so as it’s happening around you and you can’t influence it.
The physical effects of the mental symptoms are wide ranging and will differ from case to case. They can include heavy perspiration, fast, uncontrollable breathing, a racing heart, a hot flush and uncontrollable trembling.
Your mouth may become dry, your stomach may ache and you may feel nauseous and dizzy – like you’re going to pass out. More extreme cases can result in actual fainting too.
Energy levels will sap leaving you exhausted all the time. The most severe of cases can even result in hair falling out.
Every cause results in an effect and the effects of anxiety can be life can be life changing.
Career and relationships will suffer. You may find it tough to keep a job as a result of a lack of concentration, time off etc. It will appear to completely take ove you and change your personality meaning that long term relationships are put in jeopardy.
Exhaustion, lack of sleep and changes in diet and appetite mean that you’ll find it hard to look after yourself properly. You’ll be less inclined to try out new things and enjoy new experiences and the things you used to enjoy may fall by the wayside.
Left unchecked it’s only going to get worse. This is why it’s so important to seek professional help.
We started off by saying that typically around 18% of us suufer with anxiety disorders each year. In fact, according to the National Institute for Mental Health, US estimates suggest that this figure increased in the last 12 months to just over 19%. Reseach shows that it can affect adults of any age on a fairly even basis until we reach our 60s and beyond when it’s reported that anxiety disorders drop significantly to just 9%.
Females are at greater risk than males it would seem. 23.4% of females suffer anxiety disorders as oposed to 14.3% of males.
The NIMH measured the degree of impaiment due to anxierty disorders is typically measured using the Sheehan Disability Scale. This shows that out of all thos suffering from anxiety 43.5% had mild symptoms, 33.7 were moderate and 22.8% serious.
The Lancet carried out a study of the affect of the recent global Covid 19 pandemic – you can read their interesting findings >.
High numbers we think you’ll agree but what is concerning is that, according to AADA, less than 37% of all those suffering from anxiety disorders will seek help. We urge you not to fall into this category!
You’ve read about some of the symptoms and effects of anxiety and, if you even suspect that you may be suffering from it your should seek help. Life is tough these days – full of battles, issues and problems to get over. But when these worries and anxiety start to take over and control your thoughts and mind, when no matter what you do, how you distract yourself, how you reason with yourself and how hard you try to think positively that feeling of worry and extreme anxiety just won’t go away, you need to find help.
The first step in overcoming anxiety is acceptance. Once you’ve checked the symptoms and know that you’re experiencing them, you need to accept the fact that you have an anxiety disorder. There’s no shame, there’s no stigma, it’s incredibly common so you’re not alone. At the same time, you need to know that it is not permanent – it CAN be overcome.
So, if you accept that you have an anxiety disoder but believe that you can beat it, then seek help and you are on the right road to recovery!
A medical cause will first be ruled out by your doctor after a physical examination and a medical checkup. Assuming all is OK medically then treatment will be recommended depending on your own specific situation.
Anxiety disorders are treated with specific types of psychotherapy, medications or both. Some self-help techniques are also seen to provide good results in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Treatment choices are dependent on the problem that is present in the individual.
Although medications cannot be used to cure anxiety disorders completely, they can be used to control the physical symptoms. Medications should only be prescribed by the consulting physicians or psychiatrists.
A wide variety of medications including benzodiazepines and antidepressants are used. Antidepressants cause symptoms to fade in 4 to 6 weeks’ time. SSRIs that alter the levels of neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain are also sometimes used. They have fewer side effects than antidepressants. Tricyclics are used to treat anxiety disorders. They are started on low doses which are gradually increased. Beta blockers help to keep certain physical symptoms under control. It is important to be aware of the fact that some of the medications have an effect only as long as they are taken regularly and it is possible for the symptoms to recur if the medications are stopped.
Any psychotherapy is provided by a single psychiatrist or alongside and additional team of counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also seen to bring positive results in the treatment of anxiety disorders. The thinking patterns that support the anxiety and fears can be controlled with the cognitive part. The behavioral part of the therapy helps to change the response or the way in which the individual reacts to the triggers or situations that cause anxiety.
Self help techniques that help to alleviate anxiety disorders include practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation exercises. Reduction of consumption of alcohol, getting adequate rest and sleep, weaving sound nutritional habits into the daily diet, regularly exercising the body, and developing a positive attitude are also seen to help people reduce the severity of such disorders.
It is not unusual for social anxiety to go undetected for years so treatment for anxiety is also delayed. So much time may have passed that certain behaviours that foster fear may have developed. In tailoring a treatment plan, one of the first goals will be to abolish these behaviours so you can properly deal with your fears and issues.
Your doctor will determine whether or not you have generalized anxiety or a social anxiety disorder before any treatment is prescribed. A generalized anxiety disorder means you are afraid of major life issues along with minor, day-to-day stresses. Social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, puts your in fear social situations such as worry about meeting people, being observed or performing in front of others. Typically, combining medications and counselling works very well but milder conditions.
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You weren’t born with particular fears or anxiety – instead you have developed them along your life journey so far. In very simple terms Hypnotherapy works by re-setting the mind to produce the rational response to a specific situation or environment that you had before the phobia was initially triggered off. Find Out More >
In simple terms Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT as it’s more commonly referrred to, is a talking therapy which takes your specific issue, fear or specific phobia and focusses on your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes and how they affect your behaviour and emotions in respect of this issue. It takes on the notion that your thoughts (cognition) creates emotions which, in turn, controls our reactions (behaviour). Find Out More >
Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP combines neurology and linguistics and creates a sort of programming that helps people change their thinking habits, help them deal with anxiety, stress, depression and overcome particular fears. In short, this means taking a specific fear or phobia and disassociating and reframing the experience to prevent the irrational response. Find Out More >
Whilst these natural methods work in some cases and help in most there are some amazing treatment programs that can and do really help – there’s one we particularly recommend:
Below are five of the most effective natural methods for dealing with anxiety.
Every person living with anxiety should develop tools they can use to reduce their anxiety when they feel their anxiety level rising. Relaxation techniques are among the best tools you can use because the effect is almost immediate and you can do them practically anywhere. Three of the most popular relaxation techniques for controlling anxiety include:
While there is plenty of information on these relaxation techniques on the internet, you can also check for yogi and medication classes in your area. Many community centers and community colleges will offer these types of courses, often for free or for a nominal fee.
The busy hectic schedule that many of us experience in modern society can be overwhelming for someone living with anxiety. It is important to take brief respites from the hustle and bustle so the anxiety can be released before it builds up too much. Find a quiet place away from sources of stress that you find relaxing and allow yourself to just wind down a bit. Instead of drinking a caffeinated drink like coffee or cola, try a relaxing hot or cold herbal tea like peppermint teat or chamomile tea. If you are at work, you may want to try sitting in your car at break time, especially if you can park your vehicle where you have something serene to gaze upon.
It has been proven repeatedly that exercise is an excellent method of improving both anxiety and depression levels. You should try to engage in an exercise that you enjoy for maximum benefit.
Some people prefer a brisk walk at the beach or park, feeling the wind hit their face and listening to the sounds of nature. Others prefer an indoor treadmill where they can get lost in their thoughts or perhaps watch or listen to a news program. Just remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to exercising. For example, in those who suffer from social anxiety as part of their anxiety may not enjoy going to a public gym or a busy park, preferring instead peace and solitude.
You may need to try multiple types of exercise before you hit upon one or more types that truly appeal to you and that you’ll want to do repeatedly.
It can not be emphasized enough how poor diet can exacerbate an anxiety condition. Sugar is one of the worst culprits in worsening anxiety so if you want to keep it simple, you can set your mind on the goal of reducing your sugar intake as much as possible. Remember that condiments like salad dressing, ketchup, and mayonnaise often contain substantial amounts of sugar. You will also need a continuous supply of natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For this, you should try to eat generous portions of dark green leafy vegetables every day as well as a variety of other vegetables in every color of the rainbow.
Omega-3 is another important nutrient to relieving anxiety. The best sources of this are fatty fishes like salmon, trout, sardines, and herring. Other good sources of omega-3 include white fish, shrimp, crab, eggs from grass fed chickens, grass fed beef, walnuts, and flax seed.
Some people living with anxiety find it easier to cope with their situation if they communicate regularly with others who share the same type of problems. Most communities offer in person support groups for anxiety. However, this can be inconvenient for some, and for those with social anxiety, it can be too overwhelming at times, and even become a new source of anxiety. In these cases, connecting with others online who have issues with anxiety seems to be the perfect solution. There are many forums and email discussion groups devoted to living with anxiety. In this way, you can sign on at the most convenient times for your schedule and take breaks from these connections whenever you feel the need.
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