What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. This can be a normal reaction to stress. This natural reaction can help to boost energy and assist with ability to focus, however, for individuals who have anxiety disorders, this fear can be constant and overwhelming. An anxiety disorder can make it difficult for an individual to decipher between real and imagined danger2.
Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorder
We all deal with anxiety. It is a natural response that we all exhibit from time to time. Our bodies exert this response as an internal warning system to alert us of danger, in order to prepare our bodies to fight back or remove ourselves from this dangerous situation. Anxiety can be a good thing, such as providing motivation to study for a test or complete a necessary task. Even exciting events can bring on anxiety, such as graduation, getting a new home, moving to a new place, or having a baby. While all people will deal with this to an extent, some with anxiety disorders experience anxiety on a different level.
- Related to specific problem or situation.
- Ends when the situation or problem is over/resolved.
- Is within a reasonable proportion of the situation.
- Has realistic meaning with regards to a legitimate problem or situation.
- Pops up unexpectedly, at times with no known reason.
- The response may be disproportional to the problem/situation.
- Can involve unrealistic anxiety or fear of unlikely scenarios.
- Sometimes continues beyond resolution of the problem/situation.
- May feel impossible to control or alleviate.
- Can lead to avoidance of potentially triggering situations 3.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Is a disorder that involves a persistent feeling of anxiety/dread, which often interferes with daily life. This is different than normal levels of anxiety due to stressful life events. Those with this disorder may have frequent anxiety for months or years. Symptoms of GAD include:
- Feeling restless, wound up, on edge.
- Becoming easily fatigued or irritable.
- Finding difficulty concentrating.
- Having unexplained headaches, muscle aches, stomaches, or unexplained pains.
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
- Sleep problems, especially difficulty falling or staying asleep.
People with Panic Disorder have frequent, unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear, discomfort, or feelings of loss of control, even unprompted by any specific trigger. It is important to note that not all people who experience panic attacks have panic disorder. Symptoms of a Panic Attack include:
- Pounding/racing heart.
- Chest Pain.
- Feelings of impending doom.
- Feelings of being out of control.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched/judged by other people. This fear of social situations may be so intense that it feels beyond their control. This can get in the way of work, school, or other everyday tasks. Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder may include:
- Racing or pounding heart.
- Feeling self-conscious/fearful that people will judge them.
- Rigid body posture or speaking with extremely soft voice.
- Blushing, sweating, trembling.
- Trouble keeping eye contact or socializing with people they don’t know4.
Simple Coping Skills
Get Your Body Moving:
recent has found that high-intensity and moderate-intensity interval training can assist in reduction of anxiety. Think of some of the ways that you can get your body moving.
Re-connect with Nature:
Evidence has shown that mental well-being and reduction of stress can be achieved through being in nature. For example, this could be through going for a walk, relaxing on the patio, or taking your dog to the park. Being outdoors and having access to sunlight produces vitamin D and serotonin, which both are proven to boost mood.
Challenge Your Thought Pattern:
We all utilize cognitive distortions, which can contribute to anxiety. These distortions are essentially mental filters that fuel anxiety. While these ‘filters’ are intended to make our lives simpler and prepare ourselves for possible situations, they typically cause more harm than good. To learn more about cognitive distortions and how to combat them, check out our Cognitive Distortions article5.
Meditation can be a valuable coping skill through helping to view your thoughts from a different perspective. This can be done through simply closing your eyes and trying to empty your mind, or you can utilize meditation apps, meditation podcasts, or meditation walk-throughs on YouTube.
Distract Your Mind in Productive Ways:
While people oftentimes try to distract themselves in counterproductive ways, such as engaging in substance use, distraction in positive ways can be beneficial in the moment. While this may not help the root of the problem, and tackling that is recommended as well, in moments of high anxiety, it can help to stay occupied by reading a book, spending time with friends, or participating in a hobby.
Write Down Your Thoughts:
Journaling has been found to reduce both anxiety and stress. Being able to see your thoughts on paper, becoming something tangible, seems to make them feel more attainable. A study conducted in 2018 asked participants with high anxiety and medical conditions to journal 3 days a week for a three month time period. At the completion of this study, participants had noticeably fewer anxiety symptoms after just one month of journaling6.
Anxiety can be overwhelming due to the racing thoughts regarding the subject of the anxiety. Grounding exercises can help to take you out of your head and bring you back to the moment. By placing your concentration on the physical environment, it shifts your focus away from the anxious thoughts7.
If you are looking for a therapist to discuss anxiety and helpful coping skills with, our therapists through Online-Therapy.com provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
We have a variety of therapists who would love to help you with mental health concerns, while also keeping in mind your perspective as a member of this community. Our platform offers a complete online therapy toolbox which includes time with a personal therapist who can support you throughout your journey. If this is something you have interest in, we would love to hear from you.
When you are ready, head over to www.online-therapy.com, we are looking forward to helping you!
Harvard Health Publishing. How to recognize and tame your cognitive distortions. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-recognize-and-tame-your-cognitive-distortions-202205042738). Accessed on 09/18/22.
Healthline. Do You Live With Anxiety? Here are 13 Ways to Cope. (https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-cope-with-anxiety#quick-coping-methods). Accessed on 09/14/22.
Here to Help. What’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder? (https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/q-and-a/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder). Accessed on 09/16/22.
Medline Plus. Anxiety. (https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html). Accessed on 09/17/22.
National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders). Accessed on 09/19/22.
Psych Central. Feeling Anxious? 7 Coping Skills to Try. (https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/coping-skills-for-anxiety). Accessed on 09/18/22.
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