Understanding Anxiety

How to Recognize It and When to Seek Treatment

Panic attack in public place Woman having panic disorder in cit

By Sophie Bishop

Have you ever felt a sinking feeling in your stomach that won’t go away? Have you ever woken up with heart palpitations and spent the rest of the day trying to overcome them?

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, more than 40 million adults in the US suffer from anxiety. In addition, only 36.9% receive the treatment they need. Undoubtedly, anxiety can be debilitating if not treated properly and can be detrimental to your quality of life. But what exactly is anxiety? And what are the red flags that signal that you need help?

What Is Anxiety?

It’s important to note that anxiety is a natural flight and flight response to stressful situations. Anxiety is an essential part of the human experience, as it alerts us to dangerous situations and helps us to react accordingly.

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at different points in their lives, and it can be helpful in specific situations. Feeling anxious before a crucial exam or walking alone at night is only natural.

However, anxiety can become a problem when it becomes a chronic event or when your fears or worries are disproportionate to a particular situation. Chronic anxiety affects your daily life and makes it difficult for you to enjoy the things you love most.

What’s The Difference Between Normal Anxiety And Anxiety Disorders?

While normal anxiety is the occasional feeling of stress, anxiety, and nervousness, anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that affect all aspects of your life. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent anxiety and excessive concern about things. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when an individual has a constant stream of unwanted thoughts and habitual behaviors, while panic disorders lead to recurrent episodes of intense fear. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after exposure to an extreme event, and social phobia is characterized by an overwhelming fear of being around other people.

How Do I Know If I Suffer From Anxiety?

Regardless of the type of anxiety you’re experiencing, there are several mental and physical symptoms to look out for. Mental symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, ruminating, excessive fear, irritability, a feeling of impending doom, and dissociation, to name but a few. Trembling or shaking, muscle tension or pain, shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat, and sweating or nausea are some physical symptoms that signal that your anxiety has gone beyond “normal.”

When Should I Seek Treatment For My Anxiety?

If you experience some of the above daily, seeking professional help is essential. While talking to a trusted family member or friend is good, discussing your feelings with a professional can help you take this crucial step to getting treatment.

If you don’t know where to start, contacting your primary care physician or mental health professional for advice is a great way to determine the best approach. They can recommend therapy, breathing exercises, and grounding techniques to incorporate into your daily routine.

Therapy is an excellent treatment for anxiety, as it can help you deal with the root of the problem and learn new coping mechanisms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), mindfulness-based therapy, and exposure therapy are some types of therapy that are particularly helpful to people with chronic anxiety. CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on learning coping mechanisms and changing negative thought patterns that lead to anxious feelings.

Your primary care physician may also recommend medications to manage anxiety symptoms. Your provider may also recommend you consult a psychiatrist if your anxiety is moderate to severe.

How Can I Help Myself?

In addition to seeking professional help, taking care of yourself is imperative. There are several self-care techniques that you can implement to help you manage your anxiety symptoms.

Journaling can help you process certain situations and identify triggers or patterns that lead to anxious feelings. It’s a powerful tool to recognize what is going well and write positive affirmations to help shift your thoughts when you feel anxious and to focus on what is currently in front of you.

Breathing exercises such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are excellent self-help techniques. By practicing breath focus and deep breathing, you’ll be able to lower your blood pressure and slow your heartbeat – which is typically affected when you have an anxiety attack.

Yoga has proven to be incredibly effective in reducing stress and anxiety. The combination of movement and slow breathing impacts both the physical and mental aspects, leading to a lower level of anxiety.

Lastly, caring for your physical self is no brainer when managing your anxiety. Enough sleep is essential to help you deal with difficult experiences and feelings while eating a healthy diet and maintaining a stable blood sugar level can make a difference to your mood and mental health. Moreover, regular exercise can quickly help alleviate anxiety and stress and provide several hours of mental relief.

Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out!

Dealing with anxiety can be extremely daunting. There’s no shame in seeking help, and reaching out to close friends, family, and mental health professionals is life-changing. With the right strategies and support, you’ll be well-equipped to manage anxiety and lead a fulfilling life.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.

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