The Blue and Gold

All About Anxiety

Nadia Memari, Editor/Journalist

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We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives – Maybe it was right before a big presentation, when all your peers’ pressuring eyes seemed to be fixed on you, and you didn’t practice at all. Maybe it was right before the due date of your homework assignment, when you hadn’t even written one word on your piece of paper, leaving you struggling to brainstorm believable excuses before the teacher asked what was wrong. Or maybe it was before that terrifying roller coaster that your friend kept persuading you to ride with him, and you just didn’t want to crush his hopes – but at the same time, you didn’t want to crush your bones, either.

No matter what kind of person you are, occasional anxiety has most likely been present in your life – After all, anxiety now and then can be a beneficial response in certain situations. If you were traversing the forests alone, and were approached by a suspicious-looking man, anxiety would allow you to stay cautious and potentially save yourself from disaster.

 

But when does anxiety really become an issue? And how severe does it have to be to be considered a disorder?


Usually, these disorders are self-diagnosable. If your stress levels appear to be fine, then you most likely don’t have anything to worry about. If excessive worry interferes with daily functioning and makes it difficult to live a happy life, then it probably is something to worry about.

 

What Does Anxiety Do?

Don’t be alarmed, but anxiety can have serious mental and physical effects on an individual. It not only causes severe stress and can lead to depression, but it also ruins eyesight, kills brain cells, weakens the immune system, worsens skin problems, disrupts your digestive system, and also isn’t too great for your heart. Now, doesn’t that make you feel so much more relieved?

Anxiety comes with many other noticeable effects, too – the most common ones being:

  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Lack of concentration
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Racing thoughts
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Excessive worry
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling

 

Anxiety can also cause social withdrawal, problems functioning at school or work, poor quality of life, and may also even lead to suicide in serious cases.

If many of these symptoms sound too familiar to you, you should consider seeking assistance.

How Common Is Anxiety?

Anxiety isn’t normal – but it is definitely common. With around 40 million (18.1%) Americans claiming to have some form of this disorder, it makes its way to the top of the list of most common mental illnesses in the United States. Despite its high treatability, only a shocking 36.9% ever receive treatment! General anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults, and often occurs with major depression. Only 43.2% are receiving treatment. Specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7% of the U.S. population. Social anxiety, the next most common form of anxiety, affects 15 million adults (6.8%). 36% of suffering adults report experiencing this disorder for ten or more years before receiving treatment. Panic disorder is suffered by 6 million adults, and it is more likely to affect females. 7.7 million adults struggle with PTSD, or 3.5% of the U.S. population. And finally, the least common form of anxiety, OCD, affects 2.2 million adults, or 1% of the population.

 

What Causes Anxiety?

Sometimes, anxiety issues might be a sign of an underlying health problem. Heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, drug misuse, withdrawal from medications, chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome, and tumors that produce specific fight-or-flight hormones can all cause severe stress. It is more likely to be caused by a health issue if: you don’t have any relatives who suffered/suffers from an anxiety disorder, you don’t avoid certain objects or situations that trigger anxiety, or if you have a sudden occurrence of anxiety that seems unrelated to life events. Risk factors of developing an anxiety disorder, other than health issues, include: trauma, personality, other mental disorders, alcohol/drugs, normal stress buildup due to work/school/finances/relationships, and having a blood-related family member who has anxiety. Excessive anxiety is often caused by the stress of daily living and any combination of the above.

 

What Kinds Of Anxiety Disorders Are There?

There are five main types of anxiety disorders: social anxiety disorder (SAD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In addition to these illnesses, there are also specific phobias – the most common ones including acrophobia (fear of heights), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). Social anxiety disorder involves a feeling of overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in regular social situations. It can be solely about one type of situation – Like public speaking or eating, but, in the worst cases, it can be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime other people are present. Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks – which are sudden periods of extreme fear, and can be accompanied by palpitations, shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing or swallowing, numbness, or a general feeling that something terrible is happening. It is more common in females than males. Posttraumatic stress disorder is characterized by severe anxiety, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts, and nightmares, and is usually brought on by the witnessing of a terrifying event (usually one that is life-threatening). General anxiety disorder consists of severe, excessive, and persistent anxiety that interferes with daily functioning. Sufferers of this disorder find it difficult to control their fears and can worry about a number of things including money, health, family, work, or others. They also might expect the worst in situations that usually wouldn’t spark any concern. Finally, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a commonly misunderstood mental illness characterized by persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours that he or she feels the need to repeat over and over (compulsions). Common obsessions include: fear of contamination, fear of causing harm, fear of losing control, fear of unwanted sexual thoughts, and obsessions related to perfectionism. Compulsions can either be physical rituals or mental rituals, and can include, not only cleaning, but: repeating body movements and activities, excessive checking, rearranging things until everything seems “right,” avoiding situations that trigger obsessions, counting and recounting, and silently repeating special words, images or numbers.

 

How Do I Deal With It?

The thought of informing others about your disorder can seem overwhelmingly scary.

After all, what if they misunderstand you? Or judge you? What if nobody will care or relate, and only pay attention to your issues in an act of politeness?

With this psychological disorder, it is definitely common to experience these worries, and with social anxiety, especially. But telling people about your worries might just be the best decision you will ever make. If you’re suffering from a panic attack, tell people. If you’re suffering from an unbearable wave of intrusive thoughts, tell people. If there has just been something worrying you that you can’t seem to take your mind off of, then tell people. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it sounds. It doesn’t matter if people can’t understand you. Just tell people. It will feel like a giant weight has been lifted off your chest. The thought of it might seem terrifying, and you might be pessimistic as to what might happen as a result – but this is just your anxiety talking. You will not regret it.

Talk with your family, friends, or possibly even better – a professional. And if you happen to be afraid of interacting or scheduling appointments with therapists in person, there are multiple affordable therapy sites that let you express yourself online – Some even come with free trials!

Betterhelp would be a fine example, as the first week of effective therapy comes with no cost, and the following ones cost $65 each. Even if it does seem expensive or unaffordable, there are financial aids the site can provide that will help you pay the fees, because, as cheesy as it might sound, no amount of money can ever surpass the value of your life and happiness.

…But what if you’re too young and you don’t want your parents finding out?

There are many people who have struggled with anxiety, or still struggle with anxiety without ever informing their parents or guardians for quite a bit of time – And once again, it really would be the better decision to inform your parents instead of attempting to hide your disorder. But, if you do happen to think this way, and would really prefer avoiding in-person confrontation and paid-for online therapy, there are numerous forums online that let all sorts of people with all forms of anxiety disorders share their fears and provide responses to others’ issues – On these forums, no worries are too bizarre.These are places where almost everyone has gone through what you have gone through, and they look at your posts and comments with an open mind, even if they haven’t worried about any of your specific fears. https://www.reddit.com/r/Anxiety/ would be a perfect example. There are nearly 200,000 subscribers, and posts regarding anxiety-related issues every minute – When you’re on this subreddit, it really feels like you aren’t alone.There are 200,000 people who are having the same mental struggles as you are now – It’s a family, and you’re all there to look out for each other. Additionally, there is also https://www.reddit.com/r/ptsd/, with 16,000 subscribers, https://www.reddit.com/r/OCD/, with around 25,000 subscribers, https://www.reddit.com/r/socialanxiety/, with nearly 150,000 subscribers, and virtually a subreddit for every (at least somewhat common) mental disorder. Reddit would definitely be a top recommendation for expressing your issues online.

In addition to expressing your fears to others, you can also exercise, chew gum, meditate, listen to music, write in a journal, and even just try laughing – All of these activities have been proven to reduce stress. Anxiety medication can also help, but be aware that it doesn’t always work well for every person. However you decide to help yourself, just make a change. Don’t let anxiety change you.

 

How Do I Help A Person With Anxiety?

Knowing friends or family members who struggle with anxiety might be frustrating and helping them might seem out of your hands – but there are always ways you can assist them!

The first step to assisting people who suffer from this disorder is to know what form of anxiety they have – because OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety all have their differences. Educate yourself on the disorder and the people, and ask them what type of support they would prefer, if any support at all. Know that anxiety is never really practical, therefore practical responses might not be of any usefulness. During a moment of distress, it could possibly even make things worse. Encourage them to list their symptoms and fears, as that alone might bring them instant relief, and be sure to act understanding and non-judgemental – Judgement might be the reason they avoid expressing themselves! Give them moments to feel themselves and let them cry if they need to. Tell them your perspective on them hasn’t changed, even through their moments of significant stress. Know that their anxiety-induced behaviours are separate from who they are as people. Provide support for them if they’re afraid of completing certain tasks, such as answering phone calls. And if they prefer not to talk about it, you could also just try engaging in activities with these people in order to distract them from the negativity they feel. Walking with them, playing games, and watching TV are all activities that can occupy their minds. Anxiety is a serious issue, but cracking occasional jokes about it may also help as well!

Sources :

https://www.verywellmind.com/is-it-normal-anxiety-or-an-anxiety-disorder-2584401

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#section17

https://www.anxiety.org/weighing-pros-cons-of-antianxiety-medication

https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_disorder

https://www.psychguides.com/guides/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/

https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/mental-health/the-most-common-phobias/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety/what-causes-anxiety.php

 

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