February 17, 2019
Our minds are very powerful. Many of the processes that take place are subconscious. They have to be otherwise we wouldn’t be able to go about our days and carry on normal tasks. It’s truly amazing to think how we have evolved to protect ourselves. Think about the “flight or fight” response, for example. No one consciously says to themselves “Okay, body. Initiate adrenaline,” when we are faced with a dangerous situation. It just happens and we get that extra boost to defend ourselves or escape from harm. This is an amazing bodily process that can get us out of some tough spots. That is, when it’s working properly. But, what happens when your brain delivers this message when you’re not in danger? Why do some people’s bodies flood with adrenaline just sitting at their desk? This constant state of alertness and always being “on” is what it’s like living with anxiety.
We all experience periods of great stress or nervousness at points during our lives. That is completely normal. It’s the rare person who is completely cool, calm, and collected right before a big interview for a new job. That butterflies in the stomach feeling and sweaty palms is the typical response one would expect. But, when you always feel like that, there may be a problem. Anxiety is often characterized as a feeling of dread and fear that persists more often than not, regardless of the situation, though in some types of anxiety there is a trigger. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the United States. It’s believed about 40 million adults suffer from the condition. That’s roughly 18% of the population. Thanks to a better understanding of the condition and better diagnostic testing, more people are recognizing what it is that they are feeling.
The unfortunate thing is only about one-third of people with anxiety decide to seek treatment. No one should needlessly suffer.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety presents with a variety of symptoms. In panic attacks, they can be so acute that one may believe they are having a heart attack. In fact, many people who have never experienced a panic attack before do end up going to the ER because they don’t understand why they would be experiencing these sensations.
With anxiety, it’s not unusual to feel an irregular heartbeat, rapid pulse, shaking hands, shortness of breath, lack of concentration, paranoia, irritability, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. Some people also sweat profusely, while others want to wrap themselves up in a blanket. If the anxiety attack is bad enough, crying or hysterics aren’t unusual.
Types of anxiety
There are three main types of anxiety that people generally seek treatment for. They are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the type many people associate with the word “anxiety.” It’s the persistent feeling of being on edge despite no obvious cause. Some people are anxious constantly while others will experience a cyclical effect where it’s worse for months at a time. Many people with GAD are irritable and fatigued from constantly being alert. They may also have difficulty performing daily tasks like going to work. People with GAD have higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome.
Panic disorder is characterized by episodes of acute anxiety where a person feels like they may be suffering a cardiac event or “losing their mind.” The fear is overwhelming and the physical sensations are overwhelming. Symptoms typically last for around 10 minutes but can last up to an hour in some people if not longer.
Social anxiety is characterized by feelings of anxiety being triggered by having to interact with others. People may panic when in large crowds. They may find dating too stressful to engage in. They may not even be able to maintain eye contact.
Treatment varies from person to person depending on the severity of the condition. Psychotherapy and counseling can be very beneficial because it can identify root causes and provide a person with the coping skills necessary to control their anxiety symptoms. With the right learned behavioral skills, a person can calm themselves down and better assess a situation. Some people benefit from medication. A mild dose of medication as needed may work well for someone who needs that extra backup plan when in uncomfortable situations. Your psychiatrist will work with you to come up with the treatment plan that best suits your needs.
If you’ve been suffering from anxiety, it’s time to seek the help you need to manage it. Many people suffer from anxiety for years before reaching a point where they feel like they have no choice but to seek professional help. Don’t let yourself reach that stage. Seek help now. Relief from anxiety is possible with the right psychiatric care. Book an appointment online today to schedule a consultation. The team at Advanced Psychiatry Associates is here to provide you with the professional care you need so you can get your life back from anxiety.