Anxiety: Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes
Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge that adults and children face. For anyone who has experienced this, there is no question in your mind when you are feeling anxious. Anxiety can feel and affect each person differently. For some, it’s a racing heartbeat and an overwhelming feeling that something bad is going to happen at all times. For many, it is a very difficult thing to explain; as you try to tell others you feel anxious and they ask “Why?” the answer for most of us is usually, “I don’t know.” The source of anxiety can be so difficult to pinpoint, as there is not often a readily identifiable issue or challenges around which you are feeling anxious—such as an approaching test, or breakup, or even death. Many times it comes out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, and it can affect the ability to concentrate, sleep, and carry out ordinary tasks.
There are quite a few types of anxiety; knowing these sometimes makes it easier to identify what you are feeling.
The six common types of anxiety disorders are:
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive, uncontrollable worry about a range of ordinary situations such as health, work, or finances.
Social phobia or social anxiety disorder
Social phobia or social anxiety disorder causes people to avoid social or performance situations for fear of being embarrassed or rejected.
- Panic disorder: Panic disorder is associated with regular panic attacks, which are sudden, intense episodes of irrational fear, shortness of breath, dizziness, and other physical symptoms.
- Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia is often associated with panic disorder, and involves avoiding certain situations due to fear of having a panic attack.
- Specific phobias: Specific phobias are irrational fears that only apply to one particular situation, such as a fear of animals, insects, places, or people (for example, claustrophobia is a specific fear of enclosed or confined spaces).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves unwanted thoughts and impulses (obsessions), causing repetitive, routine behaviors (compulsions) as a way of coping with anxiety.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when feelings of fear or avoidance do not fade after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic life event. It involves upsetting memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping.
WHAT CAUSES MY ANXIETY?
As noted before, the “cause” or reason for anxiety varies from person to person. If you are feeling anxiety or any of the symptoms above, a useful exercise is to try to talk or write your way through what you are feeling. Even if the words do not make sense or don’t seem to serve a purpose, just starting to write down the first things that come to your mind is a great exercise to gain momentum in the right direction and literally drain whatever is in your head.
Many times while doing this exercise, you will realize there are things creeping up on you that you weren’t even aware of, or things that are bothering you more than you thought.
“An important thing to remember is that no feelings are stupid or unimportant. Trust me. If you feel it or think it, it holds some energy and space in your head and body. So so take it seriously.”
There are a number of treatments for each type of anxiety disorder noted above. Many people have the ability to do self-work and get their anxiety under control—not that it will never return, but when it does comes back, they know what they’re dealing with. Again, menath health encompasses ever-fluctuating conditions, just like your physical health. You don’t always feel your best, you get the flu, stub your toes, etc. Similarly, we will all have periods of highs and lows in our mental health.
Many people prefer to speak to an outside person, a friend, community, or group to get support. Once such resource is the HAPPY app. In the mobile app you can share your stories, give and receive advice, and feel supported. All questions have answers, and it’s a safe place to share.
You can also seek the advice and support of a medical professional, where you can work together to gain a diagnosis.
You will likely be diagnosed with anxiety if the symptoms are affecting your ability to function in some way—either at work, school, or in social settings. Your medical professional can also administer a questionnaire to determine if you have depression and how severe the problem may be.
The important thing to remember here is that anxiety is extremely common. Think about it: when you are riding the train or driving or in a line for something and there is a group of people, 1 in 5 is having the same experience with anxiety as you are. We just don’t walk around with a badge or label to let others know what we’re feeling. I hope that as we work toward a more compassionate and aware world, people will start to be more expressive about their experiences, as we are all in the same boat.