Anxiety. We’ve all heard the word and have likely experienced some form of it or another. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 18% of the population. For many individuals, anxiety is a chronic mental health condition requiring ongoing medical care and routine coping techniques.
While no two cases of anxiety disorders are alike, they have similar symptoms and characteristics. Many people feel anxious from time to time, but anxiety disorders are different. Those suffering from anxiety disorders may constantly feel overwhelmed by feelings of worry, fear, stress, and nervousness. These feelings can be debilitating and frequently interfere with daily life and routine activities.
There are several kinds of anxiety disorders. The most common are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Panic disorder lends to sudden feelings of panic or terror that occur often without warning. Social anxiety disorder, also referred to as social phobia, includes excessive worry and feelings of severe self-consciousness during routine social interactions. Phobias related to anxiety disorder create powerful, atypical feelings of fear towards specific items or situations. Lastly, generalized anxiety disorder is the unprovoked feeling of excessive and unrealistic worry about things that are out of the person’s control.
A few generalized symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Feelings of fear, uneasiness, panic
- Inability to be still or calm
- Sleep problems
- Racing heart, shortness of breath
- Clammy skin, dry mouth, muscle tension
Anxiety is on the rise
People often say they are stressed out, but are they really? One study found that in the 2010s vs. the 1980s, teens were twice as likely to have seen a professional for mental health issues; college students were 50% more likely to say they felt overwhelmed; and adults were more likely to say that they felt “everything was an effort.” Additional research found that rates of anxiety disorders have increased by as much as twentyfold over the last 30 years.
Anxiety disorders may be on the rise due to several factors. Jean M Twenge, Ph.D., found that there are likely three main reasons why people seem to be suffering from anxiety more frequently these days. First, she notes that our relationships and community ties are weaker. Second, we are more focused on goals like money, fame, and image which additional research has found are correlated to depression and anxiety. Last, she states that our expectations have become exceedingly high.
Working with your health care provider
Many anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only one-third of those suffering receive treatment. It is crucial to work with your health care provider to properly diagnose and then develop a treatment plan. Your practitioner will evaluate you by asking questions about your medical history, family history, and will complete a physical exam. While there are no standard lab tests to diagnose anxiety disorders, your practitioner will likely complete a series of questionnaire-type tests to aid in diagnosis.
After a diagnosis has been determined, your treatment program may include counseling by a trained mental healthcare provider, relaxation therapy, recommended changes to lifestyle and diet, and/or medication that helps lessen or alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Living with anxiety
While it can be extremely challenging to live day-to-day life while coping with an anxiety disorder, it’s possible. Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, however there are many things sufferers can do to lessen the impacts of negative symptoms. In addition to working with your health care provider, those suffering from anxiety disorders often find physical activity/exercise, adequate rest, good nutrition, and lessening or limiting your consumption of caffeine improves their symptoms. Talk therapy or attending support groups may provide additional benefits to those suffering from anxiety disorders.
To learn more about maintaining your mental well-being, contact a care provider at Northwest Primary Care.