What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders in the United States are the most common mental health issue, affecting more than 40 million adults in the Unites States. Some say the United States is now the most anxious nation in the world. The land of the free has become the land of stress and strife.
Everyone feels anxious now and again. It’s a normal emotion. You may feel nervous before taking a test, when facing a problem at work, or making an important decision. However, people that have an anxiety condition experience intense, excessive, and persistent worries and fears about everyday situations. Many become consumed by the intensity of their emotions that result in physical symptoms like chronic headaches, stomach pain, digestive problems, and muscle aches. People will often try to alleviate their anxiety by avoiding situations that trigger the condition, however end up causing problems in other areas of their life. For instance, a person who has social anxiety may miss class repeatedly in attempt to avoid being in a classroom with others, and fail the class. Some people will turn to alcohol or drugs as a means to escape from their anxiety, and up with an addiction problem.
Anxiety conditions can cause depression, as a person can feel imprisoned by the constant flooding and rumination of thoughts. The distortions of thoughts create false realities that make a person respond in ways that are out of proportion with the actual situation.
Anxiety can often drive a wedge in relationships. The constant fear of being judged or not fitting in with peers can interfere with cultivating friendships or result in a lack of social engagement. A need to be a perfectionist can lead to working long hours and berating yourself for every mistake. Anxiety feelings can be difficult to control because they cause negative thought patterns that affect mood and ultimately behavior.
What Causes Anxiety?
An anxiety condition isn’t developed or caused by a single factor. Often a person’s personality trait, difficult or traumatic childhood or adult experiences, and physical health can all be contributors to developing an anxiety condition.
Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, people who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or need to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
Anxiety can also develop when our environment is unpredictable, unsafe, or unstable. Here are some examples of stressful events that can trigger anxiety.
- Multiple changes in living arrangements
- Repeated financial issues
- Chronic family and relationship problems
- Unhealthy intimate relationships
- Pregnancy or giving birth
- Verbal, sexual, physical, emotional abuse or trauma
- Death or loss of a loved done
- Substance Use or Abuse
Physical Health Factors:
Many times anxiety can develop, due to an underlying medical problem and may not necessarily be a psychological issue. Make sure you talk with your physician to rule out the possible presence of these conditions.
- Hyperthyroidism: An excess of thyroid hormone that increases metabolic rate, and can lead to such symptoms as a rapid heart rate, weight loss and anxiety.
- Lung Disease: Diseases of the lungs and airways, in which the person is unable to get enough oxygen, therefore present with severe anxiety. Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition in which a blood clot travels to the lungs and limits their ability to exchange air. Two prominent symptoms are a rapid heart rate and anxiety.
- Diabetes: A person with diabetes may become anxious over a variety of things that include monitoring their glucose levels, managing weight, and diet. They can also become anxious about the medical complications associated with diabetes like hypoglycemia, and kidney disease.
Coping with Anxiety:
There is no magic bullet for eradicating anxiety. It will require a consistent commitment in developing tools that will help to manage the condition and improve quality of life.
- Mindfulness techniques like mediation or yoga are great tools for calming the mind and unplugging from the intrusion of persistent negative thoughts. With the countless number of apps available on your smart phone or fitness watch, you can reach your Zen in minutes.
- Reflective journaling in the morning is a great way to get you thinking positive about your day. Many of us get up and hustle to get out the door to work or transport children to school. Along the way, we encounter traffic, rude people, and situations that are out of our control that can cause us to go internally haywire. I encourage many of my clients to get up at least an hour earlier to allow time to reflect and ease into their day. Many of my clients will incorporate reading inspirational quotes or use positive affirmations cards. Then write down what the affirmation means to them and visualize how they can apply it to their day.
- Exercising can be extremely beneficial for getting rid of anxious energy. Find something you love like Zumba, Spinning, Cardio kickboxing, Yoga, Strength Training, jogging, hiking, riding your bike, walking, or hip-hop dancing. It doesn’t matter just do it. If you don’t like working out alone then find a friend, and encourage eachother. You can also connect with a community like a meet up active group.
- Do more of what you enjoy. Hobbies or interests are a nice way to whine down and unplug from your day. Focusing on activities that you enjoy will bring calmness to the day and bring some needed balance to your day.