Anxiety – What is it? What can I do about it?
Anxiety can rear it’s ugly head in many different symptoms, locations, and triggers. Sometimes it can hit for no apparent reason, out of the blue while you’re buying groceries. Other times you may know what’s caused the sudden onset. Oftentimes it’s like a simmering pot, waiting to boil over the edges but only seldom boiling that hot.
Just like depression, anxiety is a real mental health issue and not just an emotion. Not to be confused with nervousness or restless energy, anxiety disorders are frustrating, exhausting, and sometimes debilitating.
What does anxiety look like?
There are a few different types of anxiety. You may only suffer from one type, or all, depending on the severity and causes.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common. Sufferers from generalized anxiety may experience:
- general restlessness
- nervousness for no apparent reason
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- shaky hands
- feeling like you can’t breathe well
- heaviness in the chest, like there’s a weight pressing down
- upset stomach – nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite
- lack of energy
- feeling of impending doom, like something bad’s about to happen
- trouble sleeping
This kind of anxiety hangs around most of the time for sufferers, never really letting up or giving any sort of relief. At it’s worst, it can trigger an anxiety attack:
- rapid heart beat
- inability to focus
- intense feeling of need to get away
- upset stomach
Furthermore, anxiety attacks and panic attacks are not the same thing. A panic attack can be much more severe and it usually characterized by the sufferer feeling like they’re about to die. They can often lead to vomiting and fainting.
Another type of anxiety is social anxiety disorder. Individuals who suffer from social anxiety are often triggered by being around people in public and would rather avoid social situation. Symptoms may include:
- anxiety around meeting new people
- anxiety around crowds of people
- feeling as if everyone is watching them
- anxiety around public speaking or even speaking to a small group of people
- fear of criticism, judgment, attention
Other anxiety disorders include panic disorders (like the panic attacks described above), agoraphobia (fear to leave the home), other phobias (flying, dogs, germs, spiders), obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD – the compulsion to hoard, perform certain tasks, count things, etc.), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD – a set of symptoms resulting from past or current trauma).
You can see, anxiety disorders are varied and complex.
What are my treatment options?
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common, so we’ll start there. Just like with depression, there are a few different plans of attack.
For moderate to severe anxiety (it interferes with your ability to “do life”), an anti-anxiety medication may be helpful. In the past, doctors readily prescribed Xanax for anxiety, but now we know more about how addictive it can become. A better option is usually something like Buspar that has a wide range of dosing options and isn’t addictive.
Nutritional deficiencies can also cause anxiety. It’s never a bad idea to see your doctor for a full blood panel, just to rule out that possibility. It’s not uncommon for a B vitamin deficiency to cause the same symptoms such as nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, fear, etc..
Counseling is always an awesome option for long term management of anxiety, especially when the anxiety is the result of a life event, PTSD, phobia, or OCD. Your therapist can help you identify triggers and resolving past trauma. They can also help with understanding what’s happening in your body during anxiety and catching anxiety attacks before they feel unmanageable.
Another great tool for managing anxiety is mindfulness and meditation. Meditation is one of the healthiest things you can do for your brain, helping you learn to control thoughts and push scary and unhelpful thoughts out of your head. You’ll also learn breathing and grounding techniques that can be a real game changer for gaining control over your attacks and even helping you sleep. There are tons of great apps for helping guide you through mindfulness. These are some of my favorites:
If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, please consider seeking help and getting the relief you desperately want. You can search the Psychology Today database, or do a Google search for counselors in your area.
If you’re in the Longview/Henderson, Texas area, I would love to work with you. You can see more about me at my Psychology Today profile or about page, email me at Jodi.A.Spencer@Gmail.com, or text or call me at 903 392 6151.