Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. It causes both physical and psychological symptoms, and it can be very distressing. Long-term anxiety increases the risk of physical illnesses and other mental health conditions, such as clinical depression. .
Research has yet to identify a specific cause for anxiety, However, several risk factors may contribute to its development. These factors may include traumatic life experiences, genetic traits, medical conditions or chronic pain and substance abuse. Ongoing stress about work, finances, or home life may also be a factor.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms. Mild anxiety may simply be unsettling, whereas severe anxiety can affect day-to-day living. The American Psychological Association definition of anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
When faced with potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are normal and may be necessary for survival. Anxiety is a built-in alarm system warning us to take evasive action in the face of impending danger.
When anxious we might notice a raised heartbeat, sweating, and increased sensitivity to surroundings. Adrenaline is responsible for these reactions. This prepares humans to confront or flee any threats to safety. An anxiety disorder may occur when an individual’s reaction is out of proportion to what would normally be expected in a given situation.
There are six main types of anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a long-lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific events, objects, or situations. Individuals with GAD are not always able to identify the cause of their anxiety.
Panic disorder usually manifests as brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension characterize panic disorder. These attacks can lead to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties.
Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations or a fear of public embarrassment.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by thoughts or actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive. OCD suffers usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable or irrational, but they serve to alleviate their anxiety.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, sexual assault, a hostage situation, or a serious accident. PTSD often leads to flashbacks, and the person may make behavioral changes to avoid triggers.
Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. Separation sometimes results in panic symptoms.
Anxiety can produce many physical and psychological symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, tense, or fearful
- In severe cases, panic attacks
- Rapid heart rate
- Fast breathing, or hyperventilation
- Sleep problems
- Digestive issues
- Obsessive thoughts
- Compulsive behaviors that aim to reduce the anxiety
Consequences of chronic or long-term anxiety can be serious. Some studies suggest that the effects of chronic anxiety may include:
- Increased risk of heart diseases in otherwise healthy people
- Increased risk of getting the common cold, the flu, and other types of infection
- Anxiety may result in nausea, diarrhea, and a feeling that the stomach is churning
- Anxiety and stress can increase the need to urinate
Anxiety is very treatable. A doctor or therapist will evaluate symptoms and check for any underlying medical conditions that may trigger the anxiety. Your mental healthcare provider may recommend medication, psychotherapy or counseling, participating in a support group, and making lifestyle changes including physical activity and meditation.
If you think anxiety may be a problem in your life, please call or email Summit Counseling. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help you.
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.