As a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety, I have seen firsthand how anxiety can impact people’s lives. Understanding anxiety and its symptoms is the first step to healing. From overwhelming feelings of worry to physical symptoms like sweating, heart palpitations, or even stomach aches, anxiety can effect your happiness, relationships, and day-to-day experience if it goes untreated.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults. In this article, I want to share some insights into what anxiety is, how it works, and what you can do to manage it.
At its core, anxiety is a natural response to stress. It’s a way that our bodies and minds prepare to face potential danger or threat. When we perceive a threat, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can trigger the fight or flight response. This response can be helpful in certain situations, like when we need to escape danger. But in today’s day and age, it can interfere with our daily lives when it becomes chronic or excessive.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, each with unique symptoms and causes. Some common types include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. While the specific symptoms of each condition may vary, they all involve feelings of fear or worry that are difficult to control.
How Anxiety Works
One of the key features of anxiety is the way that it affects our thinking. When we are anxious, our thoughts can become distorted and irrational. We may catastrophize, imagining the worst-case scenario in any given situation. We may also think all-or-nothing, believing everything is good or bad. These thinking patterns can contribute to feelings of helplessness and despair, making it challenging to take effective action.
Another way that anxiety works is through physical symptoms. When anxious, our bodies may produce physical sensations like sweating, shaking, or a racing heart. These symptoms can be distressing and can make us feel like we are out of control. They can also contribute to embarrassment or shame, as we may worry about being judged by others.
While managing anxiety can feel like an uphill battle, many strategies can help.
One of the most effective treatments for anxiety is psychotherapy. In therapy, you can work with a trained professional to identify the underlying causes of your anxiety and develop coping skills to manage it. Standard therapeutic approaches for anxiety include cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness-based, and exposure therapy.
Another helpful strategy for managing anxiety is self-care. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, or spending time with nature can help you learn to regulate those anxious feelings. Engaging in activities that you enjoy and bring you a sense of purpose can also be helpful, as they can provide a sense of meaning and fulfillment.
In some cases, medication may also be recommended to help manage anxiety. Several types of drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety, including antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Working with a qualified medical professional who specializes in mental health is vital to determine whether medication is appropriate for your situation and to monitor any potential side effects.
Download my free Guide to Overcoming Anxiety with the Mind Body and Spirit to get 3 of my favorite tools I use with my clients.
Anxiety can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but it is essential to remember that it is treatable. By understanding the nature of anxiety and working with a qualified professional, you can develop effective strategies to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you are struggling with anxiety, I encourage you to seek help. With the proper support, you can learn to overcome your anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.