Regardless of how comfortable we might be, everyone experiences worry at some point in their life. Whether it’s the worry of caring for a child, missing a loved one, or stress at work, we all have catalysts in our life that make us uneasy.
According to studies, as many as 40 million Americans (nearly 20% of the population) live with some form of anxiety disorder. The most likely age group to struggle with anxiety are seniors, with as many as 30% of the population showing some symptoms of anxiety. While everyone worries at some point, it is important to understand the difference between an anxiety disorder and common worrying.
Different Types of Anxiety
There are several unique types of anxiety disorders that are commonly diagnosed. Each has different symptoms and can require different treatments.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is marked by unwanted, often recurring thoughts (obsessions) or repetitive, odd behaviors (compulsions). Uncontrollable, repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these “rituals,” however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatic event or ordeal in which physical or psychological harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming worry and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social anxiety can be limited to only one type of situation, such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, eating, drinking, and in front of others.
In its most severe form, social anxiety can be very generalized, that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Fear of crowds, fear of public embarrassment, or fear of public speaking can all be common with social anxiety.
Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Worry and anxiety can be detrimental to our lives, but, like touching a hot stove, can also teach valuable lessons and spur us to action. Normal anxiety becomes severe when it serving as a tool to improve and begins to distract from daily life.
If you or a loved one feels that your anxiety is disabling you from enjoying life, you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, like any mental health condition, require professional help, and may not just go away on their own.
People with anxiety as a mental illness have feelings of anxiety that do not go away and can interfere with daily activities such as job performance and relationships. Some symptoms of anxiety disorders are as follows:
- Restlessness or constantly feeling “on edge”
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or having the mind go blank
- Irritability or unexplained anger
- Muscle tension or pain
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
Anxiety vs Excessive Worrying
While anxiety and worry can seem very similar, there are some key differences to recognize when trying to determine if you or a loved one has an anxiety disorder.
Excessive worrying is mostly in your mind-anxiety is body and mind
Worries take place in your thoughts whereas anxiety manifests in both the body and mind. Anxiety may produce feelings of light-headedness or affect your breathing. People who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have digestive You might feel faint or lightheaded. Some people even hyperventilate.” Anxious people are also more likely to suffer from digestive problems like nausea, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Excessive worrying is often specific whereas anxiety is more generalized
Especially these days, there are plenty of things for the average person to worry bout. From coronavirus to finances, our world is full of difficulties. While these specific things produce worry, anxiety is a more intense version of worry and can develop into a disorder. Its signs and symptoms, one being persistent worrying over things, tend to manifest suddenly.
When people worry they usually and specifically know why. Although, those who develop anxiety, will often have unsettled feelings without knowing why. As mentioned above, worry is often specific, while anxiety is vaguer and more generalized.
Excessive worrying is usually grounded in reality but anxiety produces unrealistic worry
Worry usually has some roots in logic. Your brain is trying to make sense of real-world difficulties and fears. Healthy worry produces actionable good. Anxiety sensationalizes risk. And produces actions that are not logical.
Excessive worrying is usually temporary and situational but anxiety is longstanding
Worry is usually short-term whereas anxiety is long-term. There’s a concerning situation (like COVID-19) and you worry about it, which prompts you to rational action Anxiety is persistent and often compromises your ability to function normally.
Excessive worrying doesn’t generally impair function, but anxiety does
Worry will not usually produce a physical response (such as weight gain or stomach problems) Anxiety can absolutely produce a physical response and also cloud your judgment, making it difficult to function.
Self-Treatment for Excessive Worrying
While treatment may be necessary for continued anxiety, there are many things you can do on your own to combat excessive worry/anxiety. Below are some suggestions for helping you or a loved one overcome anxiety.
- Turn off the news: While it is good to stay informed, sometimes information overload can lead to excessive worry.
- Practice Mindfulness: Taking time out of every day to focus on positive things, take a deep breath, and relax does wonder for worry.
- Get Comfortable: Everyone will feel worried or uncomfortable at some point. To not let these emotions overtake you, it is important to get “comfortable with the uncomfortable”. Coping mechanisms and sharing with others can help us become more at ease with feeling uncomfortable.
- Decompress/Relax: Taking time away from distractions, such as our phones, kids, or work, can help calm anxiety immensely. Finding our “niche” in the outdoors, a coffee shop, or a favorite corner of your home is extremely important. Meditation and yoga are also popular options.
- Challenge negative thoughts: Negative thoughts are a result of an anxious mind. Often, those that struggle with anxiety will be plagued by thoughts like “I can’t do it” or “this isn’t for me”. Taking command of those negative thoughts can be one of the keys to controlling anxiety.
- Get Active: Many Individuals report that physical activity such as running, hiking, or playing sports can help with the symptoms of anxiety.
Professional Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can have multiple potential causes and co-occurring conditions, so there is no single remedy that works for all of them. Anxiety treatment must be tailored specifically for each individual because what works well for one person may not work for another.
At Montare Behavioral Health, our trained staff are eager to help organize a personalized treatment plan that may involve some or all of the following options.
Various therapy options are the most common treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Therapy options can include individual counseling with various methods, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and correcting thought patterns that perpetuate anxiety.
Group therapy is another popular option for overcoming anxiety. In group therapy, individuals will network with others with similar backgrounds or symptoms to normalize behaviors and share coping mechanisms.
Individuals with more serious anxiety disorders, such as OCD or PTSD may require more serious therapeutic methods or a combination of therapy and medication.
Medication for Anxiety
Sometimes anxiety can seem beyond the control of personal care or therapeutic methods. Thankfully, many medications are safe and readily available for the treatment of anxiety.
The most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medication are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Some well-known name brand medications in this category are Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Prozac. These medications work by inhibiting certain hormones in the brain that can induce symptoms of anxiety.
Seek Professional Help for Anxiety at Montare Behavioral Health Today
If you or a loved one are struggling to identify an anxiety disorder, our team of experts at Montare Behavioral Health is standing by to assist you today. It can be difficult to determine if you are simply worrying or are plagued by a more serious anxiety disorder.
Our team is trained in all manner of anxiety disorders and co-occurring disorders and want to help you find a solution that works for you. Contact us today to start your journey to overcoming anxiety!