What Exactly Is Anxiety And Do I Need Help For Mine?

What Exactly Is Anxiety And Do I Need Help For Mine?

What Exactly Is Anxiety And Do I Need Help For Mine?

We often talk about feeling anxiety. Some of us have had panic attacks, others get fearful about public speaking, and just about everyone has felt excessive worry at one time or another in life. But what exactly is anxiety? When does it rise to the level where it’s an issue that could benefit from treatment? Let’s get a better understand of anxiety today.

Anxiety Is A Stress Response, a Symptom, and an Illness

Anxiety is a broad term that refers to a variety of different things. Broadly speaking, anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness, and/or unease. Anxiety may be:

  • A stress response. Anxiety is a natural response in the mind and the body. When we experience something that causes us to worry, we feel anxiety. That’s a typical, “normal,” expected reaction to stressful, worrisome situations.
  • A symptom. Anxiety can be a symptom of illness including various mental health disorders. For example, depression and anxiety are two different things, but people with depression sometimes experience anxiety as a symptom. Anxiety is a common symptom of OCD and PTSD.
  • A disorder or illness. In fact, there are several different types of anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Phobias.

Types of Anxiety

All forms of anxiety are specifically characterized by excessive levels of worry and fear. When that fear begins to inhibit areas of your daily life, it can be a sign that you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder as defined by the mental health profession. There are several different types of anxiety disorders including:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

generalized anxiety symptoms

This is garden variety anxiety. In other words, when people talk about suffering from anxiety, they’re usually referring to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When you struggle with this, you worry regularly about a variety of different aspects of life. You experience fear about things or perceive threats that aren’t there or to a degree which is disproportionate to any potential harm.

Other symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Constantly thinking about “what ifs” and “worst cases,” trying to plan in advance for those situations
  • Indecision and fear of making the “wrong” decision and yet trouble handling the uncertainty that comes with no decision
  • Restlessness, an inability to relax, regularly feeling edgy or amped up
  • Ruminating mind, mostly over-planning and worrying about the future
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia coupled with resulting fatigue
  • Physical symptoms including muscle tension, tight jaw, headaches, nausea, sweating, and startling easily

Panic Disorder

panic disorder symptoms

People with anxiety of any kind might sometimes experience panic attacks. These are physical symptoms that feel extremely unsettling, often characterized by shallow breathing or difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, chest pain, rapid heart rate, and shaking.

When someone has panic disorder, it means that they experience frequent, unexpected panic attacks. Repeated panic attacks – as few as several per year up to as many as several per day – are the primary symptom of panic disorder. Additional symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Avoiding places that you’ve previously had panic attacks or situations similar to those in which you’ve experienced panic attacks
  • Anxiety over the thought of having another panic attack
  • Intense fear of death during a panic attack; because of chest pain, people often think that they might be having a heart attack
  • Overwhelming feeling that life is out of control and fear of losing control

Phobias Including Agoraphobia

symptoms of specific phobias

People can have anxiety about a variety of different things. When these phobias begin to interfere with a person’s ability to function or cause ill health, then they might be Anxiety: Specific Phobias. Common phobias include fear of heights, fear of spiders, and fear of dogs. It’s one thing not to like spiders; it’s another thing to have such anxiety that you’re unable to enter a building where you once saw a spider years ago. It’s one thing to have a fear of heights; it’s inhibiting your life if you refuse to attend important events because they’re in tall buildings.

Symptoms of specific phobias include:

  • Extreme anxiety or worry about a very specific thing
  • Avoidance of any situation in which you might encounter the thing you fear
  • Feeling that you’re in life-threatening danger because of this thing you fear; fear of dying from it
  • Feeling that you need to escape as soon as possible
  • Physical symptoms like those in the other anxiety disorders

agoraphobia symptoms

Agoraphobia is one very specific type of phobia. It’s usually associated with a fear of crowded places. Conversely, however, it can also mean a fear of hugely open spaces. In either instance, people with agoraphobia feel like intense anxiety about being stuck in a place, fear that they’re going to die there, and want to escape immediately. They experience panic attacks or intense physical symptoms as a result.

Separation Anxiety

separation anxiety symptoms

This is a form of anxiety that you experience when you are separated from, or think about separating from, a person or pet. Separation anxiety is usually diagnosed among children who develop anxiety symptoms when they’re away from their parents or primary caregiver. However, adults sometimes experience separation anxiety as well. This is characterized as excessive stressing worrying before separating and while separated.

Other symptoms of Separation Anxiety include:

  • Constant fear of losing the person or pet, especially about their death
  • Worry about harm that can happen to them when they’re away from you
  • Nightmares about being separated from the person or pet
  • Ongoing, excessive fear of being alone
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety similar to in other forms of anxiety but occurring specifically around the thought or experience of separating

Social Anxiety Disorder

symptoms social anxiety

When you have social anxiety disorder, you struggle with symptoms of anxiety as they relate to social settings. This can look many different ways. For example, some people experience anxiety in large groups or new situations whereas others experience it even when thinking about seeing just 1-2 close friends.

Common symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Worry about getting embarrassed, being judged, and even worry that people will see you are worried
  • Overwhelming fear about small talk, speaking to strangers, speaking in front of a class, ordering at a restaurant, etc.
  • Avoiding social situations, places where you might get “called on” or asked to be the center of attention, refusing to speak in public
  • After an event, you go over and over what happened with a magnifying glass on your perceived flaws
  • Physical symptoms such as blushing, trembling, nausea … and also fear of having these symptoms and others noticing them

Other Types of Anxiety Disorders

These are the most commons types of anxiety. However, there are also other types. For example, selective mutism in children is a form of anxiety. As aforementioned, anxiety can also be a symptom of other mental health challenges. If you experience inordinate amounts of fear and/or worry, then you might struggle with some type of anxiety.

When Should You Seek Anxiety Treatment?

Anxiety might be a totally normal response to a stressful situation. For example, when you have a job interview coming up, it’s normal to feel a little bit of worry that it might not go well. That type of anxiety goes away after the interview.

On the other end of the spectrum, anxiety might be a disorder that causes significant impairment to multiple areas of your life. You may begin to avoid situations that you’re anxious about, your social and professional life shrinking, and your anxiety symptoms worsening over time.

Often, you experience symptoms somewhere in between these two extremes. Certain situations trigger more anxiety than others, but it’s progressive, and it applies in multiple situations.

So, when should you seek anxiety treatment? If you think that treatment might help you, then it’s worth seeking treatment at any time. You don’t have to suffer from clinical levels of anxiety in order to benefit from therapy for anxiety. And yet, if you do have an anxiety disorder, therapy can be a key part of your treatment plan. You deserve to live a life as free of anxiety as possible, so don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re struggling with it.

Check our therapist directory to find the person who might be your best fit. Alternatively, contact us today to learn about options for treating anxiety.

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