How to Deal with Anxiety?
We’re here to keep people safe. Usually, that is by helping a texter find a healthy coping mechanism to work through anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about moving from totally overwhelmed, to a cool, calm “I’ve got this.”
What is Anxiety?
People can feel anxious about a lot of things: the first day of school, a job interview, a first date. Anxiety is that pang of “what if” that makes your heart race and your palms sweaty. There’s a difference between healthy anxiety and a paralyzing fear about the future.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. They affect over 40 million adults every single year. Kids experience them too: over 25% of people between 13 and 18 live with anxiety today.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are some common signs and symptoms of anxiety.
Physical changes can include:
- a racing heart
- faster breathing
- feeling tense or having aches (especially neck, shoulders and back)
- sweating or feeling dizzy
- ‘butterflies’ or feeling sick in the stomach.
Changes to thoughts can include:
- worrying about things a lot of the time
- being unable to control the worries
- having trouble concentrating and paying attention
- worries that seem out of proportion.
Other changes can include:
- being unable to relax
- avoiding people or places like school or parties
- withdrawing from friends and family
- feeling annoyed, irritated or restless
- difficulty getting to sleep at night or waking up a lot throughout the night.
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
People can show signs of anxiety in many ways. Some may become more talkative, while others withdraw or self-isolate. Even people who seem outgoing, friendly, or fearless can have anxiety. Since anxiety has many symptoms, how it looks for one person is not how it appears for another.
People who have anxiety may be withdrawn, but this is not the case for everyone with anxiety. Sometimes, anxiety may trigger a “fight” rather than “flight” response, in which case a person might appear confrontational. Stumbling over words, trembling, and nervous tics are often associated with anxiety. While they can appear in people with anxiety, they are not always present, and some people who do not have anxiety also show these signs.
If you are unsure if someone you know may be experiencing anxiety, it may not be helpful to bring it up unless they do. However, there are some actions you can consider taking if you want to make a person who might be anxious more comfortable. You can:
- Be patient with them
- Share words of encouragement or appreciation
- Be predictable and be willing to share details with them if they ask
What Does Generalized Anxiety Mean?
Generalized anxiety is also known as free-floating anxiety. It is identified by chronic feelings of doom and worry that have no direct cause. Many people feel anxious about certain things, like money, job interviews, or dating.
But people with free-floating anxiety can feel anxious for no clear reason. Generalized anxiety can also mean feeling too much worry about a particular event.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) identifies Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as excessive worry that impacts a person on an almost daily basis. It must last 6 months or more and be difficult to control. It must also not be able to be better explained by any other health condition.
A person diagnosed with GAD must also show at least three of the following symptoms:
- Frequent fatigue
- Difficulty focusing
- Sleep problems
- Muscle tension
Many factors can contribute to free-floating anxiety. Living in stressful or abusive environments may be a cause. Sometimes, anxiety becomes a habit. A person used to feeling anxious about an event might keep feeling anxious once it is over. Some psychologists contend that modern life causes free-floating anxiety. According to them, deadlines, fast-paced lifestyles, and keeping up with social media could cause chronic anxiety.
When a person cannot find where their anxiety comes from, therapy can help. Therapy often helps people learn coping skills for dealing with symptoms of anxiety. Skills that help people with chronic anxiety include deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and assertive communication.
Case Samples Of Anxiety:
- Alcohol Abuse and Anxiety: Hayat, 23, experiences severe panic attacks. These occur when she feels she has failed at a task or made someone angry. Sometimes they happen when she receives criticism. She begins to have trouble breathing, becomes sweaty, and may break out in hives. Her mind becomes completely focused on the offense she has committed.
She may cry, though she suppresses the tears and prevents catharsis. She drinks large quantities of alcohol to help numb herself to these feelings. Sometimes she misses work for days. This furthers her anxiety, as she has little income. She begins seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. Her therapist notices that anxiety seems to be the deeper issue. In therapy, Hayat learns healthier ways to cope with her anxiety.
- Social Anxiety: Benji, 45, is popular at work and very competent. But he feels highly anxious whenever he is out in public. He is especially anxious around crowds. He races home each night, locks his door, and reads in bed. Once he is alone with the apartment, he feels secure. He cannot identify the cause of his anxiety. But in therapy, he discovers a great deal of repressed anger. This begins to explain his fear of being in public. People trigger his rage, which he has avoided for years.
- “People-Pleasing” Anxiety: Anna, 26, comes to therapy because of intense anxiety. Anna has not experienced a panic attack. But she is often on edge, worried, stressed, and has trouble sleeping through the night. Anna begins attending therapy. She discovers that she has suppressed some important feelings. Although part of her wants to marry her fiancé, another part of herself is not in love with him. Finding this internal conflict at first intensifies Anna’s anxiety. She now has to face something she hasn’t wanted to face.
Historically, Anna has been a people-pleaser. It’s difficult for her to say “no” for fear of hurting others’ feelings and then feeling her own guilt. Anna gains awareness about this. She begins unburdening her long-harbored guilt. Anna starts feeling less anxiety over allowing others to feel pain. Anna hasn’t yet decided what she’s going to do about getting married. But she now feels less anxiety, as she is no longer suppressing her ambivalence. She has more confidence about communicating how she really feels.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms:
If you’re feeling anxious, even thinking through the steps for how to tackle it could feel overwhelming. You shouldn’t have to summit that mountain alone. So, here are some steps to get you started:
- Blow off some steam. Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health. If your thoughts are racing and you’re feeling overwhelmed, try lacing up your shoes and going for a walk, tapping it back in a spin class, or getting into flow at yoga.
- Get some Zzzzs. Set yourself up to get your solid 6-8 hours every night by finding a routine that works for you.
- Talk to a pro. Managing your mental health is part of managing your health. Finding the right doctor could help you hone in on the thoughts and situations that lead to your anxiety.
Types of Anxiety:
People are all different—and so is anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the most common anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: excessive worry that is disproportionate to normal anxiousness around upcoming life events (such as work or school)
- Social Anxiety Disorder: intense fear of social interactions, making it hard to go out, make friends, or interact with others
- Panic Disorder: recurrent panic attacks that cause someone to change their behavior in order to avoid having them. Panic attacks are not your regular grade freak out; they’re an intense physical reaction to fear often causing an accelerated heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: fear of being separated from someone usually because of worry that something may happen to them while they’re away
- Specific Phobias: intense fear about a specific thing or situation (ex. spiders, heights, flying)
Anxiety and Depression:
Sometimes people experience anxiety along with other Mental Health Disorders. Many people also experience depression. And, while people may experience both disorders, it’s important to note that they have different symptoms and causes.
Anxiety and Panic:
Think of anxiety and panic as cousins: they’re linked, though not always one and the same. It’s common to have panic attacks as a fear response with anxiety disorders. It’s also possible to have an occasional panic attack without having a disorder. Panic attacks can be scary—they often feel like a heart attack. The good news? They don’t do any long-term damage to your body. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a big deal. (Repeat, they actually feel like you are having a heart attack.)
Anxiety and Stress:
Stress is a totally normal and expected response to situations and changes in our lives. Anxiety can also manifest as a response to stress. The trick is identifying when healthy levels of stress transition to disproportionate levels of anxiety around particular situations or events.
Causes of Anxiety:
Simply put, no one thing causes anxiety. However, there are a few things that can increase your risk:
- Genetics. Researchers have found that people who develop anxiety disorders before the age of 20 likely also have a relative who lives with anxiety.
- Brain Chemistry. Science shows that stress can change the chemical balance in the brain. So it is no surprise that this chemical change can affect your mood.
- Personality. For some people, their personality can make them predisposed to certain anxiety disorders.
- Life Events. Traumatic events can change our lives…they can also change our brains. Sometimes, anxiety can manifest around large or challenging life changes.
Treatment and Prevention:
Anxiety can feel overwhelming. It’s also highly treatable. Some common treatments include:
- Deep Breaths. Focus on your breathing to calm and center yourself.
- Stress Less. Stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can help manage stress.
- Get some shut-eye. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can regulate your mood and stress.
- Talk to a professional. A therapist may be able to help you manage triggers and symptoms. Therapists and doctors may also prescribe medication to help manage your mental health.
- It’s always okay to ask for help. In fact, asking for help is brave. Looking to get started? Try talking to your doctor to learn more about how you are feeling and ways to take care of your mental health.
Anxiety in Children
Children, like adults, can experience anxiety. However, children may show different symptoms than adults. Knowing how to identify anxiety in children can help parents or guardians address it early. Then, parents may decide to find a child therapist or psychologist to help their child learn how to manage it.
If a child feels anxious more often and more intensely than most children their age, they may have some type of anxiety. A child who has anxiety might have difficulty going to school. They may also avoid social events or extracurricular activities, like sports.
Some kids with anxiety are behind for their age in areas like making friends or being independent. Anxiety in children may appear as crying, clinging to parents, or tantrums.
Kids with anxiety may show certain behaviors that mimic obsessions or compulsions. Continual picking or pulling at skin or hair can be an anxious behavior. They may also show signs of separation anxiety. Signs of separation anxiety include clinging to parents, crying, or refusing to go to school or friend’s houses.
Children can also experience generalized anxiety and may not be able to identify why they feel anxious. As children enter adolescence, they may be more likely to develop anxiety. Social anxiety often begins around age 13. Up to 25.1% of adolescents ages 13 to 18 may be affected by an anxiety condition.
Older children or teens may develop food-related anxiety, which can lead to disordered eating. If left unchecked, this can cause serious health complications. Studies show that up to 91% of female teens have tried to control their weight with food. Meanwhile, around 40% of female teens show signs of disordered eating.
Some researchers say that eating issues in males are also increasing. While food-related anxiety can occur on its own, it often co-occurs with other anxiety-related conditions, such as obsessions and compulsions. Disordered eating may also develop in teenagers as a coping mechanism for handling anxiety, stress, or trauma.