Anxiety is a common and often misunderstood mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It's more than just feeling nervous before a big presentation or worried about an upcoming exam; anxiety can be a debilitating and chronic condition that significantly impacts a person's daily life. Here are its causes, symptoms, and effective coping strategies to help you or someone you know manage this challenging condition.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to stress and danger, often referred to as the "fight or flight" response. When faced with a threat, your body releases adrenaline, which prepares you to either confront the danger or flee from it. While this response can be lifesaving in certain situations, chronic anxiety occurs when this heightened state of alertness becomes persistent, excessive, and uncontrollable.
What are the common factors of anxiety?
Genetics can play a significant role in the development of anxiety disorders. You may be at a higher risk if you have a family history of anxiety.
An imbalance in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to anxiety. These chemicals help regulate mood, and any disruption can lead to increased anxiety.
Traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse, can trigger anxiety. Additionally, ongoing stressors, such as financial problems or relationship issues, can trigger anxiety symptoms.
Chronic illnesses or underlying medical conditions can increase the risk of anxiety. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid disorders may contribute to anxiety symptoms.
What are the common symptoms of anxiety?
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of anxiety is crucial for seeking help and managing the condition effectively. Here are some common symptoms to be aware of:
Constant and uncontrollable worry about everyday events or activities. This can be seen when you are constantly worrying about your family's safety, even when they are at home. You may always be worried that something bad will happen to them, for no particular reason.
Anxiety often manifests physically, leading to symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and muscle tension. For example, during a presentation at work/school, your heart starts racing and you begin sweating profusely, making it difficult for you to speak.
An inability to relax or sit still, this is often accompanied by a feeling of being on edge. An example of this is constantly shifting in your chair and tapping your foot, feeling a sense of unease.
Sudden, intense episodes of fear or dread, often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, and a sense of impending doom. This can also be seen when you feel a tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, and are overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom.
A panic attack differs from an anxiety attack for a variety of reasons as a panic attack can come suddenly and unexpectedly while an anxiety attack can have a more gradual onset and may develop over time. Panic attacks are also more intense than anxiety attacks and can happen without a trigger.
Anxiety can make it challenging to focus on tasks or make decisions. An example of this is when you struggle to concentrate on a task because your mind is constantly racing with worry.
Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns are common in individuals with anxiety. This is when you are unable to sleep because you keep replaying stressful scenarios from the day in your mind.
Coping strategies for anxiety
Incorporating regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep into your routine can significantly reduce anxiety.
Mindfulness and meditation
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you stay grounded and manage anxious thoughts and feelings.
Deep breathing exercises can help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol intake can help minimize anxiety.
Talking to friends, family, or a support group can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation.
Set realistic goals
Avoid overwhelming yourself with unrealistic expectations. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
Organize your day to reduce stress. Prioritize tasks and allocate time for relaxation and self-care.
Don't hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide valuable guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.
It's essential to recognize that anxiety is a real and valid mental health issue that can be managed with the right strategies and support. Whether you're personally dealing with anxiety or know someone who is, understanding its causes, recognizing its symptoms, and implementing effective coping strategies are critical steps toward a healthier and more balanced life.
Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, reach out to a mental health professional for guidance and support.
Please note: Although Kindred is able to cater to mental health conditions, urgent cases such as suicidal ideation should be raised to a crisis hotline. We suggest that you contact the following numbers from the National Center For Mental Health:
Last medically reviewed on October 3, 2023.