What is Anxiety?
There are many different types of anxiety that people experience. However, individuals usually describe anxiety as a combination of the following:
- Constant worry
- Feeling "on-edge"
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Difficulty sleeping
The anxiety, worry, or other similar symptoms may make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems at school, in relationships, at work, or in other important areas of life.
Some people that experience anxiety may also experience symptoms similar to a panic attack (difficulty breathing, fast heartbeat, sweating, tunnel vision, etc.).
What Causes Anxiety?
Family history of mental health conditions
Some people who experience anxiety conditions may have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and these conditions can sometimes run in a family. However, having a parent or close relative experience anxiety or other mental health condition doesn't mean you'll automatically develop anxiety.
Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
Ongoing stressful events
Anxiety conditions may develop because of one or more stressful life events. Common triggers include:
- work stress or job change
- change in living arrangements
- pregnancy and giving birth
- family and relationship problems
- major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event
- verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma
- death or loss of a loved one.
- Physical health problems
Chronic physical illness can also contribute to anxiety conditions or impact on the treatment of either the anxiety or the physical illness itself. Common chronic conditions associated with anxiety conditions include:
- hypertension and heart disease
Some physical conditions can mimic anxiety conditions, like an overactive thyroid. It can be useful to see a doctor and be assessed to determine whether there may be a medical cause for your feelings of anxiety.
Other mental health conditions
While some people may experience an anxiety condition on its own, others may experience multiple anxiety conditions, or other mental health conditions. Depression and anxiety conditions often occur together. It's important to check for and get assistance for all these conditions at the same time.
Some people who experience anxiety may use alcohol or other drugs to help them manage their condition. In some cases, this may lead to people developing a substance use problem along with their anxiety condition. Alcohol and substance use can aggravate anxiety conditions particularly as the effects of the substance wear off. It's important to check for and get assistance for any substance use conditions at the same time. Anxiety can also be specific to certain situations or things.
- Being in a confined, small space
- Being in social situations (speaking in front of people)
- Test taking
How Do I Decrease Anxiety?
There are many treatment options for people with anxiety. If you are concerned about the level of anxiety that you are experiencing, be sure to speak with an adult of CHS Wellness Team about treatment options. Some common treatment options include the following...
Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but often relieves symptoms. Medication can only be prescribed by a medical doctor (such as a psychiatrist or a primary care provider), but a few states allow psychologists to prescribe psychiatric medications.
Medications are sometimes used as the initial treatment of an anxiety disorder, or are used only if there is insufficient response to a course of psychotherapy. In research studies, it is common for patients treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication to have better outcomes than those treated with only one or the other.
Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they also are helpful for treating anxiety disorders. They take several weeks to start working and may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. The side effects are usually not a problem for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time.
Anti-anxiety medications help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry.
Choosing the right medication, medication dose, and treatment plan should be based on a person’s needs and medical situation, and done under an expert’s care. Only an expert clinician can help you decide whether the medication’s ability to help is worth the risk of a side effect. Your doctor may try several medicines before finding the right one.
You and your doctor should discuss:
- How well medications are working or might work to improve your symptoms
- Benefits and side effects of each medication
- Risk for serious side effects based on your medical history
- The likelihood of the medications requiring lifestyle changes
- Costs of each medication
- Other alternative therapies, medications, vitamins, and supplements you are taking and how these may affect your treatment
- How the medication should be stopped. Some drugs can’t be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a doctor’s supervision.
Please Note: Although medications are safe and effective for many people, they may be risky for children, teens, and young adults. A “black box” warning—the most serious type of warning that a prescription can carry—has been added to the labels of antidepressants. The labels now warn that antidepressants may cause some people to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. For this reason, anyone taking an antidepressant should be monitored closely, especially when they first start taking the medication.
It is extremely dangerous to take medication that is not prescribed for you. It is also illegal to sell prescription medications to others.
Here are some strategies that might be helpful for someone experiencing these anxiety related symptoms:
- Deep Breathing
- Muscle Tension/Relaxation
- Guided Imagery
- Using stress ball, play dough, clay, etc.
- Blowing bubbles
Most of the information for this page was gathered from: The National Institute of Mental Health.