Everyone has experienced the feeling of anxiety at some point in their lives.
Anxiety, just like a small campfire, can be comforting and enjoyable. A small amount of anxiety can be a normal and helpful response to danger.
However, when anxiety becomes a disorder, it is like a wildfire that rages out of control, consuming everything in its path.
It's important to recognise the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder, just as it's important to distinguish between a small campfire and a dangerous wildfire. If you find that your anxiety is overwhelming, interfering with your daily life, or causing you significant distress, it may be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder that requires professional help.
Just as a wildfire requires the expertise of trained firefighters to control and extinguish, an anxiety disorder often requires the help of mental health professionals to manage and overcome. With the right support and treatment, however, it is possible to extinguish the flames of anxiety and regain control over your life.
The Familiar Feeling of Dread, Fear, and Unease
In simple terms, anxiety can be defined as the feeling of unease, which includes fear or worry. This feeling can be mild or severe. If we delve into more scientific definitions, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), anxiety can be described as excessive worry and apprehensive expectations, which occur on most days for at least 6 months, about several events or activities, such as school or work performance.
Today’s world is so fast paced that we often forget how to take care of our well-being, due to which mental health difficulties have increased drastically, especially since COVID-19. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues worldwide.
What Separates Normal Anxiety From an Anxiety Disorder?
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Many people worry about things such as money, health, or family problems. But anxiety disorders involve more than just temporary worry and fear. For individuals with anxiety disorders, the anxiousness does not just go away; as a matter of fact, it only gets worse over time. The symptoms of anxiety disorders can interfere with day to day life activities such as job performance, school-work and relationships.
The thing about anxiety is that it feels different for everyone. Some of the effects of anxiety on your body and mind are listed below.
- A churning feeling in your stomach
- Faster breathing
- Feeling restless or unable to sit still
- Sweating or hot flushes
- A fast, thumping, or irregular heartbeat
- Nausea (feeling sick)
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
- Feeling tense, nervous, or unable to relax
- Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
- Having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
- Rumination (thinking over a situation over and over again)
- Having stomach aches, headaches, or unexplained pains
- Feeling like you have to use the bathroom frequently
- Having muscle tension in the upper back, lower back, and shoulders.s
- Not being able to think clearly
Is Anxiety Treatable?
That’s the good news, it is! Most people with anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate their symptoms after several or fewer months of therapy and other treatments. There are various evidence-based treatments that have been found to help with anxiety.
Self-Help Resources: A self-help resource is usually the first
treatment option offered by most mental health professionals. This is because they are easily
accessible and often help individuals feel better without trying other options. These include:
- Adult colouring books
- Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programmes
Talking Therapies: There are two types of talking therapies
recommended for anxiety:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes towards situations/experiences affect your feelings and behaviour. It also helps to learn coping skills for dealing with difficult problems.
- Applied Relaxation Therapy – This involves learning how to relax your muscles in situations where you normally experience anxiety.
Medication: The last resort of treatment would be medication. This is
usually offered for severe anxiety or when people are not able to manage their anxiety. However, it
is very important to consume these medications ONLY if your doctor has prescribed them along with
talking therapy. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications are:
- Benzodiazepine Tranquillisers
Steps to Managing Anxiety in Daily Life
Living with anxiety can be very difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to manage it.
- Talk to someone you trust – Most of the time, talking to someone you trust helps in venting out your emotions, feelings, and thoughts, which helps in de-stressing. Just knowing that there is someone who genuinely cares and wants to listen to you can be a relief in itself.
- Look after your physical health – It is important that you get a good amount of sleep, as it can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Diet and exercise also play a positive role, as blood sugar levels and physical activity can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.
- Try breathing exercises – Mindfulness is a popular way of recovering from an anxious episode. A specific way is through breathing exercises, of which there are several to be found online. These help you cope and feel more in control.
- Keep a diary – It helps to write down your thoughts and emotions and what happens when you feel anxious. This could help you find a pattern in what triggers these experiences for you, so that you can use these techniques to control, manage, or even prevent them.
Living with anxiety can be distressing, and it is important for you to be kind to yourself. More importantly, it is essential to understand that recovery is a journey, and it won’t always be straightforward (unfortunately!). For example, sometimes you find it more helpful to focus on learning more about yourself and developing ways to cope, rather than trying to get rid of the symptoms.
If you find that your anxiety is persistent, intense, and interfering with your daily life, it may be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder. By taking an anxiety test, you will learn whether you may be living with excessive anxiety or if it’s just a phase. If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder, it's important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can conduct a thorough evaluation to determine if you have an anxiety disorder, and, if so, what type of anxiety disorder you may have.
There are a variety of diagnostic tests that mental health professionals may use to assess anxiety disorders, including questionnaires, interviews, and behavioural assessments. These tests can help identify the specific symptoms and severity of your anxiety, which can inform treatment decisions and help you develop a personalised plan for recovery.
It's important to remember that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, and seeking professional help is the first step toward recovery. Whether through therapy, medication, or a combination of both, there are many effective treatments available for anxiety disorders. And as mentioned earlier, recovery is a journey that may take time, patience, and self-compassion.
NOTE: Heart It Out conducts regular therapy sessions to help alleviate the distress of individuals. Please check our website to take a free diagnostic test or speak to one of our qualified therapists and health professionals. You can also book a session with our psychotherapists in Bangalore.
Written by Rishika BrijeshSeek Support Now