Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is described by Mental Health America as an emotion that is felt when you get worried about something. It’s further shown to be a feeling that affects your body and mind; your body responds by being tensed up, and your mind focuses on the object of your worry, respectively. You may also find it difficult to have a night of normal and good sleep and develop problems associated with your appetite.
Furthermore, the American Psychological Association explains anxiety as an emotion characterized by worrying thoughts, tension, and physical change, such as high blood pressure. Actually, anxiety is not entirely bad— it can be useful for some situations such as motivating you to study hard when you think and become anxious about an upcoming test, exam, presentation, or interview. However, it can sometimes have a serious effect on how you live your life when it becomes severe. At this level, it can interfere with your day-to-day life by making you lose concentration on your study, avoiding important events or encounters, and so on. This condition is referred to as an anxiety disorder, which is characterized by intrusive concerns or thoughts.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety?
When you experience anxiety, there are a few symptoms you may experience. These symptoms may not be the same in everyone because of the specific way an individual’s body reacts to anxiety. Your body reacts to danger or threat by going on high alert, which may lead to fight or flight responses. The following are some of the common anxiety symptoms you may have:
- Fast heart rate
- Increased or heavy perspiration
- Hyperventilation or rapid breathing
- Muscle twitching or trembling
- Being tense, restlessness, and nervousness
- Feelings of panic, danger, or dread
- Sleeping problems
- Gastronomical or digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or gas
- Lethargy and weakness
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on something else other than the object of your worry
- A vehement avoidance of the triggers of your anxiety
- Being obsessed with some specific ideas
- Repetitive behaviors
What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks refer to feelings of terror (distress or fear) that come suddenly without warning. Panic attacks can strike at any point in time— it can even occur when sleeping. They don’t stay for long (less than 10 minutes). However, the symptoms can last for a longer time. Panic attacks can result in panic disorder when they are experienced repeatedly. You may call for an emergency frequently when you experience panic attacks thinking that you have health conditions that are life-threatening other than any level of anxiety. The following are some of the symptoms of panic attacks you may experience:
- Chest pains
- Rapid heart rate
- Having chills or feeling sweaty
- Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath or smothering)
- Sensation of choking
- Gastrointestinal problems or nausea
- Dizziness weakness nor feeling faint
- Trembling nor shaking
- Feeling a loss of control
- Sense of impending death or doom
- Derealization and depersonalization
- paresthesia (numbness or tingling in the fingers and hands)
- Feeling cold or hot
What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are experienced when your irrational feelings of fear, worry, and tension begin to interfere with your normal life. The following are the types of anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)Generalized anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by feeling frequent anxiety and worrying about events or activities. Your feeling of worry tends to lead to some physical symptoms such as sleeping problems, gastronomical problems, or headaches.
Panic DisorderPanic disorder is a type of anxiety that can lead to sudden and repeated bouts of severe terror, fear, or anxiety without warning. It can also be called a panic attack, which has chest pain symptoms, feelings of looming danger, fast or irregular heartbeats, and shortness of breath.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by unwanted or intrusive worries and thoughts incessantly expressed, leading to anxiety. Although you may know these intrusive thoughts are trivial, you will still strive to relieve your anxiety by behaving in specific ways. You may perform rituals or behaviors such as counting, hand washing, or checking on things.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder caused by your experience of a traumatic event, including abuse/ assault, war/ violence, accident, or natural disaster. The symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder include flashbacks, disturbing dreams, or trouble relaxing.
Specific PhobiasA phobia is an irrational fear of a specific event, situation, or object. This fear tends to cause severe anxiety when exposed to triggers. If you have social phobia, you will always try to avoid things that can stimulate your anxiety. For instance, if you are arachnophobic, you will always try to avoid spiders.
AgoraphobiaAgoraphobia is an irrational fear of specific places or events that make you feel powerless, trapped, or embarrassed. Most times, the feelings experienced caused panic attacks. Also, if you’re suffering from agoraphobia, you may make efforts to avoid places or situations that may trigger your anxiety to prevent panic attacks.
Separation Anxiety DisorderTypically, separation anxiety disorder is a condition experienced by children. This type of anxiety disorder is caused by separating a child from their guardians or parents. It’s a disorder that can be outgrown by most children around a year and six months.
What Are The Levels Of Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion can is naturally experienced at a certain point in your life. It can also be experienced at different levels. These levels can be influenced by different factors, such as gender, personality, life experiences, and coping strategies.
Typically, anxiety levels are classified into four different categories concerning the level of impairment and distress experienced. These are the four anxiety hierarchy:
Level 1— Mild AnxietyThe symptoms of mild anxiety symptoms may appear ad shyness or social anxiety. Mild anxiety can start from early childhood to adulthood. It may cause lead to gastronomical problems and the feeling of slightly increased pulse. Basically, it is considered nonsignificant clinically, or sub-clinically but can interfere with how you function socially, emotionally, and professionally. Mild anxiety can be useful sometimes as it can help you increase your alertness and focus on what’s being done.
Level 2—Moderate AnxietyModerate anxiety and mild anxiety are closely related. However, moderate anxiety can seriously interfere with your normal life engagements. It can make you feel more agitated, sensitive, and nervous than normal. Moderate anxiety is characterized by more persistent and stronger symptoms, including changes in sleep patterns, muscle tension, a shaky voice, sweaty palms, and back pain. Emotionally, moderate anxiety can make you feel less confident in yourself or what you do. Through self-help strategies or with the help of a mental health professional, you can easily manage moderate anxiety.
Level 3—Severe AnxietyAs the highest level of anxiety, severe anxiety is characterized by the experience of severe panic and inability to think rationally. Diagnostically, if you have severe anxiety, your score concerning scales of distress will be higher and lower concerning functioning. Severe anxiety can make your heart pound, feel agitated, confused, afraid, and withdrawn socially. It’s a serious level of anxiety that can often be experienced along with major depression. You may tend to turn to drugs or alcohol when experiencing severe anxiety as a coping strategy.
Panic Level AnxietyPanic level anxiety can also be referred to as panic disorder. It’s a level of anxiety where you experience recurring, unexpected, and frequent panic attacks. The symptoms include fear of death, heart palpitations, dizziness, extreme fear, and fast breathing.
How Can You Manage Your Levels Of Anxiety?
Managing anxiety may depend on the level of your anxiety. If you experience mild and moderate anxiety, you may subscribe to ways such as meditation, exercise, or therapy. You may use ways such as medication, therapy, or combining different treatment strategies for a severe level. So, it’s good to know the level you are before deciding what treatment strategies you use. To find out if you may be experiencing anxiety symptoms and your stages of anxiety, visit this link: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test.
The following are ways to manage your anxiety:
TherapyOne of the best ways to manage anxiety is therapy or counseling. This, most times, is used when self- management techniques have failed to work out. Different forms of therapy can effectively help deal with anxiety. Some of them include cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.
Cognitive therapy helps to change your patterns of beliefs and thinking that trigger your anxiety. Negative thoughts can influence your mood and worsen your anxiety when you are battling with social phobia. Your therapist may use strategies such as cognitive restructuring, rational self- talk, cognitive challenging, attention training, and reality testing to manage your condition.
Behavioral therapy (exposure therapy) helps you confront your fears by handling situations rationally. It’s a self-training method of redefining the fear or danger attached to a trigger or situation.
ExerciseExercise is a common and effective way to manage and improve mental health. When you experience anxiety, your body naturally responds (fight or flight response) to threat by releasing a lot of adrenaline and other chemicals associated with stress. When you engage in good relevant exercise, every stress chemical is brunt up, which helps you relax or stay calm.
MedicationAfter diagnosis, your doctor can direct you to see a psychiatrist who will prescribe the right medications to help reduce the level of anxiety. Medications such as antidepressants or tranquilizers can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
MindfulnessMindfulness is primarily meant to connect you with the current moment and become conscious of what’s going on around you instead of getting hooked to anxiety-provoking thoughts that distract your attention. It is beneficial to help manage several mental health challenges.
Breathing ExercisesOne common symptom of anxiety is hyperventilation or rapid breathing. This can lead to increased oxygen levels and reduced carbon dioxide levels in your blood. Normally, carbon dioxide helps in regulating how your body reacts to panic and anxiety.
Breathing exercise may involve learning how you can breathe directly from your diaphragm instead of breathing from your chest— this is meant to protect you from hyperventilation.
How do you practice a good breathing exercise? When breathing, place one of your hands on your chest and the other hand on your lower abdomen. Through this method, you can regulate your breathing any time you’re anxious.
Also, if you find abdominal breathing difficult, you may try other techniques such as holding your breath for brief seconds to increase the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood.
Relaxation TechniquesMost times, the source of your anxiety may be from your inability to relax. However, you can help yourself by engaging in different relaxation techniques that can help relieve muscle tension. Some of these techniques include isometric relaxation exercises, abdominal breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
In addition to relaxation, you need to take your sleep seriously. Sleep deprivation can make you tense and make anxiety overwhelming. So, you need to get enough sleep and rest when stressed.
Support GroupsThere are support groups where people are experiencing similar health challenges like yours. You can join one of these groups to get every needed support and learn about your anxiety.
It is always good to know as early as possible that you have anxiety before it becomes a disorder. To determine if you may have anxiety, take our quick online test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test.