American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by tension and worry. It also manifests itself physically, such as a rise in blood pressure, trembling, and sweating.
It is normal to feel anxious, and it can even sharpen one’s focus, especially during dangerous situations or unstable environments. However, if one has high functioning anxiety, this may seriously disrupt their daily activities.
Whatever the symptoms of anxiety one exhibits, this condition needs proper handling and management. Mismanagement of anxiety may develop into a debilitating kind of disorder. Panic attacks may come more frequently and may become intense.
Instead of letting it stop you from living a full and meaningful life, it would help if you understand this condition better, from its symptoms to its causes, to know how to cope with it better.
Why Do People Get Anxiety?
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, around 40 million people in the US suffer from anxiety disorder every year. Moreover, about 8 percent of teenagers and younger children start to show signs of the illness even before turning 21.
Studies have shown that there are several factors causing anxiety. The factors include genetics, stress, trauma, personality, and brain chemistry. In many cases, people who are depressed also suffer from this condition.
What Are the Main Signs of Anxiety?
Like joy, fear, and other human emotions, it is normal to feel anxious. However, it becomes a disorder if one starts experiencing a whole other range of symptoms. Common symptoms of anxiety include the following:
- Extreme sense of panic or doom
- Problem sleeping
- Fast heartbeat
- Inability to control worry
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Inability to think beyond the existing cause of worry
- Urge to avoid things that cause excessive concern
What Can Anxiety Do to Your Body?
Panic attacks and periods of anxiety may lead to chronic physical problems. That said, overcoming anxiety becomes an important goal if one wants to avoid these bodily changes.
Anxiety attacks trigger emotional responses in the amygdala. The brain then sends signals to the other parts of the body to fight or flee. The body releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which should not continue long-term to avoid health problems.
The body typically responds to anxiety in the following ways:
- Breathing. During anxiety attacks, a person may hyperventilate, signified by shallow and quick breathing. It allows the lungs to gather more oxygen to prepare the body to flee or fight. However, it usually makes the person gasp for breath, thinking they are not breathing in enough oxygen. This sensation ends up making them feel faint, dizzy, weak, tingling, and lightheaded.
- Immune function. Anxiety may cause the immune system’s function to spike, but prolonged responses like this might stop the body’s normal immune response. It makes people with the disorder more vulnerable to flu, common cold, and infection-related problems.
- Cardiovascular system changes. Anxiety triggers a fast heartbeat as part of the natural fight or flight response since it pumps fresh nutrients and oxygen to the muscles. In turn, this causes blood vessels to constrict, triggering hot flashes. The body needs to cool it down, making one feel too cold as a result. Research shows that prolonged anxiety responses like this may increase one’s risk of cardiovascular problems.
- Digestive system response. As the body releases cortisol, it suspends other nonessential bodily functions, such as digestion. The person may suffer from diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, and a churning stomach.
- Long-term effects. Anxiety’s long-term impacts on the human body include depression, insomnia, digestive problems, struggle with work, school, or socializing, chronic pain, loss of sexual drive, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse issues.
What Can Cause Anxiety?
There are a few triggers that may cause anxiety, such as:
- Health problems. A bad diagnosis may trigger the disorder because of the emotions it ignites and the worry about the future.
- Trauma. Children and adults alike, who were abused or traumatized, are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
- Medications. Some medicines, such as birth control pills, weight loss drugs, and cough medications, may trigger signs of anxiety because they make you feel unwell.
- Skipping meals. Every time you forego a meal, your blood sugar drops, leading to a rumbling stomach, agitation, shaking hands, and even anxiety.
- Caffeine. Coffee has anxiety-inducing effects. It would be best to replace it with non-caffeinated drinks to avoid the said effects.
- Financial woes. Unpaid bills, unexpected expenses, and debt can make anyone anxious.
- Negative thoughts. People feel anxious when frustrated and upset, causing them to think of negative thoughts and outcomes. Seeing a therapist may help purge these thoughts away to avoid more anxiety triggers.
- Social events. These are common triggers for people with social phobia who do not want to interact with people.
- Stress. Being late to work or getting stuck in traffic can cause stress, but this might lead to long-term anxiety and chronic health problems if not handled well.
- Public events. The thought of speaking in front of a crowd, joining a competition, or reading aloud may cause anxiety. It would help to work with a therapist as a first step to overcoming anxiety.
- Personal triggers. These are common among people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who need to work with a mental health specialist to manage their response to triggers appropriately.
Here are some long-term strategies you can use to cope up with anxiety:
1. Identify your triggers
Start a journal and write down what led to the attack, or use apps to help you identify more triggers and monitor your response. It would also help to be honest in assessing yourself and removing negative thoughts to identify triggers correctly.
2. Meditate daily
Mindful meditation allows your mind to ignore and purge negative thoughts. You might have trouble focusing at first, but it becomes easier with regular practice. Beginners may also want to start with yoga.
3. Use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT involves a range of approaches, like structured psychotherapies, to change one’s destructive thought patterns. It focuses on identifying negative thoughts and then challenging and replacing them with more objective, realistic thoughts.
4. Incorporate dietary changes and herbal remedies
Some herbal supplements may help reduce anxiety, such as green tea, dark chocolate, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. These supplements might not show immediate results, though. It may take up to three months before they take effect.
5. Stay healthy
Do everything to be in tiptop shape. Work out regularly, eat a balanced diet, sleep right, and connect with the people who matter in your life.
There’s Always A Helping Hand
Although anxiety can sometimes feel debilitating and unmanageable, there are effective treatments that can help reduce your anxiety levels. If you have trouble managing your anxiety, you may want to consider visiting a specialist.
We at Persona Group, are committed to helping patients deal with anxiety to achieve improved health and live a more satisfying life. Our doctors have extensive experience in providing treatment for anxiety and know the best course of action to take. Call us at 800.314.7273 to schedule an appointment.