Living with Anxiety and Receiving the Help you Need
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety in and of itself is a very normal reaction to dangers and stress. It helps us to react and be more aware when in potentially harmful situations. However, anxiety disorders differ greatly from the minor, everyday occurrences of anxiety. Anxiety disorders cause extreme and sometimes sudden feelings of stress, fear, and discomfort. These feelings can be incredibly difficult to avoid or predict in everyday life, making it difficult to complete typical day-to-day activities. Anxiety disorders are alarmingly common in the US, with more than 3 million cases per year.
What Does Anxiety Look and Feel Like?
Anxiety is highly unique case-by-case in terms of triggers and causes. However, some common signs and symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Extreme feelings of fear and worry
- Impaired concentration/ mind racing
- Tension of muscles
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in appetite
Chronic anxiety is rarely remedied by completing a task that is stressing you out or having a relaxing evening. Anxiety disorders go beyond a simple root cause and can be all-consuming, unpredictable, and overpowering. Some describe anxiety disorders as feeling like an imposter has hijacked their normal selves.
During moments or periods of extreme anxiety, it can be nearly impossible to think clearly and carry on with normal day-to-day activities. As seen in the list of signs and symptoms above, anxiety can cause both physical and mental expressions. These thoughts and physical manifestations can leave one feeling powerless.
More often than not, anxiety doesn’t present itself as being overly obvious to bystanders. Because of this, it can be difficult to explain and receive understanding from others. Anxiety is a very real and incredibly frustrating condition. Gaining control back from the ‘imposter’ takes time, support, and other resources.
Living with Anxiety
Living with anxiety can lead to an array of different challenges. Some include difficulties with relationships, social situations, school, and work. Such challenges make it harder to try new things, can lead to isolation, and if left untreated, cause one’s potential to be unfulfilled. This isolation and guilt typically leads to more stress and anxiety, sending an individual into a spiral of returning anxiety.
Humans are inherently social beings and desire connection with one another. In addition to this, most opportunities are discovered through networking in social environments. Anxiety instills fear of rejection and limits willingness to meet new people or have new experiences. This can greatly infringe upon one’s personal and professional happiness.
The Hidden Dangers of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders can coexist with some pretty dangerous comorbidities. In simpler terms, a comorbidity is when two conditions exist with one another at the same time. Comorbidities aren’t necessarily caused by each other, but some underlying causes are typically the same.
Self-destructive behaviors such as substance use disorder and codependency often occur alongside anxiety. Individuals living with extreme fear, fatigue, irritability etc. can turn to substances in search of relief from such symptoms. This form of self-medication can lead to addiction and worsened anxiety. When an individual attempts to quit using a substance or reduce intake, they often find that their anxieties increase. This is why those with anxiety disorders commonly find themselves relapsing.
Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of intense fear and overstimulation. The combination of severe anxiety and substance can lead to panic attacks. Though a panic attack can occur without the use of a substance, most substances elevate one's emotional and physical state to a breaking point.
Codependency and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Codependency in relationships often looks like:
- Obsession of a partner’s behavior or activity
- Enabling harmful behavior
- A great fear of abandonment
- Great difficulty doing things by oneself
- The fear of putting personal needs over others’
Those with anxiety tend to overly rely on relationships and take on the identity of the relationship to cope with their inner lack of control. Individuals in these codependent relationships tend to fear inadequacy and rejection. These feelings often feed anxiety and vice versa.
Those with anxiety tend to overly rely on relationships and take on the identity of the relationship to cope with their inner lack of control.
Anxiety and Depression
Depression goes far beyond having a bad week, month, or even year. Depression is a mood disorder that persistently and negatively affects the way one thinks and acts. Similarly to anxiety, depression’s persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest can make it incredibly hard to function at a typical level.
Some symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest and motivation for typical activities
- Chronic fatigue and difficulty sleeping
- Extreme and persistent hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of suicide
The haunting symptoms of anxiety can oftentimes lead to depression. When a person is overwhelmed, isolated, fearful, or in a state of panic, it is impossible to lead a desirable life. This lack of normalcy feels like a failure and can move a person toward a state of depression.
What Causes Anxiety?
The exact causes of anxiety are not entirely understood. That is because there are varying contributors and sometimes even a combination of them. Like other mental illnesses, anxiety is not a result of flawed character or personal weakness.
A person’s genetic makeup does not always define one’s destiny. However, it does give us insight into why we may be more or less susceptible to certain health challenges. Most mental illnesses are primarily impacted by environmental factors. However, our genes respond to these factors in a variety of positive or negative ways.
It is said that anxiety is about 30 percent inherited. The rest is credited to one’s environment. A major portion of these environmental risk factors are attributed to a person’s household growing up. Parents or other family members that model anxious behaviors or ideals are likely to pass them down to their children.
Though a parent cannot change their child's genetic makeup, they can make a dedicated effort to avoid the expression of such behaviors to their children.
Trauma of any kind can make some rather significant changes to the brain. When a traumatic event is experienced, the nervous system is kicked into high gear and stress hormones are released. The brain does not always do a hard reset and stays in survival mode for longer than necessary. It is during these times that we are constantly reminded of a past experience and have difficulty relaxing, moving on, and fully recovering from the event.
Trauma can cause prolonged symptoms of anxiety such as fear of a repeated occurrence of the event, distraction due to repeating memories of the trauma, and loss of sleep due to anxiousness surrounding the event. Avoidance is a common defense mechanism for those with anxiety from a traumatic event. This can prevent an individual from fully healing and acknowledging the extent of their trauma. Thus, bottling up thoughts and feelings and increasing anxiety.
Like other mental illnesses, anxiety is not a result of flawed character or personal weakness.
Prolonged or Recent Exposure to Extreme Stress
Frequent and prolonged stress can ravage one’s body and mind. Though our bodies are designed to respond to and protect you from stress, there is a breaking point in which we can reach if the stress is too much to handle.
The long-term activation of the body’s stress response and overexposure to stress hormones can put a person at risk of developing an anxiety disorder, among several others. By learning how to better manage stress, a person can greatly decrease their chances of experiencing severe anxiety. In turn, overall quality of life is greatly improved.
Here at Sequoia Behavioral Health, we want to provide you with the resources and support needed to help you return to normalcy. By taking back control of your anxiety levels, you can lead the life you wish to live.
Effective anxiety treatment is determined by individual needs. It may take some trial and error to determine the ideal treatment plan for an individual. Some common forms of treatment include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Lifestyle changes
- Support groups
Breaking the cycle of anxiety is possible—let us help you do so! Our caring and knowledgeable staff will help you take action, stick to your treatment plan, and live the life you deserve. Call today to schedule a consultation.