STRESSED OUT: Understanding Anxiety Disorders

stressed-out
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are more common today than ever before. Modern life provides ample reason to feel anxious, and while occasional anxiousness is unavoidable, when it does not go away or gets worse over time, it may be cause for concern.  With high levels of uncertainty caused by the ever-changing economic and political landscapes and the constant stream of new technologies, nothing seems to be the same from one day to the next. These and other changes can destabilize our sense of the world around us and our place in it.  The truth is, with the rise of social media and the rapid spread of information about world events, there are all kinds of new reasons to feel uneasy or apprehensive, meaning that it is more important than ever to check in with ourselves and loved ones regularly to make sure our anxiety is manageable.
Causes of Anxiety
Although the cause of anxiety is unknown, it is believed to be a combination of genetic factors,  traumatic events, and ongoing life stress. New evidence also suggests that the unprecedented levels of stimulation (leading to overstimulation) which seem part and parcel of modern life, may also be contributing. Think of it like this, in order to focus and be productive, our brains must be able to filter through all the incoming stimuli deciding what to focus on and what to ignore or discard. It is estimated that adults make about 35,00 decisions each day while we are being exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements. The average office employee receives about 120 emails, and it is estimated that 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily. When the volume is too great, and these numbers from recent studies suggest that it may well be too great, people can quickly feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. As stimulation increases, the brain kicks into high gear in an attempt to respond, and we become hyper-alert, the problem is that this response is continuous and may lead to increased alertness and anxiousness.
Effects of Anxiety
Anxiety can cause us to feel tired, it can decrease our ability to focus, and it gradually leads to health problems.  There are several types of anxiety disorders, including; Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Specific Phobias are also considered anxiety disorders.
 
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
 
Nearly 7 billion adults in the U.S. are affected by GAD annually, and while the cause is unknown, it can be more debilitating than typical anxiety.  Symptoms show themselves slowly and persist over time.   Below are a few of the key factors to consider when deciding whether anxiety levels may require some help. Keep in mind that for a GAD diagnosis; symptoms will last for at least six months.
  • Anxiety or worry that’s excessive and persistent
  • Difficulty controlling or stopping worry
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fatigue –  becoming fatigued after little exertion
  • Extreme restlessness or irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
Panic Disorder
Those suffering from Panic Disorder have panic attacks, sudden intense or overwhelming bouts of fear or discomfort typically lasting for several minutes. These may feel like a heart attack. About 3.3 million adults in the U.S. suffer from
Panic Disorder, which is characterized by the following symptoms:
  • Panic attacks with accompanying physical symptoms that can feel like a heart attack.
  • Intense concern about future panic attacks
  • The feeling of being out of control
  • Avoidance of the places one has experienced previous attacks
Social Anxiety Disorder
It’s estimated that 15 million Americans are affected by Social Anxiety Disorder. Individuals with this disorder may experience fear or anxiety in social situations, such as; speaking to a cashier or wait staff, meeting new people, dating, speaking in class, using public restrooms, or eating in public. These fears can impair the ability to do things that involve being in social settings, some symptoms include:
  • Concern that one may be embarrassed or may humiliate one’s self
  • Fear of being judged
  • Anxiety when talking to strangers
  • Anxiety for future events
  • Nausea, blushing or trembling when required to perform in front of others
  • Extremely self-conscious in front of others
  • Avoiding situations that involve talking to people or being the center of attention
If you think you may suffer from GAD, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder or a specific phobia, help is available.  Anxiety disorders can often be treated with psychotherapy, medication or both. Get in touch with your behavioral health provider to discuss your symptoms.

 

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