Recognizing Anxiety Disorder and How to Cope
Life can be stressful. Money worries and changes to the daily routine can result in something called anxiety, which is a feeling of unease or apprehension. Most adults will encounter anxiety at some point in their lives. This alone is not a cause for concern. Anxiety is a normal part of navigating the modern world. However, anxiety disorders can persist for months or much longer than that, and they can have serious mental and physiological effects.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
The term “anxiety disorder” refers to several different psychological disorders, usually pertaining to intensified feelings of anxiety or worry. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), for instance, manifests when an individual suffers from excessive feelings of worry about daily life, such as finances and health. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense anxiety when confronted with a social situation. When anxiety is triggered by a specific stimulus, such as heights, specific phobia disorder may be present. Similarly, agoraphobia refers to an avoidance of places or situations where an individual anticipates an anxiety attack. Not all anxiety disorders are triggered by a specific cause. An individual suffering from panic disorder will experience seemingly random panic attacks, during which strong feelings of anxiety or fear can temporarily paralyze the individual.
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Anxiety disorders can be difficult to identify because the symptoms seem so similar to regular daily emotions. The easiest way to tell if someone is suffering from GAD is to determine if problems like a feeling of agitation, difficulty concentrating, or trouble sleeping persist for more than six months. Those with GAD may also develop physical signs such as frequent headaches, nausea, difficulty relaxing, muscle tension, or habits like nail-biting. Nail-biting alone can result in the chipping or degradation of teeth, but when combined with other symptoms, the physical discomfort may further aggravate a disorder.
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Causes and Effects
It’s not precisely known why people develop anxiety disorders. Genetics may play a part in GAD, but some cases seem to be environmental or pharmaceutical in origin. Women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men. Particularly traumatic life events can result in the development of an anxiety disorder, although it’s common for anxiety disorders to develop alongside other mental health problems such as depression. Long work hours, exhaustion, or pressure from work or study can all contribute to feelings of anxiety. In the case of children, watching adults respond to the world with hostility and worry can lead to a child developing similar coping mechanisms.
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Ways to Handle Anxiety
An anxiety disorder can make life more difficult to navigate, but there are strategies to treat both the disorder and its effects on daily activities. Therapy and medication may be used separately or together to help treat the disorder. Behavioral therapy can help individuals learn to reduce stress through certain physical routines. Cognitive therapy may help the individual better control the course of their thoughts and emotions, which can help reduce agitation during periods of anxiety.
When addressing a loved one with an anxiety disorder, the most important thing to do is to be compassionate and patient, especially during stressful episodes. If personally experiencing feelings of anxiety, there are several things that can be done to help. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, or engaging walks in nature can help reinvigorate and relax both the body and the mind. Be aware of physical needs, like enough sleep and a proper diet. Reduce excess consumption of caffeine and sugar, and reach out to friends and family for companionship and support. Anxiety may make it seem like the world is closing in, but it doesn’t have to be endured alone.
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