New York Times article reports, “Almost 40% of Americans are more anxious than they were at this time last year, according to a new American Psychiatric Association (APA) poll.” Stress in America has dramatically increased over the past several years, which has resulted in a rise in individuals suffering from anxiety. In fact, roughly 18% of the U.S. population has an anxiety disorder according to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America. Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions just like heart disease or diabetes.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, when a person regularly feels anxious (extreme levels of constant worry, irritability, self-consciousness, hypochondriasis, feeling overwhelmed, insomnia), it may become classified as a medical disorder.
“The term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias” (ADAA.org).
What Causes Anxiety?
The cause of anxiety is different for everyone. Risk factors include being diagnosed with other medical conditions, past traumas, genetics, stress load, daily habits (such as food, sleep, exercise), substance abuse, and more. Sometimes anxiety presents itself during childhood, for other people it doesn’t show up until teenage years or later in adulthood.
- Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Living with anxiety definitely presents many challenges. People often experience racing thoughts, dread routine tasks or easily feeling completely overwhelmed – so much that it leaves them stuck in inaction. Loving someone with anxiety can also be difficult. Parents, romantic partners, and siblings often feel powerless to help or understand their loved one’s actions and how this condition affects their everyday life.
Are you concerned about your own struggle with anxiety? Do you have a friend or family member that you’d like to better understand and support? The good news is that no one is alone, whether you’re battling anxiety yourself or trying to help someone you know. Help is available. Fortunately there is an abundance of information about various mental health disorders, proper treatment, and coping strategies available. Self-coping strategies may include connecting with others, meditation, yoga, regular exercise, eliminating substances (alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine), and getting a healthy amount of sleep.
However, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they’re causing extreme distress and disrupting your daily routine, it may be time to seek professional help. At Lakeshore Psychotherapy Group, we will help you understand the complexity of your own mind, relationships, past experiences, and life. Our therapists will help you explore your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a safe, non-judgmental and meaningful relationship.
Psychotherapy is a process of self discovery, a way of reclaiming our painful experiences and making use of them to propel our lives forward in constructive and meaningful ways. Insight and understanding frees us from the prison of the past and creates potential for new growth and experience in the present.