The past few months have been challenging. As a result, many of us, including children, parents, and seniors, are experiencing feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Occasional anxiety over recent events, on top of additional personal stress, is normal. However, the feelings of anxiety caused by an anxiety disorder, do not go away and can worsen over time. These feelings of anxiety can interfere with your daily life and may be difficult to control.
Knowing the difference between normal fears or worries and anxiety disorders is important and can help you recognize them and seek treatment.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
Each type of anxiety disorder has its own unique symptoms:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has frequent or constant feelings of worry and anxiety about issues, such as health, work, social interactions, or everyday situations. These feelings can cause problems in areas of your life such as school, work, and social interactions. In some cases, people with GAD have experienced these feelings since childhood or adolescence, while in other cases, they may have been triggered by temporary stress.
- Feeling irritable
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tense muscles
- Trouble falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
Panic attacks are periods of intense fear that can occur suddenly. Over time, they can be triggered by certain situations. A person with panic disorder has repeated and unexpected panic attacks, and often worries about when the next attack will happen.
During a panic attack, some people may experience:
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
- Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
- Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
- Trembling or shaking
A phobia is an intense fear caused by a specific object or situation. Common phobias include flying and heights, but people can develop phobias regarding almost anything. People with phobias feel fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by that situation or object. People with a phobia may:
- Experience an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
- Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety or dread
- Experience immediate, intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
- Take steps to avoid the feared object or situation
Know the Risk Factors
The risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder can vary, but some general risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders can include:
- A family or genetic history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
- Consumption of caffeine or medications (such as certain steroids or over-the-counter cold remedies) that can produce anxiety-like effects
- Exposure to stressful and negative events in early childhood or adulthood
- Health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias
Actions You Can Take
While you can’t predict what will cause anxiety disorders to develop, you can take the following steps to help reduce the impact of symptoms if you are anxious:
- Avoid alcohol or drug use since it can cause or worsen anxiety.
- Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep, since poor sleep quality, insomnia, or sleep deprivation may increase your risks.
- Our social interactions have been limited during the last few months but talking with friends over the phone and doing things that you enjoy while staying safe may help reduce your worries.
- Seek help early if you are experiencing symptoms that don’t go away.
If you have an anxiety disorder, you should work with your doctor to choose the best treatment for you. In addition to psychotherapy or medication, there are other ways that you may benefit from when dealing with an anxiety disorder.
- Support groups. A support group alone is not a substitute for therapy. But, in conjunction with other treatment, joining a support group and sharing your experiences with others could benefit you.
- Meditation and techniques to manage stress. These can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and enhance the effects of therapy.
We Are Here to Support You
Your mental health is important. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing occasional anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at (855) 425-1777. We are here for you, and together we can find the answers you need.