Anxiety. It’s part of life. Most of the time, anxious feelings are in response to real or perceived dangers and stressful events.
For example, you might feel anxious before a presentation at work or after nearly hitting another car during a quick stop. In people without an anxiety disorder, the symptoms of anxiety usually pass quickly and only resurface when another stressful situation develops. Some people, however, have too much anxiety due to an anxiety disorder or other mental health conditions.
Read on to learn about some of the symptoms of anxiety, then find out what you can do to help yourself or your loved one.
There are times in life when worrying is natural and normal. For example, if you have something stressful coming up, if you are undergoing testing for a health condition, or if you are unable to make all of your payments in any given month, you might worry. You might find it difficult to sleep for a few nights or find yourself having trouble concentrating at work or school. Once the situation is resolved, your worry dissipates.
If you have an anxiety disorder, however, the worrying might never really go away. You might find that you can’t eat, sleep, or get your work done. You might feel that you are in a state of constant worry. The event or issue you’re worried about might not even be realistic, likely, or based on what is currently happening in your life. For example, you might worry that no one at work or school likes you, that you might get into a car accident or develop cancer someday, or that you will be fired or expelled for no reason. This type of worrying can impact your life and should be addressed.
You’ve probably experienced insomnia or a lack of appetite when you’re very anxious about an upcoming stressor. Maybe you aren’t able to eat dinner when you plan on breaking up with a romantic partner later that evening. Or you might find that you need to use the bathroom more often if you are very excited or nervous about an upcoming trip. These symptoms are normal, as long as they are short-lived and related to something that is actually happening.
If you are experiencing stomach aches, headaches, digestive difficulties, insomnia, or trouble eating, however, and they last more than a few days or are unrelated to a specific event or stressor, you might have a problem with anxiety. Some people find that they are sleeping or eating too much; these can also be symptoms of anxiety.
Some people with anxiety will have panic attacks. During a panic attack, the individual might think that they are going to die; it’s a very scary experience, but it’s not physically harmful. The symptoms of a panic attack include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- a rapid heartbeat
- stomach pain
- a sense of doom
A panic attack generally lasts just a few minutes before it begins to resolve on its own. There are some relaxation methods you can use during a panic attack to reduce its intensity and duration.
Because having a panic attack is so disturbing to many people, someone who has had one might begin to avoid places and situations that they think might cause another one. Anxiety can cause agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in a place that you can’t escape from. Often, this phobia is based on a previous panic attack. For example, if you had a panic attack at a concert, you might avoid going to other concerts. The avoidance can also extend to other places where there are a lot of people; you might avoid parades, fairs, and community events.
Teenagers might avoid going to school or taking the bus. An anxious teen might not want to go to football games, the prom, or other places where a lot of their peers will be. In severe cases, this type of anxiety can cause someone to not want to leave their home at all.
Some people who suffer from anxiety will seek to medicate their symptoms of anxiety with alcohol or drugs. Dulling their senses can reduce the amount of anxiety they feel at the time. Of course, this just creates a larger problem; they might become dependent on the substances, which means there are two mental health issues to solve rather than just one.
If you are the parent of a teenager who you suspect is using drugs or alcohol, anxiety might be to blame. Anyone dealing with a substance abuse issue should have a comprehensive mental health evaluation to see if the mental health professional can find the catalyst behind the substance use.
What To Do If You Experience Symptoms of Anxiety
If you think that you have mild anxiety and it’s not affecting your daily life, you could try some lifestyle changes. These might include the following:
- Exercise daily – Try going for a walk or a jog each day. If you don’t have a lot of time, even a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening can help.
- Eat healthy foods – Focus on getting enough protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid eating too much junk food.
- Get enough sleep – Many Americans are sleep-deprived. Go to bed at a reasonable time so you can get seven or eight hours of sleep each night.
If your anxiety symptoms are making it difficult for you to eat, sleep, and function, or if you are not able to comfortably leave your home or are beginning to rely on substances, it’s time to seek help. See your doctor first, because occasionally medical issues can manifest as mental health issues. Then make an appointment with a mental health professional for an evaluation and treatment. They might recommend therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Anxiety does not have to affect your life. There are ways that you can get past the symptoms of anxiety and move on to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t be afraid to seek help for this common condition.