Sometimes, it’s counting the minutes until you can leave. Sometimes, it’s a nervous tick that helps to maintain your calm. Sometimes, it’s a pressure on your chest that manifests into a fullblown panic attack. Regardless, in every scenario, anxiety is the main driving force. However, despite these commonalities, anxiety disorder functions quite differently from person to person. Below is a brief but informative look at what anxiety is, how it operates in our lives, and what preventative tools one can use to respond to its direct effect in our lives.
What Is Anxiety?
The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety disorders as, “Disorders that frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).” Although anxiety disorders on the whole typically exhibit one or more of these symptoms, there remains great variation in the types of anxiety disorders that exist.
For instance, according to experts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, anxiety disorders can be split into five specific categories:
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
• Panic Disorder
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety) Disorder.
Each of these respective categories not only require unique treatment, but can also be brought on by different life events unique to every individual. For example, PTSD can often manifest in individuals that have experienced things such as a personal assault, or even combat.
How Does Anxiety Function In Everyday Life?
Experts across the board have established that anxiety is indeed a fear-based disorder. Rooted in this fear is often man’s everpresent battle with the future. “When I see patients that struggle with anxiety, I always find that it is rooted in a state of being overwhelmed. This overwhelming feeling then builds to such heights that you’ve now got some pretty serious anxiety. And, what I have noticed is, 100% is rooted in fear of the future,” shared Clinical Specialist Paul Kurlancheek.
This fear of the future often presents itself in the future tense of every anxious thought. For example, an individual struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may think, “Something bad will happen if every square inch of my room is not spotless.” An individual battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, may experience extreme paranoia and is constantly thinking, “Is there the potential that a traumatic event will happen if I do this or that?” The fear that permeates the everyday life of an individual that struggles with anxiety disorder builds to such a point, albeit in very different ways for every person, that toxic habits begin to develop. For this reason, society must not shy away from raising awareness, seeking knowledge, or being open to treatment options.
Prevention and Treatment Options
Psychotherapy: Just like there are many different kinds of anxiety disorders, there are many different forms of therapy. Psychotherapy teaches patients specific therapeutic techniques that they can utilize to overcome their anxiety. One of the most prevalent or popular forms of psychotherapy to treat anxiety is CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This form of therapy teaches patients to respond differently in how they think, behave, and react to anxietyinducing situations. Furthermore, according to the National Institute of Mental Health there are two helpful techniques often used sideby- side, “Cognitive therapy and exposure therapy are two CBT methods that are often used, together or by themselves, to treat social anxiety disorder. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing unhelpful or distorted thoughts underlying anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding.”
Medications: There is great confusion about what medications can be helpful when treating anxiety. However, there are some genuinely helpful medications that counteract the strong symptoms of anxiety disorder. “Beta-blockers are extremely helpful when treating anxiety. Their main function is to bring the heart rate down. With a decreased heart rate, it is impossible to feel anxious. I typically recommend this kind of medication to someone who has extreme highs or lows or needs to perform in front of people, as it starts working the minute you take it,” explained Dr. Aldo Morales.
Address It Early: According to the American Psychological Association, 40 million adults, 18 and over, experience an anxiety disorder in any given year, and of those adults, threequarters will experience their first episode by age 21. As a society, we must be willing to discuss what makes us anxious, and to what extent. Anxiety disorder is treatable, there is hope. Therefore, it is encouraged that individuals address their anxiety, get diagnosed, and seek treatment, in order to experience a life of healing and peace.
Ariana Lobo is the Managing Content Editor with Retreat Behavioral Health. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Elon University. Ariana is passionate about creating content that is challenging and thought-provoking. Previously, she worked at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, where she was responsible for all written, marketing and media content for their 2016 Summer season.
Ariana also worked at her alma mater Elon University, as Diversity Coordinator for the Center for Race Ethnicity and Diversity Education