What Anxiety Can Do to You: Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in America, with an estimated 40 million adults living with some form. There are many signs and symptoms to watch for if you think that your anxiety may be getting out of control, or if you want to know what it can do to someone. This article will go over why anxiety happens, how it affects people differently, and how it can be treated.

What is an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks are episodes of intense fear or anxiety that can last from a few minutes to an hour. They can be very frightening and may cause you to feel like you’re having a heart attack, losing your mind, or dying.

Types of Anxieties Disorders

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, each with its own set of signs and symptoms. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This is characterized by excessive worry and tension that lasts for at least six months and interferes with daily activities
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: This is a fear of being around people or of being judged by others. It can lead to avoidance of social situations and cause significant distress
  • Panic Disorder: This is characterized by sudden, unexpected attacks of terror that strike for no apparent reason. The person may feel like they’re having a heart attack or going crazy
  • Phobias: These are irrational fears of specific things or situations, such as spiders, heights, or public speaking
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This is a disorder characterized by unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions) that are done in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder:  This is when you worry excessively about being away from home or close people and may be accompanied by physical symptoms like stomach ache
  • PTSD:  Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or violent personal assaults.
  • Hoarding Disorder: This is a disorder in which people accumulate excessive numbers of possessions and have great difficulty getting rid of them, even if they are no longer useful or desired.

Why Does Anxiety Happen?

Anxiety can be caused by a number of things, such as genetics, environment, lifestyle, and even diet. Some of the most common causes include: 

  • Genetics: If a close family member struggles with anxiety, you may be more likely to develop it as well 
  • Environment/Lifestyle: Traumatic life experiences such as abuse or neglect can cause anxiety later in life. Other environmental factors like your work environment and support system can also play a role 
  • Diet: Studies have shown that there is a link between anxiety and diet. Some foods like caffeine, sugar, and processed foods can aggravate symptoms, while others like omega-fatty acids may help to improve them

What Causes Anxiety?

There is no one answer to this question as each person’s experience with anxiety is different. There are, however, some common triggers that cause anxiety in many people. These include:

  • Stress 
  • Traumatic life experiences (i.e., abuse)
  • Negative thinking or beliefs about yourself or your abilities 
  • Health concerns or problems with physical health/nutrition 

How Does Anxiety Affect People?   

Again, anxiety affects people differently. For some, it may cause mild discomfort or occasional episodes of panic attacks. For others, however, it can be debilitating and interfere with daily activities. In addition to the physical symptoms of anxiety (described below), people with chronic anxiety often experience:

  • Emotional distress (e.g., feeling overwhelmed, out of control, or panicked)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness or irritability 
  • Sleep problems (e.g., insomnia, nightmares)

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety:

The physical symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. They may include:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint 
  • Chills or hot flashes 

How is Anxiety Treated?

There are many different ways to treat anxiety. Treatment may include medication, therapy, or a combination of both. It is important to find a treatment plan that works for you and that you can stick with. If your anxiety is mild, self-care measures such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and stress management may be all you need. If your anxiety is more severe, however, you may need to see a therapist or doctor for help.

Medication: 

There are many different types of medication that can be used to treat anxiety. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers. It is important to work with your doctor to find the medication that is right for you.

Therapy: 

Therapy is a key part of treatment for anxiety. There are many different types of therapy, and it is important to find one that works for you. Some therapies that may be helpful include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.

How Can I Reduce My Anxiety?

There are many things you can do to reduce your anxiety. These include:

Regular Exercise:

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and can improve your mood. In fact, some studies have shown that exercise may be as effective as medication for reducing symptoms of anxiety. Because it releases endorphins, makes you feel more relaxed, and reduces muscle tension, it’s also one of the best ways to cope with physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle aches.

Taking Care of Your Health:  

An important part of reducing anxiety is to take care of your physical health. This may include following a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress effectively. 

Being Mindful:

Being mindful can help you focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. This can help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. There are many different ways to be mindful, including meditation, yoga, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Talk to a Friend:

Talking to someone about your anxiety can be helpful. It can allow you to process your feelings and get support from others. Additionally, talking about your anxiety can help you feel less alone and ashamed.

Avoid Alcohol: 

While alcohol may seem to reduce symptoms of anxiety in the short term, it actually makes them worse over time. Drinking too much also carries a number of other risks that aren’t worth taking if you’re trying to cope with anxiety.

Yoga:

Yoga is a mind-body practice that can be helpful for reducing anxiety. Yoga combines breathing exercises, meditation, and poses to help you focus on the present moment and reduce stress. 

Get Enough Sleep: 

Getting enough sleep is important for your physical and mental health. When you’re tired, it’s harder to cope with anxiety and your stress levels can be higher.

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings: 

Stress often comes from feeling like you’re out of control or that there is too much going on around you to handle. Practicing mindfulness can help ground you in the present moment and reduce stress, anxiety, and overwhelm by giving you a sense of control.

Focus on the Present: 

When you’re anxious, it’s easy to focus on worst-case scenarios and all of the things that could go wrong in your life. This can make anxiety worse because it causes stress and keeps you from living in reality. Focusing instead on what is happening right now can help keep those negative thoughts at bay.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: 

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that can be helpful for anxiety. ACT helps you accept your thoughts and feelings, rather than trying to fight them or get rid of them. This can help reduce stress and anxiety.

What Can Make it Worse?

There are many things that can make anxiety worse. These include:

Stressful Life Events:

Stressful life events, such as a death in the family or a job loss, can trigger anxiety.

Negative Thinking: 

People with anxiety often have negative thoughts about themselves or their abilities. This can make symptoms worse.

Crowds and Public Places: 

For some people, being in crowds or public places can trigger anxiety.

Lack of Support: 

Having a strong support system can help to reduce the effects of anxiety. A lack of support can make symptoms worse.

Diet: 

Studies have shown that there is a link between anxiety and diet. Some foods like caffeine, sugar, and processed foods can aggravate symptoms.

Alcohol and Drugs: 

Using alcohol or drugs can worsen symptoms of anxiety. It is important to avoid using these substances if you have anxiety.

When to Seek Help

If your anxiety is causing you distress or interfering with your daily life, it is important to seek help. Talk to your doctor, a therapist, or another mental health professional about what options are available for you. There is no shame in seeking help and many people find relief from their symptoms after treatment. You are not alone.

FAQ

How Bad Can Anxiety Really Get?

Anxiety can be so bad that it causes people to avoid activities they used to enjoy, have trouble going out in public, or even have suicidal thoughts.

Is My Anxiety Killing Me?

No, anxiety itself will not kill you. However, the symptoms of anxiety can be very distressing and lead to other problems like depression, which can be fatal.

Can Anxiety Damage the Brain?

There is some evidence that anxiety can damage the brain, but more research is needed to determine if this is true.

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