Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States with around 40 million adults ages 18 and up suffering from it. That is about 18.1% of the population every year.
The good news is, it is very treatable with medication and therapy.
However, only 36.9% of the 40 million Americans with anxiety get treatment. This disorder is developed for varying reasons. There are negative life events, abuse or toxic households, genetics, and chemistry in the brain.
Anxiety must be treated as those who suffer from it are 3-5 times more likely to be hospitalized and could manifest in physical ways or other illnesses. Apart from that depression is at times also diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Around half of those people who are depressed also have anxiety.
It is a natural reaction of the human body and mind to stressors. Some stressors are dangerous, unfamiliar situations, and also stressful situations. The human body does this to help warn us of impending perilous situations. It helps the body stay awake, aware of the surroundings, and alert to react to the situation. However, when a person has an anxiety disorder, it could be caused by irrational fears and could be completely debilitating.
Some symptoms of anxiety disorder are difficulty in sleeping, severe worry that is also difficult to control, and having a sense of impending doom or the like. The feeling could be so severe that the sufferers may have the impulse to completely avoid any stressor or anything that triggers the anxiety.
At times what makes this disorder very debilitating is that one has trouble thinking other than what is causing the anxiety. The physiological symptoms of anxiety are restlessness, increased heart rate due to fear, sweating, at times trembling, being weak and tired, and gastrointestinal problems like IBS and stomach ache.
Anxiety-related disorders are aplenty but it is divided into three main categories:
- An anxiety disorder is as mentioned excessive fear for perceived or real threats at the present and future or foreseen threat.
- Obsessive-compulsive and other related disorders. These are the disorders that are distinguished from simple anxiety disorder by obsessive, intrusive thoughts. An example of these would be the constant fear of being dirty or being too fat. These may then trigger certain behaviors that aren’t normal as it is done more times than necessary. Examples of this are repeated washing of hands or exercising excessively. These behaviors are formed to lessen the feelings of anxiety brought about by intrusive thoughts.
- Trauma and stressor-related disorders. These are the kinds of anxiety that come from an experience of certain trauma. Examples of these are violence, sexual assault, death, accidents, school violence, and others. This could also be caused by certain stressors like divorce, moving, and starting university, and others.
They are distinguished by irrational and excessive fear of something. Social Anxiety Disorder is the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed in social settings. While Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is an excessive worry of adverse results or negative conclusions. Panic Disorder is a feeling of panic and impending doom even without specific reason or triggers.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders are those when you have feelings of distress that trigger excessive repetition of actions or behaviors like washing of hands or switching lights on and off a certain number of times.
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is triggered by certain things that are similar to a traumatic event or stressor the person has been through. For example, sudden loud noise can trigger veterans that have returned from war. Other anxiety disorders are Selective Mutism and Separation Anxiety Disorder.
Depending on the gravity and level of debility that an anxiety disorder causes, the first line of defense for this is therapy and prescribed medication. There is also CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy that helps a sufferer cope with a situation that triggers their symptoms so that they can live without interruptions.
However, it is good to note that whatever is the prescribed treatment for what the sufferer is diagnosed for it all takes about 4-6 weeks to see the result of the treatment.
Breathing exercises, like focused deep breathing, will help a lot in situations that trigger anxiety. When you breathe in and out slowly for 5 minutes, you help control your heart rate that experienced a spike because of the anxiety.
The slower heart rate will then help you feel calm and clear for you to be able to find solutions for the trigger. Yoga, exercise, or going to the gym can help your body manufacture happy hormones that will alleviate your symptoms. Going for a walk will also help you focus on the present and your body. This will then relieve the anxiety you feel.
Changing your diet for the better will also boost your serotonin and help alleviate the symptoms of this disorder. Though you have to remember that as there is food that helps alleviate anxiety, there are also those that contribute to it. It might be difficult to forgo some of these but it would be best for its long-term benefits.
Foods that people with anxiety must avoid are alcoholic beverages, refined sugars, fried foods, and high glycemic carbohydrates like white bread, doughnuts, and a lot of packaged breakfast cereals. If you have panic attacks, then it is also recommended to avoid caffeine as it would increase your heart rate.
However, with GAD or general anxiety disorder, low levels of caffeine help people improve their mood and reduce their feelings of stress. Foods that help alleviate anxiety are as follows, whole grains, chocolate, almonds, blueberries, seaweed, acai berries, and maca root.
Writing down your thoughts and journaling are also very therapeutic for those with anxiety. It helps unload the overwhelming number of thoughts and feelings that weigh a person down. It would make a trigger that feels huge and daunting at a certain moment feel a little bit more manageable as your anxiety is.
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