What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is both a mental and bodily condition of unfavorable anticipation. Physically, it is defined by uncomfortable activation of several physiological systems, and mentally, it is marked by elevated arousal and fear twisted into excruciating worry—all to assist reaction to an unknown threat, whether real or imagined.

The physical sensations of jitteriness, a racing heart, and the cognitive thoughts of dread in expectation of some negative consequence are intended to cause discomfort. Anxiety is intended to draw your attention and motivate you to take the required actions to safeguard the things you value. Periodic anxiety attacks are natural and sometimes even helpful. We humans pay the price for being able to envision the future, and that price is anxiety.

When anxiety is a mental illness

However, the hallmark of an anxiety disorder is persistent, pervasive, or excessive anxiety, which may interfere with everyday activities at home, at work, or with friends. In the United States, about one-third of individuals will struggle with unmanageable anxiety at some point.

Depression and anxiety often co-occur and have similar symptoms and shared brain pathways. Biology, childhood trauma, and parental behaviors like overprotection may all increase an individual’s susceptibility to anxiety.

Since anxiety is essential to our survival and alertness, its complete eradication is neither conceivable nor desired. The goal of treatment is to keep anxiety under control. A combination of therapy and medication or both are effective treatments for anxiety. Deep breathing and frequent exercise are two lifestyle choices that are crucial for managing anxiety.

Check out our Diagnosis Dictionary for additional information on the causes, signs, and treatments of anxiety disorders.

Why Anxiety Is Growing

Anxiety is now the most prevalent mental health issue in the world, and it is particularly prevalent among young people. Children and teenagers are being diagnosed with the illness in more significant numbers.

Due to various economic and cultural upheavals, the burden of uncertainty in almost every aspect of contemporary life is one of the often stated causes of the overall increase in anxiety. Although it doesn’t directly cause anxiety, uncertainty fosters it.

The growth of social media and overprotective parenting styles are two significant elements that cause anxiety in young people. Technology opens new doors for human connection and creates new potential for social exclusion and bad social comparison.

See Children and Anxiety for further information.

How to Identify the Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety itself physically is a heart-pounding discomfort that ranges from general jitteriness and shaking to ringing in the ears and shortness of breath. It also manifests mentally as unending cycles of worry.

The physical signs of anxiety may be quite deceptive. In addition to being often misdiagnosed as heart attacks and approaching doom, a hallmark of panic attacks, they also frequently result in medical odysseys. Physical symptoms may be mistakenly attributed to biological reasons, leading to an ineffective search for those causes that leaves the real cause of the issue unidentified and unattended.

Treatment for Anxiety

Psychotherapy, either by itself or in conjunction with medication, and lifestyle changes, is often an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. One of the best solutions is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which may be customized to a person’s particular worries. Patients learn to challenge the faulty mental patterns that cause so much distress.

Most behavioral therapies for anxiety include exposure therapy, which progressively exposes patients to their fears, so they no longer avoid them. Patients often turn to medication to manage their symptoms well enough to concentrate on talk therapy.

In the long-term treatment of anxiety, lifestyle adjustments are crucial. Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation programs all concentrate on different aspects of the condition.

When Does Anxiety Become an Illness?

Anxiety attacks, on occasion, are very natural and one of the inevitable expenses of living. But sometimes, anxieties spiral out of control.

They could appear out of nowhere, be out of proportion to the circumstance, or persist beyond attempts to address potential issues. Or the anxiety or discomfort makes you avoid any likely discomfort-inducing circumstances. When anxiety interferes with tasks and performance or consumes excessive mental energy, it becomes a disorder.

What Kinds of Anxiety Exist?

There are a few diagnostically unique ways that anxiety manifests itself. Most older adults suffer from a Generalized Anxiety disorder, characterized by worries about significant spheres of life, including job, love, money, and health. Younger persons are more likely to have a Social Anxiety disorder, which is more specifically focused on a fear of being negatively evaluated by others.

Phobias often focus on certain things or situations. Anxiety may sometimes come on suddenly and intensely, then increase to a terrible crescendo. Panic attacks may come on suddenly and at random, or they might occur with incapacitating frequency. Treatment is available for anxiety in all its manifestations.

Causes of Anxiety

The ability of humans to envisage a future is what causes anxiety. Uncertainty provides fertile ground for it, and today’s world is full of uncertainty.

Anxiety is distinct in that it may be brought on entirely internally by thoughts of actual or imagined dangers (not knowing what to say when the boss calls on you in a meeting)., or it can be brought on by external events such as an impending doctor’s appointment, a marital conflict, or a rent increase.

What Treatment for Anxiety Is Best?

Some cognitive behavioral therapy forms are the primary line of treatment for anxiety. Therapy is practical, present-focused, and offers tools for reversing reactions. It enables individuals to realize the cognitive distortion that worry imposes on them and helps them confront those fears.

Restore tranquility is the aim of all treatments. It does, however, much more. When anxiety threatens to dominate them, it aids individuals in regaining control over themselves.

A real human being is present during therapy, which is an added benefit. We are social organisms, and our neurological systems are susceptible to external influences. The presence of a helpful person is a potential safety signal that immediately and effectively counteracts the (erroneous) alarms of danger that characterize anxiety disorders.

Natural methods for reducing anxiety

Because anxiety limits life and propensity to persist, it needs active treatment. But it doesn’t indicate a prescription or other kind of treatment is necessary. Changing lifestyle or habits is one of the best methods to manage anxiety.

Meditation is an Eastern method of mind-calming that is becoming increasingly popular in Western societies. Running or walking regularly may assist relieve the muscular tension that often causes discomfort. The brain is also altered by it. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, may be one of the most effective treatments available. It immediately impacts the neurological system and promotes relaxation while reducing perceptions of danger.

What Does Anxiety’s Biology Look Like?

Anxiety is a mental and physical condition that may exist regardless of how natural or hypothetical the danger you’re responding to is.  It is controlled by hormones that impact every bodily function, from attention to energy metabolism.

When you feel overwhelmed by unpleasant emotions, your mind becomes alert and ready to spot threats. Your body is preparing to react to a potentially bad circumstance due to the heightened physical arousal, including jitteriness and muscular tightness. It has the best of intentions and wants to keep you alive.

What Predisposes People to Anxiety?

Anyone may go through a period of debilitating anxiety. However, certain persons seem predisposed to anxiety: They see neutral circumstances as dangerous or overreact to threatening situations because of heredity, temperament, early experiences, over- or under activity of particular brain areas, or a combination of these factors.

Anxiety and stress have many characteristics, and stress is a significant cause of anxiety. Anxiety may both cause and be caused by stress.

See What Makes People Vulnerable to Anxiety for additional information.

Panic Attacks

Although they might give you the impression that you are about to pass away, panic attacks are not life-threatening bursts of intense worry. Extremely acute physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and feeling as if one is having trouble breathing, cause further anxiety and heighten the sense of panic.

Even when you’re asleep, panic attacks may strike suddenly, and the horror is made worse by the sense of being out of control. Even amid such terrifying and overpowering attacks, they can still be controlled.

Children and Anxiety

As many as one in eight kids may suffer from severe anxiety. Being apart from their parents is one of their main concerns. However, they are concerned about many issues, from fires and natural calamities beyond their control to possible parents’ separation or divorce. They are also worried about global issues like terrorism and the impact of climate change.

When anxieties interfere with sleep, getting ready for or paying attention in class, attending social events, or participating in activities with others, they become troublesome. The rise in helicopter parenting significantly influences the incidence of childhood anxiety.

Choose your Reaction!