Recognizing, Treating, and Dealing with Anxiety in Daily Life
Do I have anxiety?
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The majority of people experience common feelings of nervousness or worry around significant events or situations. The symptoms of those with GAD cause long-term effects that are disruptive to daily life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) the following symptoms must be present and persistent for a period of at least 6 months:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
If these symptoms cause significant problems or hindrances in your life, it may be time to seek professional help.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not the immediate diagnosis for those exhibiting symptoms, there are an array of related disorders that one may suffer from. Many individuals equate panic attacks to GAD. However, there is an entirely different diagnosis for those experiencing severe, recurrent panic attacks: Panic Disorder.
Phobia-related Disorders deal with an intense fear or aversion to a specific object or situations, often quite irrational. Some examples of phobia include fear of heights, blood, flying, and spiders. Again, although many people may get a little jumpy or creeped out by a spider, only those with a debilitating fear may have a phobia.
Social Anxiety regards the fear surrounding social situations. They feel intense worry about what others are thinking of them and feel embarrassed, often causing them to avoid social situations altogether.
How do I treat anxiety?
GAD is generally treated with some form of psychotherapy appropriate for the patient’s needs. There are a number of techniques used, but these are the most common:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- CBT focuses on shifting the patient’s thoughts, behaviors, and reactions to anxiety-inducing situations.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- ACT is a mindfulness-based therapy that encourages individuals to embrace their feelings rather than avoiding them.
- Group Therapy
- Group therapy is ideal because it comes with a strong support system. It’s good to relate to others and practice social skills.
Although medication does not cure, it certainly helps with reducing the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Doctors often prescribe:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- The most common anti-anxiety medications are benzodiazepines, which help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, panic, or extreme fear or worry.
- Although antidepressants treat depression, they also immensely help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. They reconfigure the chemicals your brain produces that control mood or stress.
- Beta-blockers are often used to treat high blood pressure, but they also work to treat the physical symptoms that accompany anxiety disorders, such as rapid heartbeat, shaking, and trembling.
Everyone reacts differently to different medications, and it may take time to find the right fit. Always listen to the doctor’s suggestions.
How do I live my life with anxiety?
There is a plethora of information out there about different ways to approach anxiety and self-soothe. Breathing exercises are a popular choice among those suffering from GAD. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and consistent fitness routine is also proven to help. It is recommended to try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two. It’s also important to always stay optimistic and have a positive attitude!
If you’re interested in learning more about GAD, you can refer to this webpage or one of these brochures. You can also check out the breathing app Breathe2Relax or the podcast Anxiety Toolkit if you prefer a more interactive approach.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from GAD, getting help is the first step. Clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers can help you work towards setting goals for mental wellness. Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information.