Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is ‘to vex or trouble’; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness, and dread.
For some people, anxiety is just a part of life. For others, it’s a crippling condition that interferes with their daily activities. Still, others experience it as something in between: a sometimes disruptive condition that can be managed or minimized with the right coping mechanisms.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is caused by a wide range of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Anxiety disorders are not caused by a single event or factor. Rather, they are caused by a combination of factors that vary from person to person.
Common causes of anxiety include:
Family history. Anxiety disorders can run in families, so it’s possible your anxiety may be related to your genetic makeup. If a parent or other close relative has an anxiety disorder, you have an increased risk of developing the same type of disorder.
Brain chemistry and hormones. Some people with certain chemical imbalances in the brain are more prone to develop anxiety disorders than others. Hormonal changes also can contribute to anxiety disorders in women — particularly before their period each month or during pregnancy and menopause.
Personality traits. People with certain personality traits — such as low self-esteem and being overly concerned about what others think — are more likely to develop anxiety disorders than others are.
Stressful life situations. Getting married, changing jobs or schools, having a baby, losing a loved one, or moving can trigger anxiety in some people who have an underlying anxiety disorder.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.
- Anxiety symptoms vary from mild to severe and include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Not being able to be still and calm
What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety?
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can seriously affect day-to-day living.
The most common types of anxiety disorders are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common disorder, characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. People with GAD can’t seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
People with GAD also seem unable to relax. They often have trouble concentrating and may suffer from fatigue. Headaches, a churning stomach, and muscle tension are common
People with GAD feel anxious most days, worrying about lots of everyday things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very worried about just getting through the day. This can cause lots of problems with daily life – for example, at work or school – and with family and friends.
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are very preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. These attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep.
This disorder usually begins in adulthood (after age 20), but children can also have panic disorder and many children experience panic-like symptoms (frequent stomach aches, headaches) without meeting the full criteria for panic disorder.
Adolescents and young adults who have panic disorder may have trouble attending school or other types of public places where help wouldn’t be immediately available in the event of a panic attack. Other concerns include having multiple panic attacks or worrying about when the next attack will happen.
Anyone who deals with panic disorder knows it is a disabling condition. It occurs in 2.7% of the US population. Panic attacks are characterized by discrete periods of intense fear or discomfort, accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, trembling, and weakness.
Phobia anxiety disorders are the most common of all of these disorders. A phobia is an irrational, persistent fear of certain situations, objects, activities, or persons. Phobias are not simply extreme fears; they are irrational because they aren’t based on reality. The fear is connected to a particular object; it cannot be explained or traced to any other cause.
A phobia is an intense fear reaction that occurs in the presence of a specific object or situation. The trigger for this type of anxiety disorder isn’t really dangerous and most people realize that their feelings aren’t rational. However, when a person has a phobia, he/she avoids the situation because it feels too risky.
The most common types of phobias include:
- Animal phobias (fear of spiders, insects, dogs)
- Natural environment phobias (fear of heights, storms, water)
- Blood-injection-injury phobias (fear of needles, seeing blood)
- Situational phobias (fear of airplanes, elevators, tunnels)
- Other phobias (fear of choking, vomiting, or contracting an illness)
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They worry that people at the event will judge them.
This may cause them to avoid public situations altogether. Even when they go out with friends they know, they may worry about looking anxious. They might worry about embarrassing themselves or saying something wrong.
People with SAD are overly self-conscious around other people. They worry a lot about what other people think of them and how they are being judged. This can cause them to avoid social settings entirely.
There is no one reason why a person develops SAD. It likely results from a mix of factors that influence brain chemistry, including genetics, personality traits, and life events.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has excessive and persistent worry about being away from home or loved ones. This includes being away from people to whom the person has a strong emotional attachment, such as parents or siblings.
The anxiety interferes with daily life and can make it difficult for a person to be on their own. Separation anxiety disorder is most common in children but can occur at any age. It usually starts before adulthood, but there are cases of adults developing this disorder later in life.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development. It usually occurs when an infant is very young, then goes away by the time the child turns 3 years old. When separation anxiety persists beyond that age, it might be time to talk to your child’s doctor about it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
For example, someone with an unreasonable fear of germs may develop a compulsion to wash his or her hands over and over again. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.
People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. People with OCD try to ignore or stop their obsessions but that only increases their distress and anxiety.
Ultimately they feel they must react to the obsession in some way by satisfying the obsession through a compulsive behavior or ritual. The more a person tries to resist the compulsive behavior or ritual, the stronger the urge becomes. I
If a person doesn’t perform the compulsive behavior or ritual to get relief from the obsession, he or she experiences extreme anxiety and distress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, causing flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
The event that triggers PTSD can be something experienced directly, such as a serious car accident or an assault, or it can be something witnessed such as an act of violence or natural disaster.
Someone does not need to experience the traumatic event directly for PTSD to occur; it can also develop in someone who learns that a relative or close friend was harmed.
How Do I Find Relief From Anxiety?
There are a variety of different ways to find relief from anxiety. Medication, psychotherapy, and exercise are all useful methods.
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.
Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element — really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise — you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster but also ease symptoms.
Of course, exercise isn’t just about physical wellness. It can also help with emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), regular exercise is an important part of therapy for most people who are dealing with anxiety.
When you’re going through a period of severe anxiety in life, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from anxiety — that’s why there are so many books and articles on the subject. But what seems to help more than anything else is exercise.
It can be as simple as taking a walk down the block, or as intense as a three-hour sweat session at the gym. Whatever it is, the goal is to take control of the anxiety by doing things you know you can do. And once you’ve worked through your anxiety, you can start feeling better about being anxious in the first place.
Exercise has an immediate effect on your body, but it also has a long-term effect on your mind. The more you’re actively exercising, the better you’ll feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What Does The Research Say?
A study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Therapy and Research, looked at the effect that exercise had on anxious feelings in a group of 15 people.
The participants were asked to complete four different workouts: low intensity, medium intensity, high intensity, and no workout. After each workout, the participants were asked to draw squiggly lines on paper with their dominant hand. Each squiggly line corresponded to how they were feeling at that moment.
The study found that after exercising, the participants reported less anxiety than they did before they exercised. They also indicated that they felt calmer and centered than they did before they worked out.
The study also found that the type of exercise didn’t make a difference in how much relief participants felt from their anxiety.
So whether you’re doing yoga or going for a run, you’ll still experience the same benefit — reduced anxiety!
Another thing you might want to try out is Exerpy. Exerpy stands for exercise therapy, and the company strictly focuses on exercise programs that are geared towards helping relieve mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.