Anxiety is actually a very important natural response to stress. It is protective and evolved to prevent us from entering into dangerous situations. If you’ve ever experienced the sudden adrenaline rush that comes from a near accident or injury, you’ll know that it is also a protective mechanism for helping us escape harm should we find ourselves in a suddenly dangerous situation.
The anxiety you feel near snakes, rats and spiders? Adaptive – they often carry diseases or venom that can threaten your health. As soon as you feel anxiety, your body starts the fight-flight-freeze response to help it mount an appropriate response, increase our performance and stamina, and prepare to defend itself.
That feeling you get before a big game, your first day at school, going for a job interview or giving a presentation is also anxiety. Some degree of anxiety can actually help us perform better on a range of tasks. But severe anxiety can be distracting, and if it gets to the point where it starts to interfere with your life, it might be time to seek help.
What are anxiety disorders?
While ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, and doesn’t interfere with your everyday life, anxiety disorders are intense, debilitating, and the feeling of fear or worry seems to be with you all the time. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it stops you from doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it might prevent you from doing things other people do easily, such as crossing a street, going to a social gathering, entering an elevator, or even leaving your home. Left untreated, the anxiety continues to get worse.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety can look and feel different depending on the person. It can range from mild sensations like butterflies in your stomach to feeling like you’re having a heart attack. Some people feel like they’re out of control, or like there’s a disconnect between their mind and their body. In extreme circumstances, some people feel like they’re dying.
General symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
- Trembling, weakness or lethargy
- Nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep or insomnia
- GI problems (gas, constipation or diarrhea)
- Panic attacks
- Painful thoughts or memories you can’t control
- Excessive fear or worry
- Fear of a specific place or situation
- Obsessions about certain ideas
- Performing certain behaviors repetitively
When is it time to see a therapist?
Anxiety plays a pivotal role in a number of different disorders. Sometimes it’s not always easy to tell when it becomes serious enough that its interfering with your daily life. Without treatment, anxiety often gets worse over time. You should start working with a therapist if you or your loved one feels like:
- You’re worrying so much that it’s interfering with daily life (hygiene, school, work, or social life)
- Your anxiety, fear, or worry is distressing and hard for you to control
- You feel depressed or have other mental health concerns
- You are using alcohol, drugs, exercise or food to cope
- You are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are performing suicidal or self-injury behaviors
If any of these symptoms resonate with you or your loved one, the good news is that anxiety is highly treatable. Reach out to us to schedule an evaluation and begin treatment with one of our anxiety specialists today.