Why do I get anxious? Is anxiety normal?
When we get anxious our bodies are just doing what they are meant to do however it is not very helpful or adaptive in our peaceful modern society.
Anxiety is the natural response the body produces when it is presented with a stressful situation. When faced with a situation we are not familiar or comfortable with, the body enacts a flight or fight response. Even if the situation is not life-threatening, the individual suffering from anxiety can be filled with fear about the circumstances and the unknown of what is to follow. Anxiety therapy is typically necessary in severe cases where people’s lives are negatively impacted by this experience.
Severe anxiety no longer serves a purpose in today’s society when the increased cortisol and adrenaline is not necessary as we have no need to fight dangerous wildlife. In fact, when anxiety is so severe in these less pressing and physical situations it cuts off resources to our brain and higher thinking functions that are crucial to solving the problem we are so worried about. In this post we explain the most common types of anxiety and daily practices to help manage the symptoms.
Common Types of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This is the most common among the different types of anxiety. The worry may be to anticipate disaster. Worry can be more than is warranted by the given situation or someone might expect the worst without any reason.
Identifying the cause of the anxiety can sometimes be challenging. It’s chronic, excessive, long-lasting and feels like the anxiety is difficult if not impossible to control. Anxiety occurs for 6 months and longer on more days than not and you have 3 or more symptoms.
These attacks of intense apprehension and terror are sudden and brief, however the symptoms of shortness of breath, confusion, dizziness, nausea, sweating, feelings of choking, chest pain, chills or heat sensations, paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations), derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself), fear of losing control or going crazy, fear dying and shaking are easy to misinterpret as life-threatening. Many end up in the hospital worried about heart attacks or breathing problems. Most panic attack peak within 10 mins but they can last hours.
A phobia is an extreme irrational fear of something (i.e. place, object, situation, animal, etc.) that is not currently threatening or dangerous. A person with a phobia will experience an intense fear response when exposed to the fear and will most likely avoid it. The person experiencing the phobia will experience panic and terror even though they are aware that it is unlikely to cause harm. If this fear impacts someone’s ability to function it is time to get help from a professional. Some common fears are of spiders, snakes, heights, and heights. High intensity fear responses can lead to panic attacks.
- Chills or sweats
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting or nausea
- Disassociation or feeling detached from yourself and the environment
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Trembling, numbness, tingling, shaking
Social Anxiety Disorder
Worry about being embarrassed in social situations or that others will judge them negatively. Avoiding social situation can result with individuals missing out on social activities as well work requirements to the point where it can impact everyday life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Associated with intrusive, repetitive and distressing thoughts and/or behaviours. Compulsions such as handwashing, or checking the stove relieve anxiety even when the individual knows they are illogical.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder arises due to a life-threatening or traumatic event or accident such as rape, war and/or other forms of violence. Individuals experience pervasive and intrusive intense feelings and thoughts about the event such as flashbacks, nightmares, strong reactions to loud noise or startling touch, anger, avoidance of situations and people that remind them of the situation, sadness, detachment from friends and family. The symptoms occur for a month or more and cause issues with daily functioning and distress.
Ways to Manage These Types of Anxiety
While dealing with these types of anxiety is challenging, there are several practices you can incorporate into your daily life to help manage the symptoms:
- Deep breathing through nose, exhale through your mouth
- Relax your muscles – yoga, massage, progressive relaxation techniques
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Eat healthy
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Talk about it – friends, partner, family, counsellor
Have you struggled with any of these types of anxiety? Do you have a practice that helps you manage the symptoms? Let us know in the comments!