April 9, 2020
Did you know that, as a group, anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition in the United States?
Chances are, you or someone you love will experience an anxiety disorder at some time in your life. Therefore, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of some of the most common anxiety disorders.
Symptoms can be cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physiological. The anxiety needs to be excessive, persistent, and difficult to control in order to be diagnosed. The symptoms also need to be sufficient to create identifiable impairment in some parts of life, whether it be at home, school, at work, or other environments.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (most commonly diagnosed) include: restlessness or feeling “keyed up” or on edge; being easily fatigued; difficulty concentrating or the mind going blank; irritability; muscle tension; and sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep). There are other specific anxiety disorders, such as Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that share some symptoms with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but that also have specific, separate criteria for diagnosing.
The one element most anxiety disorders share is the tendency for the affected person to have an uncanny ability to pick out the worst outcome in any given situation, and then convince him or herself it will absolutely happen. This leads to a persistent overestimation of threat in most environments, which leads to the uncomfortable and exhausting sense impending doom is just around the corner. The natural tendency of those afflicted with anxiety is to withdraw from any situations that provoke their anxiety, due to how uncomfortable and difficult it is to face. Anxiety will often progressively affect, and cause withdrawal from, all areas of one’s life unless, and until, the anxiety-sufferer actively pushes back to regain ground lost to his/her anxiety. This is a difficult and painful process, but is absolutely necessary to heal and move forward with life goals and relationships.
Talk therapy (usually Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and medication therapy are proven and effective strategies to manage anxiety. Other steps include getting adequate sleep (you may need to talk to your family doctor to explore strategies), exercising regularly (as approved by your family doctor), spending time with loved ones and friends, and limiting caffeine intake. Substance use is highly discouraged if one suffers from anxiety, as people have the tendency to self-medicate their anxiety and thus develop an addiction that complicates recovery. Setting aside time each day to read, journal, reflect, worship, or meditate can also aid in recovery from anxiety.
Managing anxiety requires much courage and a high level of intentionality to challenge fears and expand one’s comfort zone. It is a difficult, but rewarding journey once feelings of control and well-being are restored.
Prairie View would love to be part of your journey to wellness and we have trained therapists and medication providers to meet your treatment needs. Please call 800-992-6292 to schedule an appointment and begin your process of healing.
Matthew Schrader is a Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist at Prairie View’s McPherson office.