Around 40 million American adults will experience some form of anxiety disorder each year, but most of them won’t get treatment. Without treatment, anxiety disorders can be debilitating, even preventing people from participating in activities they love or getting work done.
Anxiety can be a serious ailment, but its symptoms may not always be obvious. Some forms of anxiety can manifest with physical symptoms that can be confusing. Here are a few things you should know about anxiety disorders and how they can affect you.
Is anxiety normal?
Experiencing some anxiety is normal, and it is actually healthy. Your body naturally reacts to stressful situations with some anxious feelings — like a stomach tied up in knots before the first day of school, or a feeling of dread before a big meeting. Anxiety can be beneficial when it helps you get laser-focused on preparing for these experiences and overcoming obstacles. On the other hand, if these feelings don’t go away or are amplified in situations that shouldn’t be so stressful, the anxiety can get in the way of daily life. This is the kind of anxiety you should talk to your doctor about.
Generalized anxiety might be the most recognizable anxiety disorder. People with generalized anxiety feel overly anxious about normal events in their life. This anxiety is ongoing and interferes with their ability to function, keeping them from school or work. Beyond feelings of worry, generalized anxiety can cause physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, tight muscles, lightheadedness, and other issues.
You may not realize it, but your fear of heights or getting stuck in a crowded elevator could actually be a form of anxiety. Phobias fall under the anxiety umbrella, from simple phobias like claustrophobia to social anxiety and a fear of being in public.
A person with a panic disorder might experience overwhelming panic attacks repeatedly. These panic attacks can last for several minutes, causing physical and mental symptoms. A strong feeling of fear when no danger is present, or even feeling like you are having a heart attack, could be a panic attack. These can happen anytime, anywhere, so people might constantly worry that another attack could be on the horizon.
Treatment for anxiety disorders varies based on what you are experiencing. Therapy can be beneficial, as can other natural treatments like yoga, exercise and meditation. Some medications, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also have been successful in treating anxiety disorders by changing how the body reacts to stress.
“Don’t dismiss symptoms of anxiety as something you need to deal with on your own,” says Dan Bushnell, administrator at Gramercy Court Assisted Living. “Anxiety can affect your physical and mental health and, as with other medical conditions, anxiety can get worse over time if you do not get it treated.”
Everybody deals with stress now and then, and these situations might fill you with a sense of dread. If this feeling is more than fleeting and begins to take over your life, you might have an anxiety disorder. Talk to your doctor about how you can take control of your anxiety.