Anxiety: What It Is and What To Do With It
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience. It can be a sense of unease, such as worry or fear, or a general feeling of being concerned or worried about what's going to happen.
Anxiety can be helpful in some situations where it makes you more alert and attentive, like when you're driving in heavy traffic and need to stay focused on the road ahead. But if your nervousness gets out of hand and starts interfering with daily life, it's time to take action.
What causes anxiety?
There are many different factors that can contribute to anxiety. For some, it may be a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes them to experience sudden and intense episodes of nervousness. Others may have experienced trauma or stress in their lives and this has led to them developing an unhealthy relationship with stress.
Others may have a personality type that means they are more likely to experience anxiety than others (e.g., perfectionists). Some people also think about things in a negative way and expect the worst-case scenario when something bad happens or when they make mistakes - these negative thoughts can be the cause of their anxiety.
Anxiety is characterized by feelings of being on edge and being worried or concerned about events or situations. A person with anxiety may also have a feeling that something bad will happen.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and phobias. The symptoms can be physical, such as a pounding heart (tachycardia) or shortness of breath (dyspnea). Other symptoms include muscle tension and fatigue; difficulty concentrating; irritability; restlessness; sleep disturbances; and frequent worry about almost everything."
How common is anxiety?
The good news is that anxiety is a very common condition. It's estimated that 18% of the U.S. population will experience an anxiety disorder in any given year, and less than half of those who do get treatment. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress, but when it interferes with your ability to function or live a normal life, it becomes a disorder.
Who gets anxiety?
Everyone can experience anxiety, and it’s something that you may have felt at least once in your life. But are you born with a predisposition for feeling anxious? Can anxiety be learned or developed over time? Or does it happen as a result of trauma or another medical condition?
The answer: all of the above—though the exact causes vary from person to person. In some cases, anxiety may run in your family; if so, there’s a good chance that you inherited some genetic traits associated with heightened levels of stress and worry. On the other hand, if someone close to you experienced severe trauma or experienced physical ailments such as heart disease or diabetes while they were growing up (and therefore had high levels of stress), this could lead them to develop negative coping mechanisms that further reinforce their feelings of unease when faced with stressful situations.
Other factors include childhood experiences (like being bullied) and certain types of medication—such as those used after surgery—that cause temporary episodes where people feel like they're having panic attacks even though nothing is wrong physically (these are called “phantom panics").
Medications for anxiety
Medications for anxiety are usually taken to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but they aren't meant to be a long term solution. If you're taking prescription medications for anxiety, it's important to remember that they can become ineffective over time and need adjusting. It's also important never to stop taking these medications abruptly—you'll want your doctor's supervision before stopping treatment.
Medications can be helpful when you need them, but therapy is still the best way for many people with anxiety disorders to get better. Therapy helps identify patterns and behaviors that may affect your life negatively and change how you perceive certain situations so that they don't trigger as much fear or stress in the future.
Mental health professionals can help with anxiety.
Mental health professionals can help you learn the skills that you need to manage your anxiety and create a happier, more fulfilling life. There are different types of mental health professionals, including:
There are many ways to help you overcome your anxiety
There are many ways to help you overcome your anxiety. We encourage you to try a combination of different strategies at the same time, as they can work together in a complementary way. Some people may find that one strategy works best, while others find that they need to try different strategies until they find what works best for them.
A therapist or counselor can help you learn how to manage your anxiety and decrease the intensity of symptoms. You will work with this person one-on-one or in a group setting, depending on your needs and preferences. This type of care is often conducted once per week over the course of several months or years, depending on the severity of issues being addressed. However, some types of therapy are shorter-term interventions designed for specific situations (e.g., postpartum depression).