With life’s daily struggles, everyone is bound to have a little anxiety every so often. Having a certain amount of anxiety is actually very healthy as it helps people know when to use careful judgment. Experiencing anxiety about a major decision or upcoming event is perfectly normal. In fact, completely eliminating anxiety would be dangerous because this is the body’s way of alerting the mind to potential risks. It’s when the anxiety becomes persistent and unbearable that it may actually be a disorder and not just a part of everyday life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is not a clear cause for anxiety disorders. They may be triggered by traumatic events, but this is typically in people who are already prone to anxiety. Genetic and environmental factors, such as stress at school or work, can play a part in who experiences anxiety. Some health-related problems and the stress associated with them may also contribute to a person’s anxiety, such as heart disease, diabetes and thyroid problems. Having other mental disorders can also put someone at greater risk of experiencing anxiety disorders. In fact, anxiety often leads to, occurs with or worsens other mental disorders, such as depression, insomnia and substance abuse.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect an estimated 40 million people in the United States alone, and women are 60 percent more likely to be affected than men. Only one third of affected people seek treatment, although there are many ways to treat or manage these disorders. The Mayo Clinic and the ADAA list several common forms of treatment, coping mechanisms and prevention techniques.
Certain lifestyle changes can make a difference. Making sleep a priority is important to keep your body rested as sleep deprivation has been linked to activating brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying, according to a study from the University of California at Berkeley. Keeping an exercise routine is also key in reducing stress and improving mood. Limiting alcohol and caffeine is essential to reducing anxiety as both of these substances can cause or worsen anxiety or panic attacks.
Learning what triggers anxiety or panic attacks can help those affected find ways to cope with them. A good way to do this is by keeping a journal of stressors and looking for a pattern. Techniques such as counting to 10 slowly, taking deep breaths, going for a walk or delving into a favorite hobby are all good ways to break the cycle. It is also important to check the facts and put the worries into perspective. It helps people with anxiety to accept that not everything can be controlled and that everything that goes wrong is not their fault.
Perhaps the most common way to treat anxiety disorders is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. There are many different forms of psychotherapy, which involve talking with a therapist to find ways to manage and reduce anxiety symptoms. Types of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. The most common form of therapy and, according to the Mayo Clinic, the most effective, is CBT, which involves focusing, identifying and changing thinking and behavioral patterns.
Several types of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders, and it can take some time to find the right medication to fit the individual needs of each patient. It is very common for these medications to be used. In fact, according to ADAA, one in 10 people in the United States take antidepressants, a common medication for anxiety and the primary type of prescribed medication used by people ages 18 to 44. Apart from psychiatrists, medications are also commonly prescribed by primary care physicians as well as nurse practitioners and can be used as short-term or long-term treatment.
For those who are reluctant to try prescription medication, many forms of alternative treatment options are available. According to the Mayo Clinic and ADAA, several herbal remedies have been studied, but more research is needed to understand the risks and benefits. Some of these herbal remedies include passionflower, valerian root, chamomile and lavender. Before taking any herbal supplements as treatment for anxiety, people should research the risks and benefits and talk to a doctor, especially is the supplement will be taken along with prescription medication. Some herbal supplements can cause serious side effects when taken in conjunction with other medications.
Remember: It’s healthy to feel a little anxious sometimes, but suffering from an anxiety disorder doesn’t have to be an unbearable weight to carry. With the help of healthcare professionals, time and research, an individualized prevention and treatment plan can be formed to put anxiety in its place.
Always consult your doctor before starting any new treatment, exercise program or diet. A health care professional will be able to help you properly decide what kind of treatment will be most beneficial for your individual needs.