Experiencing anxiety is quite common and extremely uncomfortable. Anxiety can be an all-encompassing experience or one of many symptoms. Most anxiety is connected to negative thoughts, worry, and wanting to control things that seem beyond your control. Anxiety is a state of hypervigilance.
The most common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Tightness in your chest, shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty focusing, speaking, or forming thoughts
- Having routine, and somewhat obsessive worried thoughts
- Difficulty swallowing
- Racing heart or heart palpitations
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Flushed face or skin
- Numbness, tingling, tremors, or shakes
- Muscle tension, twitches
- Nausea, diarrhea
- Difficulty sitting still, relaxing, or sleeping
*Panic reactions, panic attacks and phobias are not termed anxiety disorders, however, they do generally have a strong base in anxious.
Experiencing any combination of these symptoms, with any frequency, likely means you are suffering from some type of anxiety disorder. When we are in a routine state of heightened alert, it demands a great deal of resources from our body. While avoidance is a common way of adapting, it doesn’t solve the problems. Instead, it actually creates additional stress, and enables the anxiety to continue and even increase.
There are physical and emotional consequences to chronic anxiety. Some of the emotional consequences are: poor concentration, loss of enjoyment, difficulty sleeping, feeling overwhelmed, exhaustion, irritability, depression, and hopelessness or pessimism.
Some of the physical consequences can be: muscle tension and pain, high blood pressure and arrhythmias, chest pain, skin rashes such as psoriasis or eczema, and gastrointestinal difficulties from ulcers, abdominal pain, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome. Left untreated, anxiety disorders may lead to depression.
In my approach to treating anxiety, we first establish if anxiety is the primary problem or if it is secondary to another problem. When anxiety is secondary to another mental health issue, consideration of how the two are interrelated is necessary.
Developing necessary coping skills, distress tolerance, proper diet, exercise, sleep, and relaxation are foundational aspects to resolving anxiety-related issues. Relaxation is one of the most important coping skills you can learn because it requires the suspension of worry about life or a particular situation. How we think about ourselves, situations, and how to address them appropriately are very important pieces of information that can help get to the root of anxiety, and thus make it easier to overcome it.