Understanding Your Anxiety: When Worry & Apprehension Are Extreme

understanding anxietyWe all get worried from time to time. Feeling anxious is expected in certain situations. But, when those apprehensions seem to take over your life and leave you feeling paralyzed, understanding anxiety may be fundamental.

Anxiety often seems like it’s uncontrollable, which can make it feel completely overwhelming. There are many different types of anxiety to consider, making it even more confusing.

But, the symptoms are all somewhat similar. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

If you’ve been struggling with worry or feeling anxious lately, it’s essential to educate yourself as much as possible about what anxiety looks like.

 

Are you experiencing anxiety?

Although up to 40 million Americans struggle with severe anxiety each year, plenty of symptoms remain undetected. Mainly, anxiety flies under the radar because it can manifest in “acceptable” ways—strong work ethic, deep desire to help others, cleanliness, etc. Thus it can be difficult to identify symptoms. Moreover, some anxiety is a normal part of life.understanding anxiety

For example, when we tackle an urgent project at work, our nerves tend to rattle. Life-changing events, such as an upcoming wedding or buying a new house, can cause nights filled with worry instead of sleep.

When it comes to the quality of life, though, chronic anxiety is anything but acceptable. And when faced with scary realities such as a global pandemic, anxiety can become exacerbated. 

For example:

Are pushy, distracting, and anxious thoughts invading your mind and finding endless ways to mess with your time, relationships, and purpose?

Do everyday discomforts feel upsetting or even imminently dangerous?

Do you feel ready to fight or flee, whenever and however?

You may be living life with a form of anxiety called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

If you feel unfocused, less joyful, and perpetually insecure, anxiety interrupts your relationships, passions, and thinking far too often. This disorder keeps you mired in that “on edge” feeling, rarely granting you time without it at all. Nothing brings it on or powers it down. You feel stuck, worried, and ill at ease.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to understand anxiety and how it’s affecting you.

 

What is generalized anxiety disorder, exactly?

understanding anxietyIf you think you may be living with GAD but aren’t quite sure, consider the following symptoms that we deem “most common”:

  • Excessive worry about your safety and safety of others, social situations, and future events
  • Propensity toward catastrophizing
  • Oversensitivity to bodily sensations, health matters, and illnesses
  • Ongoing nervousness and deep inner disquiet

Are you struggling with anxiety? Take this anxiety test and find out. 

 

Understand Anxiety: What are the causes?

There is no one definite cause of anxiety. Some people have a predisposition to it because of hormonal levels or other chemical imbalances. For some people, specific “triggers” or situations can cause anxiety.understanding anxiety

No matter what causes it, though, the most important thing to remember is you’re not alone in feeling anxious. Over 40 million adults in the United States alone are currently suffering from an anxiety disorder, and that number is merely accounting for the people who report. 

Furthermore, no two cases are exactly alike when it comes to the causes. You may have established fears in childhood that you were able to cope with at the time, and then a traumatic event triggers those worries in adulthood, leaving you in a constant state of nervousness. On the other hand, you may have just become more and more nervous with age. 

Anything is possible when it comes to causing anxiety. Just because you haven’t experienced a traumatic event or have a family history does not mean you will live life without understanding anxiety first hand.

 

Chronic and Experiential

Living with an anxiety disorder like General Anxiety Disorder seems to be like living in a state of insecurity, doom, or negativity. Things just aren’t okay and can’t or won’t be okay. Anxious, bothersome thoughts cycle through your brain unchecked and stuck on repeat.understanding anxiety

And so, chronic anxiety disorders often present as an illness because it behaves like an illness. It is persistent and inhabits your mind and body. It feels like the anxiety is who you are or a simple fact of your life.

GAD isn’t particularly known for its intensity. Unlike acute anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, sufferers spend time managing GAD in an expected everyday way rather than anticipating sudden waves of anxiety.

Essentially, it is more mentality than an intense event. It is a more nervous, jumpy experience than an explosive, frightening occurrence.

Do you have symptoms of anxiety? Anxiety is the most common mental health concern. Take this self-test and find out if anxiety could be impacting your life.

 

Understand Anxiety: What Are Common Symptoms?

To understand anxiety, you need to be clear on what you are working with. What is it like to have your mind? What is it like when that anxious mind takes hold of your body?

Something that is often forgotten when discussing anxiety is how it affects the body and mind. Here are both the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.

 

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety

Remember that your anxiety, as rough as it can be, is yours. What happens in your mind is not often seen by the outside world. So, don’t be disappointed if all of these mental tendencies don’t line up precisely with the anxiety you deal with. understanding anxiety

 

Severe and Intrusive Thoughts

In terms of anxiety, worry is the main driver. And this particular worry isn’t a passing thought. Instead, worrisome thoughts are debilitating and interrupt your daily life.

If you’re unsure whether your worry is warranted and normal, take note of how often your thoughts “carry you away” throughout the day.

 

Difficulty Concentrating

When dealing with anxiety, concentrating can seem like an impossible feat. Hundreds of thoughts can bombard you, distracting you from your original focus.

Perhaps you intend to look up a brownie recipe online. Then you find yourself hours later deep into news reports searching everything you can about your current worry.

 

Irritability

Most people who are dealing with anxiety face irritability at the same time, as well—especially during exceptionally worrisome moments. When so many other uncomfortable symptoms plague you, it’s no wonder you feel a little on edge.

If you find yourself lashing out at loved ones quickly, then you may be experiencing an anxiety symptom.

 

Irrational Fears

When struggling with anxiety, the condition tends to insert heaps of worst-case scenarios in your head. There is a reality to them. Yet, they get taken to the extreme. Therapists call this catastrophizing.

Taking worries to the extreme is a dreadful position to take. Many people even shy away from specific places or social situations to decrease the fear they feel.

 

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Your mind and body are deeply connected. In short, your body reflects what your mind is experiencing. While learning to understand anxiety watch out for these physical symptoms as anxiety may very well cause them. They generally result from the flight or fight response, which is activated when anxious.understanding anxiety

 

Sleeping Issues & Fatigue

Millions of people battle racing thoughts and insomnia every night. And anxiety is usually to blame. If you continually have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, it’s time to take a closer look at the possible cause.

Granted, your diet, bedtime routine, and overall lifestyle contribute to your sleep quality. However, when your habits support good sleep but you can’t rest, consider anxiety a problem.

CBT for insomnia is a highly effective program that can treat sleep issues without medication. 

 

Tense Muscles & Sweating

Have you ever done a self-check body scan? It’s easy to do; you flex and relax each muscle group throughout your entire body one at a time. The purpose of a body scan is to clue you in on any tension in your muscles.

Anxiety causes significant muscle tension, pain, or weakness. Instead of blaming age or a bad day, consider that anxiety may be the root of the problem.

Practicing progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or other relaxation techniques to get to the root of the body’s problem with anxiety treatment can relieve your muscle pain.

 

Hypervigilance

Because our autonomous nervous system can’t tell the difference between genuine danger and perceived danger—i.e., a grizzly bear and an obnoxious in-law—our bodies respond to danger no matter what. This hardwired reaction kicks our fight-or-flight response into high gear.

Unfortunately, anxiety can cause you to “get stuck” in that hypervigilant mode. Your heart beats faster, your mind races, and you become severely tense.

Think of a vehicle getting stuck in a specific gear. It doesn’t work right, and one “gear” certainly isn’t an effective way to live.

Hypervigilance can be related to trauma. We have specific trauma therapies that can help you heal, reducing the anxiety symptoms of hypervigilance.

 

Restlessness

Have you ever sat down to watch a movie only to get up a dozen times before the plot twist plays out?

Restlessness is a feeling in your body, screaming for you to get up and move around. You can’t sit still for long without completing another task or doing “just one more thing.” Perhaps you try to relax, but you end up playing a game on your tablet while watching Netflix and talking on the phone all at once.

Restlessness often appears as multitasking on steroids. If you can’t sit still, it’s time to figure out if anxiety is the real culprit.

 

Heart Palpitations, Dizziness, High Blood Pressure, & Shortness of Breath

While these symptoms can stem from other medical issues, they are often symptoms of anxiety, especially anxiety or panic attacks. Experiencing heart palpitations can be very scary. You might wonder if something really serious is going wrong with your body, which can create fear and panic.

When it’s anxiety-related, it’s more about the imbalance of breathing in more oxygen and breathing out more carbon dioxide, which would be expected if you were running for your life from a tiger. Since modern anxiety is a product of our mind vs. physical threats (for the most part), this normal biological function creates a physical imbalance. Your body responds as if a tiger is chasing you, but you don’t exert any physical energy in “running away.”

Practicing breathing techniques can help you slow your body’s stress response and bring your body’s anxiety response back down.

 

Digestive & Gastrointestinal Problems

Common digestive symptoms of anxiety include indigestion, stomach cramps, IBS, etc. You have more anxiety receptors in your gut than in your brain so that you can experience the symptoms of anxiety more predominantly in your gut. The gut is basically a ball of nerves (second to your brain). Perhaps you’re familiar with the expression, “butterflies in your stomach?, or “Tied in knots?”

Breathing techniques and working with a therapist to help you with anxiety can calm your nerves and, thus, calm your digestive system.

 

Understanding How Your Anxiety Affects You is Crucial for Overcoming It

Anxiety takes a significant toll on your mind, but it can also wreak havoc on your body. While anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common one is intense fear or worry. It’s as though you experience a feeling of impending doom or as if something terrible is about to happen.

Usually, feeling these things once in a while might not seem like a big deal. But for someone with anxiety, these symptoms are often frequent and extremely intense.understanding anxiety

As you can imagine, experiencing them repeatedly can make you feel that the disorder completely takes over your life.

Because these symptoms can be so intense, you might not even want to leave your home. One of the major reasons anxiety and depression are so often linked because one paralyzes you, and the other weighs you down.

Unfortunately, symptoms don’t disappear on their own. While they may not be severe all the time, they generally keep coming back. For this reason, it’s vital to seek out the right kind of treatment for your extreme worries.

 

What can you do to overcome General Anxiety Disorder?

Because GAD isn’t particularly triggered anxiety, nothing special needs to happen to inspire chronic fear or worry. The longer it persists untreated, the more established it becomes, deeply influencing your decisions and perceptions. You may reach a point that you don’t recognize your views as compromised and begin to think your anxious thoughts are accurate.understanding anxiety

Thus, to deal with the thought patterns and behaviors altering your life, you’ll need some objective assistance and someone able to impart reliable self-help tools.

 

How to Soothe Anxiety in the Moment

As you begin to address your anxiety, you may find that implementing certain activities is soothing, as is refraining from certain unhelpful practices. Consider these ways to relieve these feelings for yourself:

  • Mindfulness meditation helps you stay present, aware, and grounded.
  • Relaxation techniques like deep breathing from the diaphragm, progressive muscle relaxation to counteract hyperventilation, lightheadedness, and “tingly” or numb extremities.
  • Reduce nightly insomnia by changing daytime habits that contribute to racing thoughts or sleeplessness. Consciously implement a restful bedtime routine.
  • Limit caffeine intake. Soda, coffee, and some teas can stimulate agitation and restlessness.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol. These substances seem calming but contribute to higher levels of anxiety.

Therapeutic intervention and self-help techniques are optimal solutions because they help you change your mind and redirect your anxious feelings. You learn that your internal perception is driving your emotions, not what’s happening externally. Thus, you are more in control than you might currently believe.

 

How to Treat Anxiety, Understand Anxiety

A good thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t a “quick fix” for treating and understanding anxiety. As much as you may want them to, your symptoms aren’t going to just go away in a day or even two.

With that being said, seeking out treatment for those symptoms and the way you feel is incredibly important. If you want to control your life once again and find some peace, counseling or therapy is often the best solution.understanding anxiety

Therapy can help you to manage your suffering and worry. It can also help you to develop a healthier relationship with your thoughts. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been struggling; your thoughts aren’t set in stone. Therefore, you don’t have to be stuck thinking and feeling this way forever.

Admitting to yourself that you’re struggling with anxiety is the first step toward getting help. A therapist can help you to discover some of the possible underlying causes for your anxiety. From there, it’s easier to put together an effective treatment plan.

 

Therapy Makes a Difference, Understand Anxiety

Help from a compassionate therapist experienced in anxiety counseling is one of the most important, if not the most crucial step in your mental health journey.

Anxiety affects your mind and body. To address the mental and physical symptoms, your therapist will likely propose and walk you through compatible coping strategies as part of your treatment.understanding anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a standard treatment that helps address the looping thoughts that keep you stuck in worry. It also teaches behavioral skills to help reduce symptoms and keep you mindfully focused in the present.

Additionally, as you work with your mental health care professional, you may discover that exploring some past issues, current relationships, or other life challenges that are contributing to your anxiety. Therapy can help you break down what’s bothering you and thoughtfully address whatever is holding you back or bogging you down in fear.

Therapy also provides the safety, time, and place for practicing helpful techniques you can rely on in your everyday life.

 

Understand Anxiety With the Help of a Specialist

Your life is a series of moments, choices, and thoughts that come together to create your everyday. The state of your mental health can taint every experience with anxious thoughts and symptoms. 

By getting professional help, you can identify anxiety symptoms and get better at understanding your anxiety. From there, you can learn to manage your symptoms daily. When you’re able to do that, anxiety becomes less powerful, and you get to be in control once again.

If you’ve been struggling with some of the symptoms listed above, or you find your worries starting to cripple your life, you could have anxiety. 

We are not saying that you will be rid of anxiety with a snap of your therapist’s fingers; as lovely as that would be, it’s just not possible. What professional help offers you is an impartial guide that is not tied to these thoughts and feelings as you may be. With their training and expertise, they will be able to help you step out of the shadow of your anxiety.understanding anxiety

A therapist will help you see the difference between your concerns, opinions, and beliefs from those your anxiety distorts. Simply put, they can help you enjoy life again.

If you are struggling to cope with anxiety or simply need help to understand your concern, please contact us. Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX, has experienced therapists that specialize in anxiety. Call us today at 832-323-2355 or book an appointment online.

 

Anxiety FAQs

Anxiety disorders affect everyone differently, but the most prominent sign of anxiety is constant fear or worry. Yes, there are moments where you will naturally be more afraid than others, but anxiety is more complicated. It is a 24-hour stream of thoughts about what might happen. It is an extreme form of over-thinking. It can often lead to the sufferer talking themselves out of a lot of different opportunities or tasks given that their inner-voice feeds them a continuous stream of doubt, impossible questions, and "what-if's".
Though a formal diagnosis is required to say for sure, there are a few ways you can find out. Just know that if you are suffering from this, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are diagnosed with anxiety disorders each year. It is real and very treatable. That being said, you can find out if the worry and apprehension you are experiencing is indeed anxiety. Take our anxiety test to know.
Anxiety looks different on everyone. There are physical effects of anxiety as well as emotional. Some of these sensations will be alien to you, but some you may know all too well. - Agitation - Worry - Restlessness - Fatigue and feeling tired more often than not - Difficulty concentrating - Irritability - Tense muscles - Trouble sleeping, insomnia - Panic attacks - Avoiding social situations due to personality changes - Irrational fears - Sense of dread - Feeling on edge - Notably strong/irregular heartbeat - Shaking or trembling - Feeling sick - Headache - Stomach ache
This absolutely depends on who you are and the inner workings of your anxiety. You may never be "rid" of it, but you can learn to work with and control it. Nevertheless, anxiety is a very natural occurrence, even if it can be a debilitating one. Before we lived in houses in neighborhoods with grocery stores down the street, anxiety is what kept us alert and alive. Currently, that use is not as handy for some of us as it once was. Your brain believes your anxiety disorder is as loud and aggressive as it is because it needs to keep you alive. Getting rid of it may not be an option, but cultivating to become something that works for you rather than against you is always an option. Though it is an option greatly involved in learning to cope with anxiety and its challenges.
If you have ever asked anyone this question you have probably gotten a myriad of answers sourced from their own experience. That will be no different here. What works for one person is not going to work for everyone. Nevertheless, here are a few strategies that we know have worked for someone and today, that might include you. - First, we recommend taking a few deep breathes and checking back into your body, feeling the texture of your hands and the pressure of your seat or feet on the floor. - You can also try the 3-3-3 trick (or whatever number works for you). This is where you focus on three things you can see, three things you can hear, and three parts of your body you can feel. - Perhaps you can speak to someone you love and trust that will understand you and your concerns. Get their opinion on the situation. - Try to put down anything that could potentially make you feel worse or more anxious. For example, avoid caffeine and alcohol, put down your phone, and get some fresh air. - Take part in activities that soothe you. Go for a walk, partake in some crafts, or anything you like, but do something. This may help redirect your thoughts. - Remember to care for yourself. Eat something. Drink some water. You could also try some mindfulness exercises. - You may need to release these thoughts from your mind. You could write your concerns down and look for some resolution there. Perhaps you could challenge these anxious thoughts on the page for there is no harm in trying.
Anxiety is a type of behavioral disorder that is characterized by overwhelming feelings of fear and worry. The cause depends on a few different factors ranging from your parents, personality, and trauma-related issues. You may have experienced one traumatic event large enough to set it off or a slow accumulation of small stresses that wore you down. If you were more prone to fear, anxiety, and worry, either of these circumstances would be enough to set you up in a consistent state of anxious feelings. Certain personality types are also more prone to experience anxiety than others.
Our most popular and most effective solution is to attend therapy sessions with a licensed professional who can help you develop ways to cope that are specific to you, your life, and your situation. They can help you live a more joyous life without being under the influence of your fear. There are many ways to deal with your anxiety that can be long-lasting and effective. You can work to identify your triggers and, when triggered, identify what made you feel this way. Identifying feelings and their sources can remove their mysterious power over your mind. Another way could be involving yourself in daily mindfulness practice. Experts have noted how beneficial mindfulness is in coping with stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.
Are pushy, distracting, and anxious thoughts invading your mind and finding endless ways to mess with your time, relationships, and purpose? Do everyday discomforts feel upsetting or even imminently dangerous? Do you feel ready to fight or flee, whenever and however? Does any of this resonate with you? If so, you may be surprised, but over 40 million Americans report that they struggle with anxiety every year, and there are likely many others. But anxiety can remain undetected because it can manifest in ways that can seem acceptable, even positive—for example, having a solid work ethic, a deep desire to help others, preferring and practicing cleanliness, etc.
Common mental symptoms of anxiety can include, but are not limited to: Severe and intrusive thoughts Difficulty concentrated Irritability Irrational Fears
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to: Sleeping Issues and Fatigue Tense Muscles and Sweating Hypervigilance Restlessness Heart Palpitations Dizziness High Blood Pressure Shortness of Breath Digestion and Gastrointestinal Issues
There is no one catch-all way to treat anxiety. But the most effective ways involve a combination of mindfulness practices, regular therapy sessions, and, in some cases, medication.
Absolutely. Seeing a therapist regularly will give you the tools necessary to essentially, control your anxious thoughts. They will be an impartial guide helping you distinguish between your thoughts, feelings, and convictions and those convoluted by anxiety.
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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