Some anxiety is normal. We are all familiar with that spike in adrenaline, racing heart and wide-eyed expression. Maybe it is triggered by public speaking, or perhaps by flying or by taking an important exam. Anxiety keeps us safe in dangerous situations by heightening our senses and awareness and warning us of potential threats. But there is a difference between common anxiety and an anxiety disorder.
When an intense level of fear or worry continues over time in non-threatening environments and begins to affect other aspects of life like work or school, it can be symptomatic of an anxiety disorder.
If chronic, the following symptoms are associated with anxiety disorders:
- Persistent feelings of apprehension, worry, or dread
- Feeling “jumpy” or irritable
- Panic attacks, fluttering heart, “fight or flight” feelings
- Sleep problems
- Irrational fears
- Muscle tension
- Digestive problems
- Severe self-consciousness, stage fright, or fear of social interaction
- Flash-backs to a traumatic event
- Compulsive behaviors or obsessions
There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorders (GAD), social anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias. The causes are a mixture of environmental, personal, and genetic factors. It is often difficult to identify a single cause, though some therapists will explore the root of the anxiety in order to treat it.
It is important to understand that anxiety is not just mental. It is chemical. That means that it is difficult for someone with anxiety to simply use logical thought to reduce their stress. Saying things like “calm down” to someone with anxiety is typically unhelpful. However, all of these conditions are treatable with the right combination of strategies.
Treatment and management strategies for anxiety disorders include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Mindfulness exercises
- Exposure to nature
- Exposure therapy
- Talk therapy
- Treatment programs
Remember that stress and worry are common, especially for young adults. But when these symptoms become chronic, persistent states of being, they could be indicative of an anxiety disorder. At that point, it is time to seek professional help.
Despite the overall effectiveness of treatment for anxiety disorders, two out of three cases in the U.S. go untreated. Denying or delaying treatment for an anxiety disorder can result in underperformance at work, trouble at school, physical sickness, and often substance abuse.
If you want more information on anxiety and anxiety disorders and how to manage them, download our free white paper “Young Adult Anxiety”.
This white paper was sponsored by Pure Life Aspiro, a research-based Wilderness Adventure Therapy program for young adults, located in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Pure Life by Aspiro offers safe, effective, and clinically-sophisticated treatment options for young adults.