Anxiety, Stress and Depression At All-Time High According To A New Study
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54) suffer from anxiety disorders. Current estimates put this number much higher - approximately 30 percent - as many people don't seek help, are misdiagnosed, or don't know they have issues with anxiety. But what is an anxiety disorder and do you know if you have one? More importantly, that what can you do about it.
Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time, when speaking in public for example, or when going through financial difficulty. For some people, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives. I have certainly battled with anxiety throughout my life and had bouts of depression, funny enough every time was when I hadn't worn my Nuclear Receptor for a significant amount of time, but I won't get into that right now. Often times anxiety has began from taking on too much and allowing fear to set in, compiling list after list of "Important To Do's" which quite frankly really aren't that important.
So how can you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line into a disorder? It's not easy. Anxiety comes in many different forms such as panic attacks, phobia, and social anxiety, and the distinction between an official diagnosis and "normal" anxiety isn't always clear. Take a look at some of the signs below and take note if any sound familiar to you.
The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) the broadest type of anxiety, is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. But what constitutes "too much"?
In the case of GAD, it means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months. Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue.
"The distinction between an anxiety disorder and just having normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction," says Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson.
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is associated with a wide range of health conditions, both physical and psychological. And, of course, it's not unusual to toss and turn with anticipation on the night before a big speech or job interview.
But if you chronically find yourself lying awake, worried or agitated about specific problems (like money), or nothing in particular, it might be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Another tip-off that anxiety might be involved? You wake up feeling wired, your mind is racing, and you're unable to calm yourself down.
Some anxiety isn't generalized at all; on the contrary, it's attached to a specific situation or thing like flying, animals, or crowds. If the fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion to the actual risk involved, it's a telltale sign of phobia, a type of anxiety disorder.
Although phobias can be crippling, they're not obvious at all times. In fact, they may not surface until you confront a specific situation and discover you're incapable of overcoming your fear.
Almost constant muscle tension whether it consists of clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or flexing muscles throughout your body often accompanies anxiety disorders. This symptom can be so persistent and pervasive that people who have lived with it for a long time may stop noticing it after a while.
Regular exercise can help keep muscle tension under control, but the tension may flare up if an injury or other unforeseen event disrupts a person's workout habits.
Anxiety may start in the mind, but it often manifests itself in the body through physical symptoms, like chronic digestive problems. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition characterized by stomachaches, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea, "is basically an anxiety in the digestive tract," Sally Winston says.
IBS isn't always related to anxiety, but the two often occur together and can make each other worse. The gut is very sensitive to psychological stress and, vice versa, the physical and social discomfort of chronic digestive problems can make a person feel more anxious.
Most people get at least a few butterflies before addressing a group of people or otherwise being in the spotlight. But if the fear is so strong that no amount of coaching or practice will alleviate it, or if you spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about it, you may have a form of social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia).
People with social anxiety tend to worry for days or weeks leading up to a particular event or situation. And if they do manage to go through with it, they tend to be deeply uncomfortable and may dwell on it for a long time afterward, wondering how they were judged.
Many of us can probably relate to this one, I know I can. And it only becomes worse the more absent you become from people and social situations. Social anxiety disorder doesn't always involve speaking to a crowd or being the center of attention. In most cases, the anxiety is provoked by everyday situations such as making one-on-one conversation at a party, or eating and drinking in front of even a small number of people. Thanks to technology, this seems to have increased dramatically.
In these situations, people with social anxiety disorder tend to feel like all eyes are on them, and they often experience blushing, trembling, nausea, profuse sweating, or difficulty talking. These symptoms can be so disruptive that they make it hard to meet new people, maintain relationships, and advance at work or in school.
Panic attacks can be terrifying: Picture a sudden, gripping feeling of fear and helplessness that can last for several minutes, accompanied by scary physical symptoms such as breathing problems, a pounding or racing heart, tingling or numb hands, sweating, weakness or dizziness, chest pain, stomach pain, and feeling hot or cold.
Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but people who experience them repeatedly may be diagnosed with panic disorder. People with panic disorder live in fear about when, where, and why their next attack might happen, and they tend to avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.
Ahh, guilty again. The finicky and obsessive mind-set known as perfectionism can often go hand in hand with anxiety disorders. If you are constantly judging yourself or you have a lot of anticipatory anxiety about making mistakes or falling short of your standards, ask yourself if this is coming from anxiety.
Perfectionism is especially common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has long been viewed as an anxiety disorder. I suffered from OCD for most of my life in very strange ways, having volumes be set to even numbers, obsessing over having clean floors (I realize this one came from my father), there are some I have gotten rid of and some that still linger. I noticed that I told myself if I didn't do these things, then something bad may happen. In order to expose these OCDs I needed to make myself vulnerable to them for excessive amounts of time and understand that nothing bad would happen in doing so, over a period of time I was able to rid them completely.
In order to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person's obsessiveness and intrusive thoughts must be accompanied by compulsive behavior, whether it's mental (telling yourself It'll be all right over and over again) or physical (hand-washing, straightening items). Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior become a full-blown disorder when the need to complete the behaviors—also known as "rituals"—begins to drive your life.
Unfortunately being human, most of us suffer from this one at some point or another. I believe this is a natural feeling. Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing is a common feature of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. In some cases, the doubt may revolve around a question that's central to a person's identity, like "What if I'm gay?" or "Do I love my husband as much as he loves me?"
People with OCD think, 'If only I would know 100% for sure whether I was gay or straight, either one would be fine,' but they have this intolerance for uncertainty that turns the question into an obsession," she says. Certainty is another common persistence that many people crave but if we let go and realize that nothing is certain in life, we can release much fear.
The first step is to be honest with yourself. Our subconscious knows things that we're not always ready to consciously admit, like when we have a problem. If you really want to rid something from your life you must first bring it to the surface and expose it, call a spade a spade.
There are many healthy ways of dealing with anxiety, here are just a few to get started with:
1. Take a deep breath. Always remember to breathe, when we become anxious one of the first things that happens is our breath quickens and becomes shallow. Try to become aware of how your breathing and focus on taking long, deep breathes.
2. Accept that you’re anxious. Again, be honest with yourself. Remember that anxiety is just a feeling, like any other feeling and is controlled by your mind, by reminding yourself that anxiety is simply an emotional reaction, you can start to accept it. Acceptance is critical because trying to wrangle or eliminate anxiety often worsens it.
3. Question your thoughts. This is a good one. "Doubt your doubts", when people are anxious, their brains start coming up with all sorts of outlandish ideas, many of which are highly unrealistic and unlikely to occur and these thoughts only heighten an individual’s already anxious state. Ask yourself:
- Is this really likely to happen?
- If the worst possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that?
- Could I handle that?
- What might I do?
- If something bad happens, what might that mean about me?
- Is this really true or does it just seem that way?
- What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?
4. Use a calming visualization. Meditate on calming images and visualizations such as nature, clouds, waterfalls, anything that calms you and brings you peace.
5. Use positive self-talk. Affirmations are great for releasing anxiety. Try saying things out loud like "I give myself permissions to relax" or "I release all fear and anxiety into the universe to be destroyed.
6. Focus on right now. When people are anxious, they are usually obsessing about something that might occur in the future. Guilty again! Our thoughts are never focused on what is happening right now in the present, but always on tomorrow, next week, etc. Take a look around you and observe everything in your immediate future, if you can, go outside look up to the sky. I always find that looking up toward the sky and breathing deeply brings me immediate peace.
7. Talk to someone. Ever notice that as soon as a thought is said out loud it suddenly sounds ridiculous? My husband is always getting me to talk if he ever senses I am slightly anxious, he immediately stops me and gets me to become vocal. As hard as it may seem sometimes, try to talk about whats going on in your head to your partner, a friend or family member. You will be surprised at how much talking can relieve mental burdens.