Everyone’s been anxious before. Got sweaty before making a toast, cold feet before that big decision, a shirt that seems to keep getting tighter prior to that interview, feeling anxious is part of our stressful, demanding lives: it’s a normal biological response. An anxiety disorder on the other hand is not normal. This type of anxiety doesn’t fade, in fact it can get worse over time. Anxiety disorders can start to seriously interfere with job performance, school work, and relationships.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, and they are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. Around 40 million adults — almost 1 in 5 people are suffering from an anxiety disorder. You could be part of this staggering group, but how can you tell the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?
What is Anxiety Disorder
There are five major types of anxiety disorders. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. All of these disorders have unique symptoms associated with them, but all of them are vastly different from normal anxiety.
There are several key differences between typical anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Knowing these differences will help you determine whether or not you have an anxiety disorder.
The presence of a stressor. When normal anxiety occurs it’s typically in response to a stressor. A stressor is something like an exam, job interview, an argument, or anything life changing. If you feel anxiety as a result of something like this, there is likely nothing to worry about, but if anxiety plagues your day and simple tasks like paying the bills are a big stressor you may suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Length and intensity. It’s several weeks before that final exam and you’re feeling as though it’s tomorrow — no it feels like you will have to sit down and take it right now. Regular anxiety may come about the day before a big stressor, but an anxiety disorder will manifest itself way ahead of time and continue beyond. The difference is normal anxiety is fleeting; it’s a short term feeling. An anxiety disorder’s symptoms can last months: it can be all the time.
Anxiety and everything else. An anxiety disorder can be identified quickly as they don’t inflict you with anxiety, there are other symptoms that tag along. Dizziness, sweating, trembling, heart pounding, light-headedness, headaches, and nausea. An anxiety disorder isn’t just nerves, it’s a serious disorder that can make daily tasks feel impossible.
Daily tasks feel impossible. If you’re struggling to get anything done, be it at work or school, you may have an anxiety disorder. If concentration is impossible, negative thoughts fill your mind, and you’d rather just avoid everything an anxiety disorder may be the cause. Anxiety can cause you to avoid normal activities, making your life feel impossible.
Why Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?
There are many risk factors for anxiety disorders, and researchers have found that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the potential of developing a disorder. While the risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder can vary the general risks are as follows:
- Traits of shyness or inhibition in childhood
- A family history of mental illness
- Thyroid problems, heart arrhythmias, substance abuse
- Exposure to stressors, negative influences, and environmental events in early childhood or adulthood
Treatment and Research
Anxiety disorders are usually treated with talk therapy, medications, or both. There are many ways to treat the disorder and that’s why it’s important to work with your doctor and find a treatment that fits your needs and specific anxieties. There is no cure for this debilitating disorder, but with continued research and studies there may be some day.
Ways to Manage Your Anxiety
There are ways to manage your anxiety and help make life more doable. While these are certainly not going to cure your disorder, they may be invaluable in getting through your day.
- Take a break every now and then .
- Eat well rounded, healthy meals
- Learn about your stressors and triggers
- Talk to friends and family.
For more details and other ideas checkout our blog post 8 Small Ways To Manage Anxiety.
If your anxiety is crippling, if it makes going to work seem impossible, or if you can’t even manage to complete daily tasks it might be time to seek further help. Don’t let an anxiety disorder ruin your life. Seek treatment or participate in a study that could make take the disorder away from your anxiety.