Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the western world. Nearly all individuals will experience minor anxiety at some point in their lives. However, if your anxiety symptoms become disruptive and affect your quality of life, then you may be affected by an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a class of mental illness and may require treatment.
There are different types of anxiety disorders. These include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Consistent feelings of intense worry and stress.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Anxiety and persistent fear that stems from a traumatic event.
- Phobias: Unrealistic fear specific to certain objects or situations.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The most common symptoms of GAD are persistent and excessive worrying, difficulty concentrating, inability to fall or stay asleep, and irritability. Individuals who suffer from GAD may also have physical symptoms such as tachycardia or shaking uncontrollably.
The symptoms of anxiety can often interfere with work, relationships, and quality of life. If you suspect that you may be suffering from anxiety, it is worth seeking treatment.
Treatment of anxiety
There are many treatment options to help calm and manage your anxiety disorder.
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most studied and effective treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Its efficacy rate is as high as 75% depending on the success outcomes defined by the study.
In CBT, the patient works with a licensed therapist to receive education about their disorder and to recognize and manage disruptive thought patterns. The patient will learn to identify their triggers and be given tools to modify their behavior. These may include relaxation techniques such as breath work. CBT is also safe and effective for children and adolescents.
2. Understanding triggers
A close correlate of cognitive behavioral therapy, taking the time to understand one’s anxiety triggers can be extremely beneficial. Triggers are rarely the root cause of your anxiety, but they are situations or events that make your anxiety worse. Being aware of your triggers so that you can avoid them, or develop coping mechanisms when faced with them, is an essential part of managing an anxiety disorder. Communicating what your triggers are to loved ones is also an important step to recovery.
If you suffer from acute anxiety attacks, you will likely be able to determine a connection between the attacks and specific events or situations. If you are unsure what your triggers are, a licensed therapist can help you to determine what they may be in a counseling session.
3. Lifestyle changes
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Sleep is an important part of anxiety management. Lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns can act as a trigger for some people. Remember that anxiety is a mental disorder and the brain is highly affected by sleep. Aim for at least seven hours every night. You may find that you need as many as nine hours per night for optimal anxiety management.
Other lifestyle changes to consider are to reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Both caffeine and alcohol interfere with our blood sugar levels, our hormones, and our neurotransmitters. Caffeine, in particular, can amplify anxiety symptoms. While alcohol may seem to have a calming effect, it ultimately disrupts brain chemistry and makes anxiety worse.
A meditation-based stress reduction program can also be effective in managing the symptoms of GAD. In one study, weekly meditation session significantly reduced panic symptoms. Another study found that meditation was more effective than stress management education in treating the symptoms of anxiety.
Physical activity can be beneficial for individuals suffering from anxiety and is also a method accessible to everyone. Exercise may help to reduce anxiety via a number of pathways. Exercise elevates levels of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and adenosine. It also increases core body temperature and induces electrocortical changes in the brain that may help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
It may also help to increase an individual’s sense of agency, or self-efficacy, helping to reduce anxious thought and to provide a greater feeling of control.
There many treatments that can help you to calm your inner anxiety. If symptoms of anxiety are disrupting your life, it may be time to seek treatment.
In order to receive the most effective treatment, seek the counsel of a licensed therapist or physician specializing in mental health disorders. You may find that a combination of treatments, such as CBT, meditation, and exercise provides the right formula for your specific symptoms.
Remember that treatment of mental health disorders takes time. Be patient and complete the program you develop with your therapist or physician in order to get back to your usual self.