Everyone worries or gets anxious from time to time. Hectic schedules, family responsibilities, social outings, school or work duties… who can keep up with it all? According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders affect about 18% or 40 million American adults (age 18 years and older) every year.
Although most people have thoughts of worry, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder when symptoms last for six months or more. There are several types of anxiety disorders, but in general, they all present with a marked sense of worry, even when there is little or no reason to be so concerned. Some warning signs include anger, depression, fatigue, extreme mood swings, substance abuse, secretive behavior, changes in sleeping and eating habits, bad hygiene, and compulsive or obsessive behavior. Some anxiety disorders are very debilitating, while others are managed successfully by millions of people every day.
6 Common Anxiety Disorders (source)
1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Women with OCD have constant thoughts that compel them to do things. They feel like they must control their life by constantly doing the same rituals (checking things, touching things or counting things are examples).
2. Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
Being uncomfortable to the point of being incredibly overwhelmed and self-conscious in social settings can be diagnosed as a social phobia. Some symptoms include sweating profusely, difficulty speaking, and blushing.
3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD follows a traumatic event like war, assault, accident, or disaster. Women with it can startle easily, feel emotionally empty, or even be violent.
4. Panic disorder
A person having a panic attack may have a sense of impending doom and physically feel chilled, nauseous, or sweaty. If a person has recurrent panic attacks (i.e., shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and excessive perspiration) for more than a month, they're said to have panic disorder.
5. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Worrying constantly and unable to relax describes GAD. If a person finds his/herself suffering like this for over six months, they probably have a generalized anxiety disorder.
6. Specific phobias
Irrationally fearing something to the point that it retards emotional growth characterizes specific phobias. A few examples include heights, tunnels, dogs, spiders, and blood. Sometimes these particular phobias can induce panic attacks.
To reduce anxiety or prevent extreme stress in your life, here are a few things you can do:
- Identify your support system: This may be one person or twenty people. Nevertheless, identify those closest to you that will be there when you just need an ear to listen. Think of it this way, if you’re having a really hard day… who would you call first? Who would you call next? If no one else, those two people can be listed as your support system. Contact them when you’re having good and bad days. Be transparent about your anxiety, after all, you should be able to trust those in your support system. Most importantly, they should have your best interest as a number one priority.
- Practice your passion/Get a hobby: So often, idle time can cause more opportunities to dwell on worrisome thoughts and experience increased anxiety. Participating in something you enjoy (a dance class, a sports activity, cheerleading, etc.) is a great and healthy way to relieve stress and anxiety. It is also a great way to meet peers and expend excess energy.
- Hotlines/Support Groups: There are mental health support groups available through your local social services or health department, but you can get therapy whenever and wherever you need it thanks to platforms like Talkspace.
- Mindful mediatation and deep breathing, when done correctly, can help you train your brain to dismss anxious thougths when they arise. Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.
- Take a social media break. A digital detox is the ultimate form of self-care and can provide needed time for critical reflection.
- Exercise! No explanation needed :-)
If you are having persistent symptoms related to anxiety, it may be time to seek professional support. Speak to your parent(s), partner, or a trusted adult immediately. Your primary physician may be able to assist you with the appropriate referrals to a clinical counselor. Treatment may include behavioral modification, clinical counseling, and medication.