Mental Health and Anxiety
Everyone has anxiety from time to time. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an estimated 792 million people worldwide live with anxiety. Throw in the uncertainty of a global pandemic, as well as the recent events surrounding the 2020 presidential election, and these numbers are bound to increase while we navigate these unprecedented times. However, when left unmanaged, chronic anxiety can wreak havoc on your physical health, mental health, and your quality of life.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety is our body’s emotional and physical response to threats, both perceived and real. While occasional stress is a natural part of life, individuals with anxiety disorders have frequent feelings of intense, excessive, and persistent worry. When left untreated, these feelings can negatively impact quality of life and happiness.
Characteristics of anxiety include:
- Overwhelming feelings fear, panic, or dread
- Excessive fear of dying
- Difficulty staying or falling asleep
- Difficulty controlling fears or worry
- Feeling wound-up or restless
- Repetitive thoughts related to fears
- Inability to concentrate on anything other than the source of anxiety
- Physical symptoms (muscle tension, pain, low energy, fatigue, chest pain, excessive sweating, etc.)
Anxiety impacts our mental health, and when left unmanaged chronic stress can lead to a host of physical problems. Panic attacks from anxiety can lead to a number of physical symptoms, including chest pain, heart palpitations, and lightheadedness. Chronic anxiety can also cause headaches, irritability, rapid or shallow breathing, an upset stomach, loss of sexual drive, increased blood pressure, aches and pains, and extreme fatigue.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are complex. Anxiety isn’t caused by one single factor, but rather by a combination of things. Many factors impact anxiety, including environmental factors, genetics, physical health, brain chemistry, and substance abuse.
Genetics: Individuals who have family members with an anxiety disorder are more likely to struggle with anxiety themselves. However, just because a member of your family struggles with anxiety doesn’t mean you will.
Physical Health: Many biological or medical factors can lead to anxiety. These include side effects from medication, the stress associated with a severe medical condition, and chronic pain can cause stress and lead to an anxiety disorder.
Brain Chemistry: Traumatic or stressful experiences and can impact brain chemistry, altering its structure and function. Additionally, many anxiety and mood disorders have been linked to hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.
Substance Abuse: Some people who experience chronic anxiety turn to drugs and alcohol to manage their condition. However, the use of alcohol and substances tends to increase the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, such as negative or obsessive thoughts.
Environmental Factors: Our environment plays a significant role in our lives and on our mental health and can increase anxiety. Stressors related to finances, jobs, school, personal relationships, politics, the global economy, and the COVID-19 pandemic all greatly impact anxiety levels.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several common anxiety disorders, to include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia), Panic Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates GAD affects about 6.8 million American adults a year. GAD is characterized by excessive worry for no logical reason that lasts several months or longer. While GAD can range from mild to severe, when left untreated, the condition can worsen and significantly impact quality of life.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by having recurring thoughts, ideas, images, or actions that cause extreme anxiety. OCD behaviors can be both mental and physical. These obsessive thoughts and behaviors are typically completed in a repetitive or ritualized way to reduce feelings associated with anxiety. When left unmanaged, mild to severe OCD can wreak havoc on your happiness, career, relationships, and physical health.
Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia): Impacting approximately 15 million American adults, social anxiety disorder causes a debilitating fear of social situations, and/or a fear of being humiliated or judged by others. For an individual with social anxiety, an otherwise exciting chance to interact socially can become an overwhelming experience. This could include attending a social gathering or party, networking opportunities, work presentations, or public speaking events.
Panic Disorder: Anxiety can cause panic attacks. When these attacks become common, an individual may be diagnosed with a panic disorder. With a panic disorder, spontaneous feelings of terror, dress, or impending doom can cause panic attacks. During these episodes, an individual may experience heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD develops after experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. Symptoms can present immediately or remain delayed for years. Common causes of PTSD include war, natural disasters, or a physical attack.
Cypress Counseling Center
At Cypress, we understand how stressful and trying these days can be. Managing the stress of the pandemic and all of the ramifications associated with it can feel overwhelming. Perhaps you are worried about your health or the health of a loved one? Perhaps you are unsettled about the security of your job and your finances during these uncertain times. Or maybe you are struggling to manage to work remotely while trying to monitor your children’s virtual learning. Add to this pressure cooker a contentious presidential election and it can be a recipe for stressful days and sleepless nights. We want you to know that you are not alone!
We are passionate about empowering you to be more calm, satisfied, and at ease. We work with children, teens, adults, and couples from all backgrounds and walks of life and want to help you live a life where happiness and fulfillment are the focus, not anxiety. Using a combination of scientific techniques, creative solutions, and compassionate care, our team of clinicians and psychologists are committed to helping our clients find the solutions they need to identify, mitigate, and overpower the root causes of their anxiety.
Contact a member of our team to learn more about our anxiety counseling services.