A Guide to Coping with Anxiety

Everyone knows what it's like to get butterflies in their stomach prior to an exam or job interview, or before going to speak in front of a big crowd. Different people react differently before such occasions: some people can't sit still, others start wringing their hands or biting their fingernails, some develop extreme indigestion, and some people may feel nauseous. All of these reactions are symptoms of anxiety.
Although all of us suffer from some level of anxiety, a few people have extreme panic attacks which make it difficult for them to deal with some of most basic situations in life such as being in a room full of people.
All about Anxiety on Wikipedia Very comprehensive article covering almost all general aspects of anxiety
(ADAA) Anxiety and Depression Association of America Understanding anxiety and the facts you need to know to deal with it

What is Anxiety and what are its Symptoms?

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in some western countries. In the United States, an estimated 40 million people suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety comes in different forms including:

  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) this is a chronic disorder where the sufferer is in a constant and excessive state of worry, however he or she is unable to pinpoint the precise reason for their worry. Things they worry about could include money, health, family, etc. Their worry is usually completely out of proportion with the problem.
  • Phobias People with phobias have an irrational fear of a specific object or situation and always try and avoid it. This is different from GAD because people with GAD are unable to pinpoint the source of their fear, but people with phobias know exactly what they fear. Phobias are many and could include: acrophobia (fear of heights), the fear of getting stuck in an elevator, etc.
  • Social anxiety People with this disorder are afraid to place themselves in social situations for fear of being judged or being embarrassed. An example is stage fright where one is scared to death of going up in front of an audience and delivering a speech, etc.
  • Obsessive-compulsive People with this disorder are usually obsessive about certain tasks even though they realize they are being irrational. For example, before going to bed they might try and open the main door several times again and again in order to ensure its locked; they might keep washing their hands again and again for fear of germs, etc.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Some people suffer from PTSD as a result of some form of trauma such as military combat, being taken hostage, rape, etc. It can lead to the sufferer experiencing regular flashbacks and extreme behavioral changes.

What is Anxiety? (MedicalNewsToday.com) Gives a brief definition of anxiety as well as all the disorders that fall under anxiety. Includes helpful videos.
Anxiety and its Symptoms Comprehensive yet brief information by UK's National Health Service
Anxiety Facts and Symptoms Lots of great information describing anxiety, its types and its symptoms
Signs of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders Lots of great information on the symptoms of anxiety disorders and the treatments to follow
Need to Know Info on Anxiety Very comprehensive information from the APA (American Psychological Association) on various types of anxiety disorders, the importance of seeking treatment and what the treatments entail
Do You Suffer from Anxiety or Panic Attacks? Most of the people who suffer from anxiety don't know it and only about 25% of them get treatment. Find out if you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety

What Causes Anxiety?

Why are some people more anxious than others? There could be several reasons:

  • Psychological factors There are two main schools of thought as to how psychological factors could play a part in anxiety disorders:
    • Cognitive This is where a person overestimates danger and thus goes out of their way to avoid situations. For example a person may prefer to drive very long distances in order to avoid flying in an airplane, etc.
    • Behavioral - The reason could be that one has experienced a very stressful or traumatic situation earlier on in life (perhaps childhood) while doing a certain task and now each time he or she does the same task they get flashbacks of what occurred before.
  • Biological factors the anxiety could be caused due to problems with brain chemistry or brain activity or due to use of prescription medications, illegal drugs or alcohol
  • Medical factors Improper function within certain bodily organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and other glands can lead to extreme anxiety.

Understanding the Causes of Anxiety This site primarily discusses the causes of anxiety, how it affects people and how to bring it down to a manageable level
What Causes Anxiety Disorders (CAMH) This article from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health discusses various factors that cause anxiety, including the biological and psychological factors
Videos on the Causes of Anxiety Attacks These helpful videos by preventyourpanic.com discuss the causes and best ways to deal with anxiety attacks
Anxiety in Children Kids aren't as carefree as you might think. They also have to deal with anxiety problems. This is a great site for helping kids deal with anxiety
School Psychiatry This website deals with helping children and teenagers deal with stress and anxiety in the school environment

Harmful Effects of Anxiety

If stress and anxiety are not managed and go beyond control, they can have a number of very harmful effects on the body including:

  • Physical problems these can include headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, etc. Also, new research has revealed that regular anxiety can actually worsen the symptoms of diseases.
  • Emotional problems too much anxiety can lead to depression, panic attacks and other emotional problems

Furthermore, stress has been linked to certain leading causes of death including heart disease and cancer.
How Anxiety Affects your Health Discusses all the harmful effects extreme stress and anxiety can have on you psychologically, physically and also sexually
Anxiety is Bad for your Health Recent research indicates that worrying over your health can actually make your health even worse, especially on the heart and blood vessels. Read the article to gain further insights
How Much Stress is too Much? Find out from this comprehensive article that discusses the basics of stress, its symptoms, as well as the harmful effects chronic stress can have on your body

How to Deal with Anxiety?

If after reading this article you think that you suffer from an anxiety disorder then the best thing to do is to see a doctor. However, if you suffer from mild symptoms of anxiety at times, then the following suggestions might help:

  • Learn to relax you may be surprised, but watching TV or sitting at your computer is not really relaxing. What is needed is deep breathing and stretching such as in yoga or meditation
  • Treat your body well this means making sure you get enough sleep, eat all the right foods in the right quantities and get plenty of exercise. A lacking in any of these essentials can lead to anxiety problems
  • Get a bit social It has been proven that social activities especially with people you love helps to relax the body and lift your spirits, thereby relieving stress
  • Step out into nature there's nothing like going out into the great outdoors, breathing fresh air and enjoying a beautiful sunset to make us feel better about life

Here are some more great ways to dealing with anxiety:
5 Ways to Deal with Anxiety Often times anxiety is all in the mind and simple things like relaxing, getting enough sleep, or hanging out with close friends can help relieve the symptoms. Read the article to find out more.
People Dealing with Anxiety Blog A helpful blog with practical and easy guidelines for how people can learn to overcome their anxiety problems
Thubten Chodron's Anxiety Management Tips This website discusses how having a positive attitude can help most people effectively deal with anxiety
AnxietyUK A great resource for anxiety related information as well as contact information for anxiety treatment centers

Related Categories on StartLocal

Psychology and Counselling
Other Social Assistance Services
Life Coaching

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