What’s anxiety? Normal anxiety is that nervous feeling stressful situations produce. But for some people, the anxiety never lets up – and can be overwhelming, making it difficult to handle everyday life.
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) occurs when a person worries constantly about several different potential problems, usually pertaining to health, family, work or finances. Physical symptoms of GAD can include headaches, muscle tension, trembling, or feeling lightheaded or out of breath.
- Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder can develop when a person who suffers panic attacks worries that a debilitating panic attack will occur in a public place or while driving. This kind of anxiety can lead to the sufferer rarely venturing out.
- Social Anxiety Disorder or social phobia is anxiety over public humiliation, and can lead to social isolation.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder occurs when a person suffers unwelcome thoughts (obsessions) and tries to control them through repeated behaviors (compulsions), such as constant hand-washing due to an anxiety about germs.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common in people who witness a traumatic event, such as a car accident or shooting. The PTSD sufferer recalls the event with powerful feelings and sees it was an impending danger rather than something in the past.
Anxiety and Depression
Many people with anxiety disorders have “cognitive distortions” that keep them expecting the worst and maintain a sense of negativity and fear. So it’s no wonder that depression often occurs along with all of these other types of anxiety disorders. In fact, anxiety and depression are so often linked that they seem to be two sides of the same disorder. Behavioral therapies – and sometimes medication – are useful in treating depression.
Tips for Managing Anxiety
If you suffer from a milder form of anxiety, you can try to help yourself control your anxiety and persistently negative thoughts by changing the way you react to situations and events. For example:
- Don’t overgeneralize – like when you assume that just because one job interview went badly, you’ll never find a good job.
- Don’t disqualify positive statements others make about your skills, talents and other strengths. For instance, if you’re told you did a great job on a project, don’t say that it was lucky or a fluke. Accept the positive thought that your talent and experience contributed to your success.
- Try not to get overwhelmed by a big project and feel that it’s impossible – that can be a major source of anxiety. Break the project into more management tasks and enjoy completing each one successfully, and the anxiety will decrease.
Controlling how you react to anxiety, and meeting your anxieties head on instead of avoiding them and becoming more overwhelmed, can often help you deal with normal, mild anxiety in a healthy way and give you back a feeling of control.