For years, you’ve been more than a little anxious most days. Now, fear, lack of sleep, eating problems, and avoidance have begun ruling your life. So how do you start to get better? One way is to find someone you can trust and develop ways to talk about anxiety with others.
What Is Anxiety?
“Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. However, it can be a normal stress reaction. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.”
Anxiety that persists, and worsens over time, could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. But the symptoms are manageable.
Know The Symptoms
Anxiety is different for everyone, but general symptoms may include:
- Physical warning signs like fast heartbeat, fast breathing (or hyperventilation), increased or extreme perspiration, trembling or muscle twitching, weakness or fatigue, digestive, or gastrointestinal complications (gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Nervousness, restlessness, tension
- You have feelings of anger, panic, or dread
- Trouble focusing
- Problems sleeping
- Strong avoidance tendencies
- Obsessions about particular ideas or doing something repeatedly
- Anxiety about something distressing which happened in the past
Can Anxiety Get Worse?
For most people, anxiety goes away on its own. But for others, it doesn’t and can morph into more severe anxiety disorders, which may require treatment like psychotherapy or ketamine to control the symptoms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies indicate that 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders. Common anxiety disorders include:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- Selective mutism
You may be at greater risk of getting an anxiety disorder based on:
- You have a sympathetic nature and see the world as threatening
- Anxiety and in shyness childhood or adolescence
- You’re female
- Alcohol abuse
- Past trauma
While anyone is at risk of getting anxiety, the chances of developing a more severe anxiety disorder are higher due to certain illnesses or medical conditions, side effects from a particular medicine, or intoxication from alcohol, anti-anxiety medication, cocaine, and sedatives.
How Should I Talk About My Anxiety With Others?
We know that millions of people have severe anxiety disorders, but only about 36 percent get treatment. Why is that? It may be due to embarrassment, the stigma of mental illness, being afraid to see a doctor, or something else. It’s difficult for people to talk about their anxiety with someone else, but there are things that you can do to make that conversation a little easier.
- Do the research and know what you’re talking about. Do you think you have a specific disorder? What are the symptoms or triggers?
- Put pen to paper and write down your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Keeping a journal helps you understand what’s going on and may help explain it to someone else.
- Explain specific symptoms and why you think you have them. For instance, if you’re hesitant to step into a crowded elevator, is it because you’re claustrophobic? Or are you afraid the elevator will fall?
- Most people are more than happy to help someone in need, especially a loved one or close friend. If you have an anxiety disorder, give someone you trust the tools to help you. What have you done in the past to reduce symptoms of an anxiety disorder? Maybe that person can try doing the same thing.
- Describe words or phrases which you perceive as dismissive. If someone knows what these are, they may be less likely to use them when you’re feeling anxious.
- Work on developing coping mechanisms together. Again, someone else’s perspective may be helpful.
Diagnosis & Treatment
To identify your condition, your healthcare provider will ask you to describe your symptoms as well as your personal and family medical history. You may also get a physical examination and undergo lab tests to ensure that another health issue isn’t triggering your anxiety symptoms.
If there isn’t a medical problem, your doctor may perform a psychological evaluation or refer you to a mental health specialist. In either case, you’ll be asked to describe your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and if you or a family member has a history of mental illness.
Once diagnosed, treatment may involve psychotherapy, self-help, medicine, lifestyle changes, or ketamine.
There are many reasons people don’t talk about their anxiety with someone else – fear, stigmatization, lack of knowledge – but overcoming that hesitance may be the first step in getting better. If you can’t talk to a loved one or friend, ask your doctor for more information on controlling anxiety symptoms.