Anxiety is an important basic survival function we all use as a coping skill. It’s your body’s natural response to stress. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point of their lives. It’s also a very normal response to stressful life events. It’s like an alarm system that gets activated when we feel danger or threat. A natural human reaction, anxiety is reflected in our bodies and minds. We feel a physical sensation when our bodies react to danger like:

✅ faster heartbeat                                   ✅  sweaty palms
​✅ panting or breathing faster               ✅  queasy stomach
✅  tense muscles                                     ✅  trembling hands or legs

✅ faster heartbeat
​✅ panting or breathing faster
✅  tense muscles
✅  sweaty palms
✅  queasy stomach
✅  trembling hands or legs

These reactions are caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to deal with threats. Bodily changes can be mild to extreme. Ordinary anxiety comes and goes. It doesn’t interfere with your everyday life.

The persistent experience of anxious symptoms could indicate maladaptive behavior or an anxiety disorder. This may mean instead of reacting to feelings, we want to respond by soothing ourselves  instead of reacting to the feeling.

Causes of Anxiety

Honestly experts do not exactly know the causes of anxiety disorders. There are various factors that seem to contribute to the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder, but not one thing conclusively is the cause. These factors are best reviewed with a mental health professional to help determine what may be affecting your level of anxiety, and how best to treat it. Here are the contributing factors:

💡 Genetics                                         💡  Personality type
💡  Diet                                                 💡  Substance abuse
💡  Environment                                 💡  Trauma 
💡  Stress                                             💡  Depression
💡  Personal/ family history            💡  Being born female
💡  Irritable Bowel syndrome              
💡  Brain chemistry

💡 Genetics
💡  Diet
💡  Environment
💡  Stress
💡  Personal/ family history
💡  Irritable Bowel syndrome
💡  Brain chemistry
💡  Personality type
💡  Substance abuse
💡  Trauma
💡  Depression
💡  Being born female

Misconceptions About Anxiety

Anxiety is riddled with many misconceptions as it’s commonly misunderstood or underestimated. It is important to examine the root cause of symptoms. Feeling stressed, worried, or anxious are very common experiences but anxiety disorders are persistent and debilitating. While everyone feels anxious from time to time, anxiety disorders are specific to diagnosable symptoms present for over six months. Here are some misconception you should know are not true about anxiety:

🚫 it will just go away
🚫 there’s always a reason for it
🚫 just avoid stress to resolve it
🚫 getting help is admitting your crazy 
🚫 panic attacks make you faint
🚫 just ignore the voice in your head 
🚫 always triggered by childhood memory
🚫 changing your diet can resolve it 
🚫 medication is necessary
🚫 you can completely lose control 
🚫 you should carry a paper bag for hyperventilating

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

There are a range of feelings you can experience with anxiety, and everyone experiences anxiety differently. Therefore it’s important to know about the various ways anxiety may present in your life.

The first step is recognizing the signs of anxiety disorders.  When symptoms become too much to handle and prevent you from living your life as intended, they could be signs of an anxiety disorder. Here are some of the most common symptoms you may be experiencing disordered anxiety:

🚩 needing more of the substance to get the desired effect as if just first starting the substance(s)
🚩 one cannot stop themselves from using the substance, even if they want to 
🚩 spending a lot of time thinking about the substance and using the substance
🚩 having a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
🚩 disrupted eating and sleeping patterns

While the majority of these signs and symptoms are normal and common, only when they prevent you from accomplishing regular tasks throughout your day should they be truly concerning. It’s also worth noting that anxiety disorders are not diagnosed when one of these symptoms are present but various symptoms together for a continued period of time.

Diagnosing Anxiety

Anxiety is not simply diagnosed as there isn’t any testing to back it up. Key to a proper diagnosis is to begin with a physical exam to rule out other illnesses that may be causing your symptoms. If there is no physical ailment to explain your symptoms, your physician should always provide a referral to a mental health anxiety specialist.

Once under the care of a mental health provider, to properly diagnose anxiety disorders- there is a symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. These symptoms can affect people of any age, including children. These symptoms are typically severe enough to cause noticeable problems in multiple aspects of life such as in relationships, work, school or social activities. They include:

⚠️ The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive.
⚠️ The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
⚠️ The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one of these symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):

      • Edginess or restlessness
      • Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
      • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
      • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
      • Increased muscle aches or soreness
      • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)

Conditions Commonly Mistaken for Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder, and it is also amongst the most misdiagnosed mental health disorders.

✳️ stress                                                       ✳️ sleep apnea
✳️ drug / alcohol withdrawal                  ✳️ endometriosis         
✳️ depression                                             ✳️ heart disease
✳️ adrenal insufficiency                           ✳️ lyme disease                
✳️ fibromyalgia                                          ✳️ inappropriate sinus tachycardia
✳️ crohn’s disease                                     ✳️ diabetes
✳️ hyperthyroidism                                    ✳️ irritable bowel syndrome

✳️ postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

✳️ stress
✳️ drug / alcohol withdrawal
✳️ depression
✳️ adrenal insufficiency
✳️ fibromyalgia
✳️ crohn’s disease
✳️ hyperthyroidism
✳️ heart disease
✳️ endometriosis
✳️ sleep apnea
✳️ lyme disease
✳️ inappropriate sinus tachycardia
✳️ diabetes
✳️ irritable bowel syndrome
✳️ postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

Treating Anxiety

Once properly diagnosed with anxiety, treatment can help you manage the symptoms day-to-day. The following are some options you may choose to consider:

🧬 medications
🧬 developing coping mechanisms or hobbies
🧬 psychotherapy
🧬 support group therapy 
🧬 regular sleep schedule
🧬 cannabis 
🧬 exercise
🧬 avoiding alcohol & nicotine
🧬 holistic treatments
🧬 family therapy 
🧬 engaging in a routine with daily hobbies that help ones mood 

Healthcare Professionals Who Treat Anxiety

For the best results in a successful treatment of anxiety, seek providers that have specialities in the assessment, treatment, diagnosis, and continuing support of patients diagnosed with anxiety

Many medical and mental health providers are familiar with the diagnosis of anxiety.  However if your chosen provider is not, they should always provide a knowledgeable referral source. Specialized providers will have the capabilities to diagnose using various testing methods to decrease the likelihood of misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. 

If you choose to utilize medication, psychotherapy should always be incorporated in treatment planning. 

The following are professionals involved in the treatment of anxiety:

🧠 psychiatrists
🧠 physician 
🧠 psychologist
🧠 advance practice nurse
🧠 counselors and therapists
🧠 social worker

Recognizing Immediate Need for Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety is common but when it continues on and on…that’s when you need help. Controlling your anxiety when it’s interfering with your daily life could become particularly distressing. Here are the signs you may need a supported approach:

🚨 you’re perpetually on edge
🚨 you regularly fly off the handle
🚨 you have mysterious bodily aches and pains
🚨 you’re experiencing stomach problems
🚨 you work but don’t get anything done
🚨 you’re having trouble sleeping
🚨 you’re avoiding aspects of your life you normally enjoy

Anxiety Professional Organizations

Provided are some resources to help the start of seeking support for anxiety. Though these are national links, consider narrowing options down by searching in your current location.