Anxiety is a normal response to situations and circumstances that feel threatening, triggering, or otherwise uncomfortable. Contrary to what you may believe, there is a clear line that separates normal anxiety from abnormal anxiety. If you are reading this, you may suspect that your anxiety is beyond what would be considered normal. Becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of problematic anxiety, as well as various types of anxiety disorders, can aid your ability to effectively address and manage your symptoms.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an innate survival mechanism that developed from evolutionary processes. It is a feeling that humans can experience when faced with hardship, challenges, or stress. Anxiety can be beneficial, as it can give you the boost of energy needed to complete an important task. However, it can also be problematic, causing you to experience overwhelming symptoms that interfere with your ability to function in daily life.
Anxiety affects everyone differently. Some people may go their entire lives without feeling the debilitating effects of anxiety. Others may live with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder for decades, turning to maladaptive behaviors to cope with their symptoms. Either way, it is essential to avoid comparing your experiences and symptoms of anxiety to anyone else’s because all experiences are different, and all are equally valid.
An Overview of Anxiety Disorders
If you experience feelings of fear, worry, and/or panic that are difficult to control, you may have an anxiety disorder. It is vital to become educated about different kinds of anxiety disorders as well as their associated warning signs. This may help you to better identify the symptoms you are struggling with and can give you a more accurate diagnosis when you meet with a health professional.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that GAD “involves a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread, which can interfere with daily life.” Some symptoms that may indicate you have GAD include:
- Feeling restless
- Being easily fatigued
- Experiencing sleep problems, such as insomnia
- Having unexplained aches or pains
- Experiencing issues with concentration and focus
The NIMH explains that individuals “with panic disorder experience frequent and unexpected panic attacks.” Panic attacks are both sudden and intense, causing extreme discomfort, fear, and a loss of control, even without an identifiable trigger. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Chest pain
- Feelings of impending doom
- Experiencing a loss of control
If you have a panic disorder, you may experience severe worry about when your next panic attack will occur. You may also avoid specific places or situations that you associate with previous panic attacks, working to prevent future attacks from occurring. Unfortunately, many people become so consumed with worry that a panic attack will occur that they end up triggering one.
Social Anxiety Disorder
The NIMH defines social anxiety disorder as “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.” If you have social anxiety disorder, you may experience extreme fear of social situations. Eventually, these feelings may interfere with your relationships, as well as your ability to work or attend school. You may have social anxiety disorder if you experience the following during social situations:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Rigid body posture
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Feeling self-conscious or fearing negative judgments from others
The NIMH defines phobia as “an intense fear of — or aversion to — specific objects or situations.” Phobia-related disorders cause you to feel fear that is out of proportion to the actual threat caused by the object or circumstance. You may have a phobia if you:
- Experience irrational or excessive worry about coming into contact with the feared object or circumstance
- Take preventative measures to avoid the feared object or circumstance
- Experience immediate anxiety when faced with the feared object or circumstance
Treating Abnormal Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
If you are still worried about or questioning whether your anxiety exceeds normal limits, your anxiety is likely abnormal. Fortunately, you can work with a mental health professional to potentially get an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Even if you do not meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder, you may meet the criteria for another mental health disorder. Regardless, treatment can help you determine the severity of your symptoms and develop an effective plan for treatment.
Recognizing Your Increased Risks of Substance Abuse and Addiction
As mentioned previously, individuals struggling with anxiety commonly turn to maladaptive behaviors to cope with their symptoms. For some, this involves the use of alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate. Unfortunately, substance use can increase your risk of addiction or worsen your anxiety disorder. This is one of the many reasons why it is vital to seek treatment for abnormal anxiety as soon as possible.
Treatment can help you address the underlying causes of your anxiety disorder and potential substance use disorder (SUD). A variety of therapies can help you recognize the connections between intrusive thoughts, problematic emotions, and maladaptive behaviors. Medication may be necessary to reduce your anxiety symptoms and fully reap the benefits of psychotherapy treatment. Participating in a treatment program can give you the best chance at establishing lasting sobriety from SUD and recovery from your anxiety symptoms.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders at 12 South Recovery
At 12 South Recovery, we offer both mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. We utilize a client-centered treatment model, addressing every client’s unique mental health needs. By participating in one of our programs, you will be encouraged to utilize both individual and group therapy options. We will also integrate a variety of therapeutic approaches into your treatment, including, but not limited to:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Holistic therapies
Recovery is for everyone. With professional treatment, you can achieve lasting recovery from abnormal anxiety.
Anxiety is often a normal response to stress. Without utilizing healthy coping mechanisms for stress, however, untreated anxiety can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, medication and psychotherapy treatment options can help reduce your symptoms as you take charge of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. At 12 South Recovery, we offer a wide range of outpatient treatment programs for individuals seeking lasting healing from mental health and substance use disorders. Our treatment programs can be tailored to fit your unique needs and recovery goals. Additionally, we offer a variety of therapeutic approaches to individualize your individual and group therapy sessions. To learn more, give us a call today at (888) 830-8374.