Life is always changing. Some of those changes are happy ones that are cause for excitement and celebration. However, some of those changes can be difficult and alter an individual’s life. The changes that occur and are difficult to cope with, can lead to many things, one of which can be a struggle with anxiety. Anxiety symptoms start impacting our lives if not corrected. Many Americans experience anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans (18 percent of the adult population) experience anxiety each year. In addition, the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report noted that the number of people seeking help for anxiety and depression has dramatically increased since the coronavirus outbreak.
Anxiety Fight or Flight
So, why do so many Americans experience anxiety? Anxiety is a natural stress response. Some of the things that can cause stress in our lives include family conflict, work-related problems, health concerns, school deadlines, responsibilities we have, roles we maintain, or distress in other relationships we have. In times of crisis, anxiety occurs as a reaction to things that are happening. When a person feels a high level of stress, the brain produces hormones that activate the body’s “fight or flight” response. The purpose of this response is to protect you against pressures you are experiencing. While this response is meant to be helpful by letting us know that something has happened that we need to address, these feelings should be short-term and go away after the issue has been resolved.
It is natural to experience mood changes occasionally or without an apparent reason. Everyone experiences uneasiness from time to time. However, temporary feelings of apprehension are not considered to be an anxiety disorder. As long as these emotions do not affect your everyday life and wellbeing, they are considered normal stress responses. On the other hand, if you experience prolonged or exaggerated feelings of apprehension or excessive worry that is difficult to control, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety that may require professional support to overcome.
In order to understand if you may be having issues with anxiety, it is important to know risk factors and symptoms. Anxiety disorders typically manifest themselves through emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms. Many people seek counseling for anxiety when they begin to feel that their anxiety symptoms are making it difficult to function in everyday life.
A few risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder include:
- having experienced a traumatic event
- having health concerns that are stressful
- experiencing stress that continues to build and grow over time without resolve
- having a mental health diagnosis
- experiencing a significant life change and/or the death/loss of a loved one
Anxiety Physical Symptoms
Some of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety can include: nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweating, skin prickling sensations or numbness, problems getting to sleep or being able to sleep through the night, fatigue, headaches or migraines, stomachaches, vomiting, chills or heat sensations, and/or trembling or shaking. A few of the emotional and cognitive signs of anxiety include: a generalized fear of an approaching catastrophe, inability to relax, feeling agitated, emotional fatigue, fear of losing control, problems focusing, difficulty concentrating, and/or difficulty controlling feelings of worry and fear.