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Have your worries become excessive, unmanageable, or overwhelming? Do you feel nervous or experience a sense of dread, anticipating the worst? If so, you may be experiencing something more than worry.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults, which makes it one of the most common mental illnesses. With that number, almost 1 in 5 adults are experiencing an anxiety disorder.
So, if that's you, you’re not alone, and we have some really good news. But first, let's go over some of the most common symptoms and our bodies response to see if anxiety is what you’re experiencing.
According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), if you experience three or more of the six symptoms, and they have been persistent for more than 6 months, you might be experiencing an anxiety disorder:
Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
Being easily fatigued
Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep
As we see, anxiety presents itself not only mentally but physically. Our amygdala, (an area in the brain where emotions are experienced) sends distress signals to the hypothalamus (your body’s emotional response “control center”). These signals then communicate to the rest of the body a fight or flight response, which is our body's reaction to a stressful or frightening event. When the fight or flight is activated, it disables your ability to think rationally and reasonably.
What's the difference between worry and fear/anxiety?
People often use anxiety and worry interchangeably, but they are actually two very different emotional states. According to the DSM, worry is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.
Worry tends to reside more in our minds and is only temporary, not impairing our ability to function. Worry is more rational, with realistic everyday concerns.
As for anxiety, anxiety affects both the mind and the body and unfortunately can linger around a little longer. It can feel overwhelming and uncontrollable, which will impact your day-to-day functioning such as sleep or concentration.
Over time, this continued pattern can actually cause physical damage to your body such as respiratory issues, gastrointestinal disorders, immune system, heart disease, or chronic pain. So, we see that seeking help can also play an important role in caring for the bodies we’ve been given.
"Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you very far.”
Okay, are we ready for the good news about anxiety?
Anxiety is highly treatable and there are a variety of treatment options! Some treatment options to recognize are psychoeducation, mindfulness techniques, relaxation techniques, and a variety of skills derived from cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.
Most of these skills help create awareness in our mind and bodies, so changing our thoughts can help calm the amygdala and hypothalamus, bringing our body back to homeostasis. The act of refocusing our thoughts, slowing down, and taking deep breaths can help send less-distressing signals to the hypothalamus, which will allow you to stay in control over your stress response.
Here at Steady Hope, our therapists want to help you take captive those distressing thoughts to live a life that is free and filled with hope for the future.
What is high-functioning anxiety, and how does it look?
High-functioning anxiety is best described as someone who appears well and successful on the outside yet is battling anxious feelings and thoughts on the inside. It is very common for high-functioning anxiety to go undetected; most individuals are unaware they experience anxiety.
Someone with high-functioning anxiety can actually be very successful and able to handle daily tasks with ease. Yet, they may have an inner struggle of anxious thoughts that they’re less likely to seek help for.
One doctor states that a lot of her high-functioning anxiety patients report “persistent feelings of being on edge, muscle tension, headache from clenching of the jaw, hunched shoulders, and irritability.” High-functioning anxiety can be treated in the same way as other anxiety disorders.
If high-functioning anxiety is something you think you may be experiencing, we don’t want you to suffer alone. Our team at Steady Hope works with many high achieving and high functioning individuals and we would love an opportunity to work with you!