That nagging feeling that the other shoe is about to fall, the catastrophic thought that the plane might crash, a restlessness that keeps you up at night from a brain that won’t turn off…. all of these are symptoms of anxiety. I’ve felt these symptoms more then I’d like to admit. Learning where the root of my anxiety comes from has been a spiritual journey that has fed my soul. As I started to open up more about this with others I’ve learned that so many people struggle with anxiety. Actually 30% off adults suffer from anxiety, the majority being women.
What is anxiety anyways?
Let’s talk about it. There are 6 different types of anxiety disorder… I have them all listed out below:
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments.
The core symptom of panic disorder is recurrent panic attacks, an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress. During an attack several of these symptoms occur in combination:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling of shortness of breath or smothering sensations
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint
- Feeling of choking
- Numbness or tingling
- Chills or hot flashes
- Nausea or abdominal pains
- Feeling detached
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
Because symptoms are so severe, many people who experience a panic attack may believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness and may go to a hospital ER. Panic attacks may be expected, such as a response to a feared object, or unexpected, apparently occurring for no reason. The mean age for onset of panic disorder is 22-23. Panic attacks may occur with other mental disorders such as depression or PTSD.
A specific phobia is excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful. Patients know their fear is excessive, but they can’t overcome it. These fears cause such distress that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Examples are fear of flying or fear of spiders.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. The fear is out of proportion to the actual situation and lasts generally six months or more and causes problems in functioning. A person with agoraphobia experiences this fear in two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed places
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside the home alone
The individual actively avoids the situation, requires a companion or endures with intense fear or anxiety. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that a person may be unable to leave the house. A person can only be diagnosed with agoraphobia if the fear is intensely upsetting, or if it significantly interferes with normal daily activities.
A person with social anxiety disorder has significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or endure it with great anxiety. Common examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public. The fear or anxiety causes problems with daily functioning and lasts at least six months.
A person with separation anxiety disorder is excessively fearful or anxious about separation from those with whom he or she is attached. The feeling is beyond what is appropriate for the person’s age, persists (at least four weeks in children and six months in adults) and causes problems functioning. A person with separation anxiety disorder may be persistently worried about losing the person closest to him or her, may be reluctant or refuse to go out or sleep away from home or without that person, or may experience nightmares about separation. Physical symptoms of distress often develop in childhood, but symptoms can carry though adulthood.
So now that you’ve read all those lovely diagnosis think about the one that resonates with you the most….side note at least 3 hit home for me so stop judging yourself right now girl!
Let’s talk about what anxiety looks like in the body:
You can’t talk about anxiety in your body without talking about the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight or flight response. It serves a purpose when you’re in real inherent danger like a tiger chasing you or when your child runs into the street. However, the sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response keeps us alive. When your sympathetic nervous system is turned on the body will shunt blood away from the digestive system to other muscle groups in case you have to fight or run which increases your senses and heart rate.
The parasympathetic system could also be called “rest and digest”. This is the nervous system that we were made to live the majority of our lives in. The parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
Can you visualize yourself moving from parasympathetic system to the sympathetic system when anxiety is triggered in your body? Ask yourself what that looks like for you and what sorts of things trigger that “fight or flight” response in you. Triggers can be many things and are different for each person so the more awareness you have regarding your triggers the better you will be in utilizing coping mechanism. A coping mechanism is just a fancy term for anything that helps you calm down in a healthy way. Many people numb negative emotions and thoughts with unhealthy behavior or substances that only perpetuate anxiety. The best way to look at your anxiety and triggers is the dive into it. If you’re not in a stable place I highly suggest finding a therapist to work through these issues. Psychologytoday.com has a great therapist finder.
What can you do with our anxiety and start feeling better today?
Breathwork: Taking deep breaths from your diaphragm will help to lower cortisol and help to re-wire neural pathways. Click here for a video on breathwork.
Balance your blood sugar
Decrease your caffeine intake
Get outside and soak in some Vitamin D
Talk to a friend
Headspace Meditation App
Follow the Holistic Psychologist for more anxiety and diet info as well as her free “Future Self Journaling”.
Therapy Check out Psychologytoday.com to find a therapist in your area.
I hope this encourages you that you are not alone and there’s so much you can do to start healing today.
With love and gratitude,