Is it possible to face every little thing in life without ever feeling anxious, worried, uptight or fearful? Unfortunately, no. Anxiety is a common and normal part of life – you’re probably already familiar with the physical sensations and emotions of anxiety, especially on days when the expectations at home and the pressure at school seem to pile up. Just about anything that causes stress can cause “normal” anxiety. Fortunately though, when this type of anxiety happens, you’ll be able to get on with your day and get things done. In fact, “normal” anxiety can actually be helpful because it can motivate you to do what you need to do or sharpen your attention. Normal anxiety and fear doesn’t last long – it usually goes away when the situation improves or time passes and you manage to help yourself deal with the stressful situation that is causing your difficulties. But it’s important to learn how the “healthy” anxiety that happens to everyone from time to time is different from the emotions and physical sensations of anxiety/fear that go along with an anxiety disorder.
So how do you know it’s not just worry?
An anxiety disorder is when the emotions and physical sensations of anxiety are out of proportion to what’s going on – your fear or anxiety about something is far more intense and overwhelming than the actual cause, but you can’t help it. When you have an anxiety disorder, anxiety can last for more than just a couple hours or days and the symptoms are difficult to control, even if you try, or they can be really intense and disturbing for short bursts of time. When you have an anxiety disorder, you will struggle through the day (it’s hard to go to school and take care of yourself, you can’t get along with friends or family, and you can’t get things done), and you could feel overwhelmed by emotional or physical distress – basically, worry and fear make you feel awful.
When the feelings and symptoms of anxiety start to interfere with many parts of your life, or when you feel like you can’t control your fears and worries no matter how hard you try, it is time to ask for help.
Thoughts and physical sensations that you might experience if you have an anxiety disorder.
You might have constant worry, fear or panic that you can’t control, and feel like you can’t concentrate and can’t get unwanted worrisome thoughts out of your head. Anxiety can cause a change in your sleep patterns and you might start having problems in your relationships with other people. With an anxiety disorder, you might have queasy butterflies in your stomach, feel like your heart is pounding, sweaty hands that might feel numb or tingling, feel lightheaded or dizzy, short of breath and jumpy.
There are many types of anxiety disorders – it is good to know what type of anxiety disorder you might have. A doctor or counselor will be able to help you figure this out and can help you understand what you might do to manage or treat your symptoms. Click here for more information about different types of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are treatable – you can feel better.
The good news is that there are many ways to treat anxiety disorders. The first step might be to talk to someone you trust like a friend, teacher, parent, coach – sometimes just talking to someone can help you sort through your options for dealing with stress in your life. Also, as with most emotional disorders, a healthy diet, regular exercise, plenty of rest, avoiding alcohol and drugs and taking care of yourself can help you feel better.
If all of this doesn’t help, the next step would be to discuss your difficulties with a counselor or therapist who will be able to recommend a plan for treatment. Read more about anxiety disorders and treatment for an anxiety disorder here.