My heart was pounding, hands were sweating and felt a little lightheaded. I was worried that something bad might happen (like tripping while walking down the aisle in a long dress), but I could not wait for my daughter’s wedding to begin. I was excited, yet anxious for everything to go well.
We have all felt those unsettling feelings at one time or another. Anxiety can be a good thing as it gets us prepared to do or experience something new. However, it can also be problematic when it prevents a person from participating in life experiences.
Anxiety can affect any person at any time in their lives. Sometimes it’s very short term (like a wedding, starting a new job, going to a medical appointment) and expected, but for others, these symptoms can be persistent and affect day-to-day life for years.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 40 million adults in the United States (18 percent) suffer from anxiety. Approximately 8 percent of children and teenagers have anxiety disorders and most people develop anxiety before the age of 21, though they may not recognize it at the time.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling restless, nervous or on edge
- Trouble relaxing or sleeping
- Get easily annoyed or irritable
- Unable to stop or control worrying
- Rapid heart rate, increased breathing, sweating, trembling for no reason
- Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
- Sense of impending panic, doom, danger
Anxiety is classified according to how it presents itself. Some of the classifications are: situational anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks and phobias (fears) of various activities, events or animals (spiders and snakes).
There are known risk factors for anxiety including new or persistent stress (good and bad), family history of anxiety, childhood trauma, various medical conditions (such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and chronic respiratory illnesses), and drugs or alcohol misuse, but anxiety symptoms can also develop for no specific reason.
What can I do about it?
There are things you can do to manage your own anxiety. Take time for yourself every day whether that means taking a bath, going to the gym, meditating, reading a book or whatever it is you enjoy doing. Also, spending time with supportive loved ones can help to alleviate stress. Some people enjoy reading self-help books to learn more about anxiety. There are many good ones available through bookstores online that address anxiety, social phobia, worry, etc. I recommend the “workbook” types of books as they help a person really understand their own anxiety issues.
When to see your health care provider
While we all have times that we don’t want to participate in activities or something undesirable causes stress, for many people, anxiety can become much more of a problem. It can become overwhelming or debilitating. If your day-to-day life is being affected by symptoms of anxiety, then it is time to talk to your provider. You can have a private conversation with your provider to discuss your personal situation and options for treatment. Remedies to consider are counseling with either your provider, minister or a mental health counselor for cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, or a combination of both. There is help. No one should needlessly suffer from anxiety. It is time to enjoy your life.