Not only is the experience of anxiety overwhelming and uncomfortable– it can also make one’s life feel extremely small. If you live with anxiety on a daily basis, you may feel like you are limited as a result of debilitating fear. Throughout this article we will look at common types of anxiety disorders and how to live life to the fullest with these conditions.
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What are Anxiety Disorders?
Many individuals experience anxiety leading up to a significant event such as a job interview. However for individuals with anxiety disorders, feelings of worry and tension continue to persist even in the absence of a specific stressor. If an individual is experiencing disruption in their daily activities due to an inability to control their worry, an anxiety disorder may be present.
Common types of anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by ongoing worry about everyday situations such as work/school, health, etc. Symptoms include feeling ‘on edge’ or restless, fatigue, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms such as muscle tension.
Panic Disorder involves recurring panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear. Common signs of a panic attack include increased heart rate, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, trembling or shaking, and feelings of impending doom. Due to the intensity of symptoms, panic attacks often resemble the experience of having a heart attack or another medical crisis. An individual with Panic Disorder commonly experiences fear about when another panic attack might occur and avoids anything that could trigger an episode.
Social Anxiety Disorder may be present if an individual experiences intense fear of social situations where they may be judged, criticized or embarrassed by others. As a result, they may avoid interactions with other people and face challenges with carrying out daily responsibilities at work/school and forming relationships.
Specific Phobia is defined by extreme fear of a specific object or situation (it could be receiving injections, heights, an animal, etc.) An individual living with specific phobia may arrange their life to avoid encountering what they fear.
5 Strategies for Living Well with Anxiety
1. Seek professional support.
If ongoing anxiety is interfering with your quality of life, consider reaching out for professional support. Treatment such as psychotherapy and medication that has been proven to be effective in reducing the intensity of symptoms. There is no ‘cure’ for an anxiety disorder, but seeking appropriate treatment can help an individual to increase their quality of life.
2. Learn to accept the presence of anxiety.
Instead of trying to overcome anxiety by pushing it away, acknowledge the presence of anxiety when it does emerge. Remember that fighting against it will only make it more intense. Instead, notice the way anxiety shows up in your body and mind- and allow it the space to be there, knowing it will pass. The goal is not to never feel anxious, but to choose to live fully even in the face of anxiety.
3. Push back against the urge to cope by avoidance.
For many individuals who live with anxiety, it often feels easier to avoid situations that could be triggering, such as a social gathering or a doctor’s appointment. However, avoiding what we fear only continues to exacerbate feelings of anxiety in the long run. The more that we push ourselves to do the difficult thing and face our fear, the more we build up tolerance for discomfort, which decreases distress over time. Consider small steps you could take to challenge yourself to confront instead of avoid situations you find anxiety-producing.
4. Develop coping strategies that you can utilize when you experience anxiety.
In those moments where you are experiencing anxiety, it is helpful to have coping strategies that you know work well for you. That may be journaling, calling a friend, taking a walk outside, petting an animal, deep breathing, or mindfulness exercises. Even if you have several go-to techniques for managing stress or anxiety, think about new ones you might try that you could add to your toolbox.
5. Know that you are not alone.
Above all, know that you do not have to manage your anxiety alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support, whether a family member, friend, therapist, etc. Don’t hesitate to bring others into what you are experiencing and ask for what you need in those moments of discomfort and panic.
The Bottom Line
Living with anxiety can be extremely difficult and exhausting. It is an ongoing process to learn how to cope with an anxiety disorder. However, it is absolutely possible to thrive even in the presence of anxiety- to keep pursuing your big dreams and passions without letting anxiety keep you small.