Everyone experiences fear or worry at some point in their lives. Personal difficulties, such as divorce or a job loss, can cause significant stress. Broader societal events, such as a natural disaster or a pandemic like a coronavirus, can also cause serious emotional distress. This is normal and to be expected. For some people, however, this fear, worry, and stress can increase to the point of interfering with daily life.
The term “anxiety disorders” describes a group of conditions characterised by persistent, excessive fear or worry, even in non-threatening situations. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States, affecting nearly 20 per cent of adults. Fortunately, proper anxiety treatment can successfully help manage symptoms and provide anxiety relief.
Wondering how to deal with anxiety? First, it helps to understand what it is.
Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders come with a wide variety of symptoms, although not every person with anxiety shows all the same symptoms.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of anxiety include:
- Fear and worry about yourself or your loved ones; fears may be general or specific
- Feeling nervous, irritable, restless, or on edge
- Feeling impending danger or panic; possibly with no obvious reason
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Sweating or trembling
- Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite and eating patterns, including craving comforting foods
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, or heartburn
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or recreational drugs to try to cope with stress and other uncomfortable feelings
Symptoms of anxiety may first appear in childhood or young adulthood and may come and go over time.
High anxiety may also lead to a worsening of chronic health problems, such as asthma, chronic pain, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Anxiety Relief Tips
If you have had symptoms for a long time, it may be difficult to know how to deal with anxiety. Fortunately, many different options can help provide anxiety relief.
Common anxiety treatments
From lifestyle changes to specific types of therapy, here are some things that can help you or your loved one manage anxiety: Meditation & Mindfulness
Practising mindful meditation can be especially helpful for people dealing with racing or distracting thoughts. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that mindful meditation can help ease anxiety. Try your own version of meditation, or download a trustworthy app to help guide you through the process. Exercise
More and more research shows that our mental and physical health are closely connected, so it makes sense that exercise helps both your body and mind feel better. Pick a type of exercise that you enjoy: walking, swimming, running, or weight lifting. You may prefer the slower pace of yoga or a heart-pounding kickboxing session. Either way, the Mayo Clinic notes that physical exercise can help you increase energy, feel more alert, and reduce stress. Talk Therapy
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, involves working with a therapist to discover anxiety triggers and manage symptoms. This type of therapy can happen individually or in groups. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), often considered the “gold standard” for psychotherapy, teaches specific skills that can help you adjust your thought patterns and improve symptoms. Medication
Many individuals benefit from medications that treat anxiety symptoms. Different medications that can help relieve anxiety symptoms include:
- Some types of antidepressants
- Buspirone, which affects brain chemistry
- Sedatives and benzodiazepines, which can be addicting and are only for short-term relief
- Beta blockers, for short-term relief of physical symptoms
Not every option works for everyone; some treatments may take some time to work effectively. If you or your loved one struggle with anxiety, talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider about the best options for you.