Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety

Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety

Sources of information and statistics for this article come from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Palm Beach County Health Assessment, and the Mayo Clinic Health System.

Anxiety is the number one mental health problem in the United States. 42.5 million Americans suffer from it. Let’s break down the numbers on this issue:

  • The anxiety rate for Florida is 32.3% of the population
  • The anxiety rate for Palm Beach County is 40% – 4 in 10 people in our county suffer with this issue
  • The age group that suffers the most from anxiety is 30-44 year-olds – 23% of this group
  • The generation that suffers the most from anxiety is Gen Z (ages 10-25), 32% of them
  • 32% of adolescents (ages 13-18) deal with anxiety. The most recent causes of anxiety for them are the pandemic and technology; being focused on their devices rather than being outside and engaged with real people. Other causes are stress from worrying about getting into the right college, AP classes, dual enrollment – college and high school at the same time, over-scheduled activities (all part of building the resume as a teen) and parental expectations
  • More females than males seem to be affected by anxiety

Anxiety – Fight or Flight Mode

Anxiety is an overstimulation of the nervous system. It basically causes our body to be thrown into fight or flight mode. God designed our nervous system this way to protect us from danger and threats to our life. However, our body is not designed to stay in this mode for long periods of time. This mode is for short bursts of time and then our parasympathetic nervous system will shut it off and return everything to normal. Staying in this anxious state keeps our body pumping out adrenaline and cortisol. This will lead to increased inflammation levels in the body. Inflammation is one major cause of diseases such as autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, GI tract problems, etc. It will also lower our immune system, making us less able to fight off disease.

Anxiety Symptoms

Common symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • A sense of impending panic, danger or gloom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Obsessive thinking about the panic trigger

There are other individual physical symptoms that vary with each individual such as throwing up, feeling like choking, tingling sensations in the body, chest pains or pain in various parts of the body to name a few.

There is a mind-body connection, that is why our emotions cause physical symptoms that don’t show up on tests our doctor puts us through.

Anxiety and panic can definitely interfere with our daily life and be difficult to control. They are out of proportion to the perceived danger and cause people to avoid places, people, and situations. If not dealt with and pushed back against anxiety will spread like cancer. It will take over your life and make you a prisoner in your own home. People who have never dealt with anxiety have trouble understanding this. They can get frustrated and judgmental toward a friend or loved one dealing with anxiety. “Why don’t you just snap out of this, this is ridiculous,” they will say. However, if it was that easy for them they would have already done that.

Causes of Anxiety

What causes anxiety and why do some people have it? Let’s look at the major causes of anxiety:

  • Genetics – people can inherit anxious tendencies. Some people seem to be wired to be more worriers and more pessimistic. This can be worked on and changed but it will definitely be more difficult for them than for others.
  • Personality types – a big part of our personality is inherited. The sensitive, empathetic, feeling-oriented personality is more prone to anxiety. The other two major personality types more prone to anxiety are:

The neurotic personality – a person characterized by compulsions, obsessions, and phobias that often show motor or sensory manifestations such as tics.

The introvert – a person who gets drained being around a lot of people and needs alone time to recharge their batteries.

  • Environment – this is linked to personality; growing up in a chaotic, dysfunctional, abusive environment or one with constant change (like moving a lot) will create anxiety. Also, if there is an anxious parent they can transmit their fears to a child. We learn what we live with.
  • Trauma – there are two types of trauma, big T and little T. Big T is what people think of as trauma, sexual or physical abuse, being in a war zone, being a victim of a violent crime, etc. Little T normally wouldn’t be thought of as trauma but depending on the age of the child and their personality type it can be trauma to them. Anxiety is a symptom of trauma. It is the body’s way of distracting from the trauma.
  • Stress – this is a major cause of anxiety. As our stress levels rise, so does the anxiety. Life is full of stress much of which we can’t control. We need to eliminate as many stressors that we have control over. For those we don’t we need to develop healthy stress coping skills.
  • Physical or hormonal issues – hormones affect our moods. For example, having a thyroid gland that isn’t functioning properly can create anxiety. It is always good to check and eliminate any of these causes.

Types of Anxiety

There are several types of anxiety that are good to be aware of:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – as the name implies this person is anxious in general. It isn’t any one specific thing.
  • Phobias – these would be specific fears such as flying or being claustrophobic. They wouldn’t be anxious about anything else in their life.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – this isn’t the neat freak. This person gets intrusive, compulsive thoughts that come into their mind, seeming from nowhere. They tend to be irrational and inconsistent with who they are as a person. The more severe cases can greatly interfere with a person’s life. They are usually accompanied by certain compulsion rituals that are an attempt to control the thoughts.
  • Separation and attachment anxiety – this is the fear of leaving an attachment base or being alone. At the start of life we need our attachment bases (like mom and dad) to stay alive.
  • Social anxiety – fear of being around groups of people because I feel they are all looking at and thinking negative things about me.
  • Agoraphobia – fear of being out of my house or in open or closed spaces or crowds.

More recently we have seen a spike in anxiety because of the covid pandemic and the way it was dealt with by closing everything down including schools. The school closings and isolation caused by it hit young people hard; increasing anxiety among them. The isolation with people in general, the financial pressures caused an increase in anxiety which lead to an increase in drug and alcohol use, suicides, domestic violence and academic issues with youth. The analysis coming in is showing the “cure” was worse than the disease.

Anxiety Cures

What can be done to cure anxiety or at least bring it to a level that it isn’t interfering in a person’s life?

You can attack it on several fronts. First you have to decide you are tired of living the anxious life and want to be proactive in changing your life. See anxiety as an enemy trying to take over and ruin your life.

See it as a bully that is trying to tell you what you can and can’t do, where you can and can’t go. Like I said before, if you don’t fight it, it will take over your life. You are not powerless against it. You can win this fight but it will be a fight. Here are some things you can do:

  • Keep physically active – develop an exercise routine, even if it is something simple like walking. Get an exercise partner so you can help each other. Start with small steps you know you can do and build from there. Exercise is a great stress reliever. It will improve your mood and your health.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs – These things make your anxiety worse. They are common stress coping mechanisms but don’t work in the long run. If you can’t quit on your own, get help with a support group.
  • Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages – Nicotine and caffeine make anxiety worse.
  • Use stress management and relaxation techniques – deep breathing, visualization, meditation, journaling, prayer, scripture reading are examples of these.
  • Make sleep a priority – work to get a solid seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Eat healthy – eat live foods versus canned or packaged. The basics, fruit, vegetables, protein, whole grains, complex carbs. Nothing fancy, no fads, just a common sense sustainable diet.
  • Learn about your disorder – just like you are doing by reading this article. Information is your friend as well as power.
  • Stick to your treatment plan – This may involve medication, depending on how bad your anxiety is. Anti-depressants, which have benefits for anxiety and aren’t addictive come primarily in two groups.

SSRI’s- these work on serotonin levels – Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac.

SNRI’s – these work on dopamine levels – Pristiq, Cymbalta, Effexor.

Your plan should also involve therapy, which is usually a help to anyone with anxiety. Show up for appointments and do any assigned work.

  • Identify triggers – learn what situations, people or actions increase your anxiety. Then apply the tools and strategies you have learned from your mental health provider in therapy
  • Keep a journal – write out what you are thinking and feeling; this is a way to process your emotions. You will find this helpful and by going back and reading previous entries you will be able to see progress you have made
  • Socialize – Don’t allow your anxiety to cause you to isolate yourself from others. This is one of the worst things to do. Push yourself to do what you don’t feel like doing; spend time with others
  • Natural help – Along with medication there are natural vitamins, supplements, and herbs that can help with anxiety

Some of these are:

  • 5 – HTP
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamins B, C, A, D, E
  • Valerian root, holy basil, ashwagandha, kava, certain essential oils
  • CBD oil – you can get it THC-free (that is what produces the high feeling)

Don’t Suffer Alone

Anxiety is not something you need to be ashamed of; others will not understand unless they have dealt with anxiety themselves. Don’t allow others to judge you or make you feel guilty for having anxiety. Many Christians feel twice as guilty because they heard someone say, “If you were a good Christian you would have anxiety.” This is not true. You do not have to battle this alone. As I said earlier, millions of people in the U.S. deal with anxiety. Reach out for help or to schedule a with our anxiety therapists. Find a caring therapist who can walk with you to victory over your anxiety

Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 468-6464
Phone: (561) 678-0036

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