Anxiety And Anxiety Disorders: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

We all get anxious from time to time. Dealing with unexpected events or stressful situations can make us feel worried, nervous, or on-edge. Most of the time, anxious feelings will dissipate as soon as our stressors have passed. But for some, anxiety will linger, causing major discomfort and potentially debilitating effects.

So how do you know if the anxiety you’re experiencing is normal, or if you’re facing a more serious anxiety disorder? Here are a few ways to tell the difference.

Anxiety: a normal response to stress

Stress is unavoidable. From college midterms to job interviews to major financial decisions, our lives are fraught with challenges and obstacles that can throw us for a loop. Feeling anxious before, during, or after critical moments like this is completely normal. In fact, even though it feels uncomfortable, anxiety can sometimes be beneficial; it’s our body’s natural “fight or flight” response, helping us exercise caution in potentially dangerous situations.

Signs you may have an anxiety disorder

While temporary feelings of anxiety are often normal, there are signs to heed that may indicate you’re dealing with something more serious – and if you are, you’re not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 40 million adults in the United States struggle with an anxiety disorder. It’s one of the most common mental health issues in this country, and is generally characterized by the following broad symptoms:

  • You’re anxious all the time

Most people respond to obvious life stressors with feelings of worry or nervousness, but people with anxiety disorders feel anxious almost all the time. These incessant feelings of anxiety can last for weeks, or even months, and aren’t always associated with a stressful life event.

  • You have a hard time functioning

People with anxiety disorders often experience such intense symptoms that they’re unable to participate effectively in their everyday lives. Minor obligations may set them off into an anxious spiral, and obsessive worries can preoccupy their minds.

  • You experience significant physical symptoms

Anxiety disorders don’t just cause mental anguish; they also create physical discomfort and symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, tremors, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.

Different types of anxiety disorders

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, each with their own specific set of symptoms. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder

Also known as GAD, this causes persistent, excessive worry over normal everyday occurrences. Worrisome thoughts can feel all-consuming, to the point where it becomes difficult to live a normal life.

  • Panic disorder

People who struggle with panic disorder experience panic attacks: sudden, unexpected flashes of terror that can cause extreme physical symptoms, such as chest pain or vertigo.

  • Social anxiety disorder

People with social anxiety disorder have a severe fear of interacting with people, often because they’re worried about doing or saying something embarrassing. Untreated social anxiety disorder can lead to long-term isolation and even panic attacks, particularly in anticipation of social situations.

  • Phobias

There are a variety of specific phobias that involve intense, irrational fears of everyday places, events, objects, or sensations. People with phobias often take extreme measures to avoid the things that frighten them.

Treatment for anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can put a significant damper on your ability to live an active, fulfilling life, but with the right treatment, you can learn to overcome your symptoms. Most anxiety disorders are highly treatable with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and stress management techniques. Effective treatment plans are tailored to the specific symptoms you are experiencing. An experienced medical professional will be able to help you decide on the right course of action.

Anxiety treatment is available at Alvarado Parkway Institute

Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t get the help they need because they don’t recognize the severity of their condition. If you suspect you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to call Alvarado Parkway Institute at (619) 667-6125. Our staff is available to take your call 24 hours a day, and we can help you get the treatment you need to live a happy and healthy life.