Most people experience anxiety on occasion, such as before an interview or when an important deadline is approaching. However, some people develop disorders that compromise their quality of life. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for instance, affects daily activities, relationships or overall enjoyment of things that normally bring joy.
“Real anxiety disorders result from the engagement of the stress system of avoidance without an obvious physical or mental threat in the environment,” Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D. says. The difficult question to answer when you’re stressed or anxious: is there an obvious reason for it? Sometimes it’s not so obvious if the threat is obvious.
“Anxiety can be triggered by a real threat,” YouBeauty reader Paige* says, recounting her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. Paige has struggled with obsessive-compulsive worry for decades after her mother’s surgery, frequently checking for lumps on her own body.
Every person is so unique in the intensity and duration of their anxieties, though there are distinguishable disorders.
One dimension of Generalized Anxiety is having your distress impair your daily functioning and keep you from fully engaging in an important aspect of your life, like work, according to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, you can suffer from an unhealthy amount of anxiety, while still appearing to be functioning just fine.
“People think if you get up and go to work in the morning you can’t have an anxiety disorder, and that’s misleading. You can be obsessively in a worry and attend to many tasks, taking care of the kids and going to work,” reader Paige says of Generalized Anxiety.
With obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), repeated thoughts, feelings or behaviors force people to carry out compulsive actions. These “safety behaviors,” (like checking the locks on your door) are used to calm their anxieties (a fear of someone breaking in), but they only perpetuate the disorder in the long term .
The lines of what is a “rational fear” also get blurred in the case of social phobias, specific phobias and agoraphobia (the fear of leaving a safe zone like your home).
Other times, people can’t pinpoint the source of their anxiety, like with an unexpected panic attack. Brian* recounts four months of his life where he had an attack every day. These would give him very physical symptoms, at first getting fidgety and feeling a wave of adrenaline. Then he would start shaking and have trouble regulating his body temperature, leaving the restaurant or place where he was.
No matter how much or little anxiety you experience, there are ways to ease your body and mind.
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