You had a spirited disagreement with a co-worker and noticed your heartbeat was racing afterward. The following day, you woke up exhausted because you couldn’t sleep. These can be chalked up to everyday anxiety, or they could be symptomatic of something worse – an anxiety disorder slowly taking over your life.
What is Anxiety?
“Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal stress reaction. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. It can help you to cope.” But if anxiety doesn’t go away, it could indicate a much bigger problem.
Kinds of Anxiety Disorders
If you have anxiety, watch out for symptoms that last for months and inhibit daily life. If this happens, you may be at risk of a more severe anxiety disorder, but that’s not an automatic certainty.
- Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder where you fear and avoid things that might make you panic and feel trapped or embarrassed.
- A medical condition-induced anxiety disorder that includes extreme anxiety or panic symptoms is linked to a physical health crisis.
- Generalized anxiety disorder features persistent and extreme anxiety and concern about common activities or events. The worry exceeds the actual situation, is hard to control, and affects how you feel physically. It happens with depression or other anxiety disorders.
- There are repeated bouts of sudden reactions of severe anxiety and panic with a panic disorder that peaks within minutes. You could have feelings of imminent doom, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, or a quick, fluttering heartbeat – often leading to more worry and avoidance.
- Separation anxiety disorder in children presents with anxiety that’s extreme for the child’s developmental age and linked to separation from parents or those in parental roles.
- Social anxiety disorder is when you experience high levels of anxiety, dread, and avoidance of social settings out of fear of embarrassment, self-consciousness, and worry about being judged negatively.
- Specific phobias.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and Breathing
According to some research, how we breathe can directly influence anxiety and the physical reactions that go with it. The problem is that we take it for granted that we know how to breathe, and the act is as ubiquitous as oxygen itself – both of which are probably false.
The good news is that breathing techniques and other kinds of exercise can help reduce anxiety. While some people gravitate toward medicine like ketamine or other therapy, there are also strategies you can try at home.
Breathing and Other Ways to Manage Anxiety
- “Square breathing helps regulate the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies, which can often be out of balance when anxiety is at play. Square breathing involves breathing in, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding it again — all for four counts apiece.”
- Mindfulness exercises speak to the ability to live in the moment by engaging all five of your senses. It’s the fundamental human ability to be present, aware of your surroundings and what you’re doing, and not overreacting or becoming overwhelmed by what’s happening around you.
- Progressive muscle relaxation has the goal of helping your brain understand the sensation of your muscles being in a relaxed, tension-free state.
Breathing exercises for anxiety have many benefits, such as stress management, improved heart rate, blood pressure, and many others.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think you have anxiety or are experiencing a more severe anxiety disorder, your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and personal and family medical history. This may lead to a physical exam and lab tests to look for a different health problem that may not be triggering your symptoms. If there isn’t another health issue, your doctor may recommend a psychiatric evaluation by a mental health professional. During a mental health assessment, your symptoms may be compared to criteria in the DSM-5 to confirm a diagnosis.
Ongoing care could involve psychotherapy, medicine, or newer therapy, including ketamine infusion.
Anxiety is a part of everyday life and often disappears on its own. But if you have long-term symptoms which interfere with daily life, you’re one of more than 40 million U.S. adults fighting a battle involving anxiety disorders. The most common symptoms often go away on their own or can be managed with self-help techniques like breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, or mindfulness. Contact us today to learn more.