What Is Anxiety and How Do You Treat It?


Anxiety as a Symptom of a Medical Condition

In some cases, anxiety may also have roots in other underlying health issues or medical causes. Anxiety can actually be a sign or symptom of another medical condition altogether.

Some medical issues that are closely correlated with anxiety include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Thyroid problems
  • Heart disease
  • Drug abuse or withdrawal
  • Diabetes
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or anti-anxiety medications (especially benzodiazepines)
  • Respiratory disorders (like asthma or COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

In some cases, anxiety may also be one of the side-effects listed on certain medications, whether related to the conditions above or not.

If there are no members of your immediate family who have an anxiety disorder and you never struggled with anxiety as a child, it is likely that your anxiety may be attributed to another health condition altogether.

If your anxiety was seemingly brought on with no rhyme or reason – as in, there was no triggering event or reason behind its sudden appearance – it may be helpful to speak to your doctor about your overall health and what may be causing your anxiety.

What Is Anxiety Like?

Most individuals have a unique experience when it comes to anxiety, due to the array of disorders that fall under the general umbrella term of “anxiety”. However, there are some common elements between many anxiety disorders that many people can relate to.

A large number of people who experience anxiety feel like their mind is racing or swirling, making it extremely difficult to concentrate or grab a hold of any singular thought. This sense of confusion may last a few minutes, hours, or even days, depending on the person and their current experience.

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Going along with these thoughts and feelings is often an elevated heart rate, rapid breathing and shortness of breath, as well as a sense of restlessness or agitation. It is common for someone with anxiety to fidget a lot, due to the increase of adrenaline in their system in response to their anxiousness.

As a result of these symptoms, many people with anxiety also have trouble falling or staying asleep, due to their inability to quiet the seemingly constant noise within their own minds. Many will also experience nightmares or painful thoughts and memories that cannot be controlled.

Anxiety also has a physical effect on many people, with many attributing headaches, migraines, stomach pains, cramps, loss of appetite, irritable bowels, fatigue, and much more on their anxiety disorder.

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

The treatment of anxiety is largely dependent on which anxiety disorder you’ve been diagnosed with, but there are many proven methods that work for many people.

Most often, medication is used in combination with psychotherapy to achieve results.

Talk Therapy for Anxiety

Talk therapy can help individuals with anxiety disorders to find solutions to anxiety symptoms and a way to build understanding about their anxiety triggers.

In this type of therapy, people with anxiety are typically assigned or referred to a therapist to work one-on-one – creating a safe, calm, private and trusting environment – allowing the individual to open up on their own terms.

This is why talk therapy for anxiety is extremely effective, talk therapy sessions allow a person to discuss their emotions, troubles, and fears without having to feel feelings of being judged or misunderstood.

Popular types of talk therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Bereavement counseling
  • Cognitive analytic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Psychoanalysis

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy – often referred to as CBT – is a common therapy used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, as it teaches you skills to gradually improve your symptoms.

The goal of CBT is for those with anxiety to learn to cope with their symptoms in a way that eventually allows them to return to the activities they were avoiding due to anxiety.

CBT may also encompass exposure therapy, which slowly introduces individuals to the object or situation that triggers anxiety, in the hopes of building confidence and managing anxiety in the midst of such triggers.

If CBT doesn’t interest you, you may also try another different talk therapy.

Taking Medication for Anxiety

There are a number of medication options for the treatment of anxiety, all of which require a prescription from a doctor. Most medications take at least six to eight weeks before they become fully effective.

There are five main categories of medications that are used in the treatment of anxiety, which include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers
  • Buspirone
  • Hydroxyzine

There are a variety of medication options within each of these categories, with the most common medications used for anxiety being two types of antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Although medication is effective in the treatment of anxiety for many people, many doctors recommend using more than one approach at a time when coping with anxiety disorders.

The multi-faceted approach that combines the use of medication with psychotherapy and exercise is often seen as the best way to treat a variety of anxiety disorders. Although some people will respond to one method alone, using a combination approach will more consistently produce positive results.

How to Overcome Anxiety Naturally, Without Medication

If you don’t want to take medications for anxiety, there are natural ways that you can manage and cope with your anxiety.

While therapy and exercise are of the utmost importance, you may use herbs and supplements, meditation or mindfulness as strategies to cope and manage life with anxiety.

Stay Active, Eat Well and Drink Water

Keeping active, eating well, drinking plenty of water, and getting six to eight hours of sleep every night should be something that everyone strives for. You should not take these things lightly if you have anxiety, as these habits form the basis of your overall physical and mental health.

Use Herbs and Supplements

On top of this, there are some herbs and supplements that are known to be natural remedies for anxiety. Two of the most widely accepted in the treatment of anxiety are kava and valerian.

Kava root is commonly used for relaxation, but studies have been inconclusive in proving its effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Valerian is often used to induce sedation, with some studies suggesting that it is helpful in treating insomnia, but no proof of its effectiveness against anxiety.

Practice Meditation, Mindfulness or Yoga

There are numerous studies that evaluate the effectiveness of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for reducing of anxiety and panic episodes.

Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help you focus on the things that are surrounding you and stop worrying about all the little things that might happen. Through meditation and mindfulness, you can find the balance in stressful situations and take a look at yourself from a distance.

For example, you can use practicing specific yoga poses – like the child’s pose – as a posture to rest and regroup during times of stress and regroup. While for meditation, you can either meditate in quiet or you can search for a guided meditation audio on YouTube or audio streaming services.

If meditation or yoga can’t fit into your schedule, you can practice some deep breathing exercises and these can be done at any time. For example, many new fitness smartwatches have a “relaxing breathing” option where you can select from a 5-minute to 10-minute deep breathing exercise.

The Bottom Line…

No matter what treatment options you are interested in – traditional or natural – it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor or therapist and keep them informed throughout your anxiety treatment journey.

These professionals are there to help you by answering questions or offering other suggestions to help you manage and cope with your anxiety better.

Resources

HealthLine (Anxiety Overview)

Mayo Clinic (Anxiety)

WebMD (Panic Attack Symptoms)

Everyday Health (Which Medications Are Best for Anxiety Disorders?)

HealthyPlace (Do Natural Treatments, Natural Remedies, for Anxiety Work?)

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Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Recognizing the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Physical symptoms of anxiety take many shapes and sizes as they change in frequency and intensity.
by Eric Patterson on April 8, 2015
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