There are millions of people in the world who struggle with anxiety every day, but not all of them know how to manage it.
It’s normal to feel a little anxious once in a while. However, when that anxiousness turns into days and weeks and even months, and it feels uncontrollable, overwhelming, and interferes with your day to day activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., affecting 40 million Americans, and they are highly treatable so you can get back to feeling like you again.
Here’s what you need to know, including some guidance on how to find help from mental health services like Brightside.
What is Anxiety?
In its rawest form, anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s fear of what’s to come that can help protect you from danger.
Sometimes our bodies create these same symptoms of anxiety when we encounter stressful events or when we worry a lot about various things in our lives like our health, or our job performance, relationships, etc.
About 31.1% of American adults will experience an anxiety disorder during their life. Depending on the type of anxiety that you are diagnosed with, there are different treatments and techniques available for coping.
Anxiety disorders are complex mental health conditions that affect people in many different ways. Sometimes, it can feel like spikes of panic or underlying worry. For others, it looks like restlessness and fatigue.
Anxiety disorders occur when your feelings of anxiety are intense, prolonged, and affect your daily activities like work performance, ability to achieve goals, communication with others, and so on.
Signs of Anxiety
If you aren’t sure if you or a family member is struggling with an anxiety disorder, here are some of the most common anxiety symptoms:
- Excessive worry about many issues
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
- Feelings of panic or dread
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Anxiety attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Intrusive thoughts
Any of the symptoms that you experience could be completely different from someone else’s. This is why it’s crucial to know that anxiety presents itself in many different ways.
If you’ve felt one or more of these symptoms, you could be dealing with an anxiety disorder, and it may be time to seek professional help.
Forms of Anxiety
Anxiety is able to manifest itself in many forms. When you are able to understand the type of anxiety that you are experiencing, it can help you seek out the best type of care.
Common forms of anxiety are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
Connection Between Depression and Anxiety
Oftentimes, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, creating a negative cycle of mental illness. About 60% of people with anxiety also suffer from depression. They share some common physical symptoms including trouble sleeping, restlessness, and fatigue.
When you get anxious, you worry about a problem and feel bad about it, then become sad about that problem. The chance of developing depression is much higher when you already have an anxiety disorder. Depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. It can happen at any age but is most common in adults.
Anxiety is caused partially by the fight or flight center in a person’s brain. This happens even when there is no actual threat in existence. The person suffering from anxiety feels like they are in constant danger even when they are not.
What are some of the signs that someone might have anxiety and depression?
- Fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Trouble remembering
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Often tired or cranky
- Panic attacks
How Therapy Can Help
Decades of research have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective tool for treating anxiety.
Therapy provides you with an opportunity to speak to a licensed therapist who is trained to help you learn adaptive coping skills that can help you cope better with the symptoms of your anxiety. CBT teaches you various strategies to understand the thoughts you have when you are anxious, and the behaviors you engage in when you are anxious as well.
One specific form of CBT is called the Unified Protocol (UP), and it’s commonly used for individuals diagnosed with emotional disorders like anxiety and depression. UP aims to help patients learn new ways to cope with, manage, and respond to uncomfortable emotions, which can help reduce symptoms across the board. Some of the strategies used in UP involve increasing the person’s emotional awareness and helping them build tolerance to overcome uncomfortable emotions and situations.
How Medication Can Help
Medication is another treatment option that can work both alone and alongside therapy. Antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety and work to balance your brain chemistry — anxiety and depression can be caused by an imbalance in serotonin and/or norepinephrine, two chemicals in your brain that heavily contribute to your mood, how you feel in your day to day, and even how you respond to everyday scenarios . Some of the most common types of antidepressant medications for anxiety are SSRIs and SNRIs.
Antidepressants aren’t a quick fix — they take time to work — but when used appropriately, they can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety so you can start feeling like you again.
Your Brightside provider will analyze over 100 unique data points to match you with the medication most likely to work for your individual needs. From there, they will monitor your treatment, making adjustments until it is just right for you.
A Combination of Medication and Therapy
If you choose to start therapy and medication, it could be the best option for your health. While both of these treatments are effective on their own, they work best in conjunction with one another.
Getting Help With Brightside
Finding quality care in your area can be daunting and difficult at times. That’s why we created Brightside, an online option with appointments available in as little as 48 hours and medication delivered to your doorstep.
At Brightside, you can work with a prescribing provider as well as a therapist to help treat your anxiety from two different avenues that have been proven especially effective when done together.
Brightside offers personalized treatment for anxiety, including evidence-based therapy from the comfort of home and medication delivered directly to you.
85% of people who use Brightside feel better within 12 weeks.
Brightside has affordable plans that give you unlimited daily messaging and video consults with your psychiatric provider and unlimited messaging plus monthly video sessions with your therapist.
Lifestyle Changes To Help With Anxiety
While medication and therapy work well to improve anxiety, there are other practices you can do on a day-to-day basis to manage your anxiety symptoms at home.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being aware of where you are in your space and being conscious of how you’re feeling. One key antidote to anxiety is to practice staying in the present, acknowledging your anxiety symptoms if you’re experiencing any, then focusing back on the present moment. Using your five senses to focus on where you are, as well as what you feel, hear, and see can help you engage in your mindfulness and awareness. This is especially effective when paired with deep breathing exercises — breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold for a count of four, then exhale for a count of six.
- Decrease your caffeine intake. While most of us look forward to that hot cup of coffee or chai tea latte first thing in the morning, consuming high amounts of caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety such as feeling jittery and restless. Try lowering your caffeine intake where you can, such as switching to half-caff coffee or opting for teas over espresso.
- Exercise to release endorphins, which allows you to feel happy and relaxed. Getting outside for at least 30 minutes a day will significantly reduce your chance of getting diabetes or high blood pressure too.
- Journal to help you release all of your worry into the world instead of bottled up in your head. Write down a list of the top ten things that are bothering you and work on letting them go.
- Eat a balanced diet and drink enough water to set your body up for success. Sometimes a nutrient imbalance and dehydration can worsen feelings of anxiousness — make sure you eat a nutrient-rich diet to support your physical wellbeing.
- Get involved in a volunteer activity or hobby to keep your mind occupied. Doing some good in the world can help you feel more positive.
- Practice sleep hygiene — this includes spending time winding down each night before going to sleep. Take away screens and phones for at least 30 minutes before bed. Do relaxing activities like reading an enjoyable book, listening to relaxing music, or just taking some time to sit and chat with your partner, family members, or roommates. This will help your mind unwind and detach from the stressors of the day.
Everyone feels a little anxious sometimes, but when that anxiousness lasts and lasts and starts to disrupt your day to day, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are fairly common in the United States, and are highly treatable with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
In addition to that, there are coping strategies and lifestyle changes that can work alongside your prescribed treatment plan to help you better manage symptoms. These strategies include practicing mindfulness, practicing proper sleep hygiene, making sure to get enough exercise, and more.
However helpful these strategies may be, professional help is often needed to help provide the chemical balancing, guidance, or both to get you feeling back to yourself, and you can do it with Brightside.
Try Brightside today to get back to feeling like you.