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The Multifaceted Nature of Anxiety and Its Impact on Daily Functioning

Anxiety, as your typical 21st-century malady, affects us in more ways than we seem to realize. Its influence isn’t confined to moments of regular, everyday stress; it seeps into various aspects of our existence. Anxiety can shape the way we think, feel, and behave in certain situations. From the tingling unease before a big presentation at school or the office to the worrying thoughts about life, death, and meaning that won’t let us sleep at night – that’s anxiety doing its honest work. To recognize and successfully battle its harmful influence on our lives, we must understand the multifaceted nature of anxiety. 


Image by Uday Mittal / Unsplash


What Is Anxiety?


Anxiety is an integral part of the human experience. We all occasionally endure a natural feeling of worry about our family, finances, health, or other issues. Life isn't all glitter and gloss, and it's inevitable to undergo feelings of anxiety and panicky helplessness every once in a while. 


However, anxiety may lead to the development of an anxiety disorder if it gets too much and simply won't go away if these feelings of excessive worry and overthinking become a regular thing, disrupting your mental wellness. Unlike other types of stress, anxiety disorders are long-lasting and can get worse over time if left untreated. They have a negative effect on our relationships, physical condition, and everyday activities.


Anxiety is an integral part of the human journey, but anxiety disorder shouldn’t be (image by Joyce Kelly / Unsplash)


Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can come in various shapes and forms; anxiety disorder is simply an umbrella term. According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, there are four main types of anxiety disorders:


  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

  • Panic disorder. 

  • Social anxiety disorder. 

  • Phobias. 

Each of the mentioned comes with its own set of symptoms; recognizing them is the first step toward managing and overcoming anxiety's heavy grip. Here, we'll provide a summary of each anxiety disorder type.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)


Battling GAD (the most common anxiety disorder) means experiencing excessive, overwhelming worry about various activities and events for a longer period: months or even years. Also, individuals with GAD might experience other symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, physical discomforts like headaches or muscle pain, and difficulty controlling intrusive thoughts (often accompanied by sleep disturbances).


Panic Disorder


This type of anxiety disorder involves frequent, unexpected panic attacks; they’re characterized by sudden and intense feelings of otherwordly fear or losing control. What makes them particularly challenging for individuals who experience them is that they can occur even without an apparent trigger. The frequency of panic attacks can vary (some people might experience them once a year, others – a couple of times a day). Keep in mind that not everyone experiencing a panic attack eventually develops panic disorder: it can happen once and never again.


The frequency of panic attacks isn’t the same for all people (image by Andrey Metelev / Unsplash)


Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)


Characterized by an extreme fear of social situations, social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, greatly affects individuals' lives. Common situations that can trigger social anxiety are speaking in front of an audience, meeting new people, dating, or eating/drinking in public. 


Despite recognizing the irrationality of these fears and worries, individuals with social anxiety disorder find it quite challenging to control these impulses. Many people use (illicit) substances to cope with the issue. That kind of behavior might lead to addiction development. Fortunately, premiere behavioral mental health treatment centers offer supervised care by professionals who understand and treat anxiety disorder issues simultaneously with substance abuse. This kind of approach is called dual-diagnosis treatment and addresses the underlying causes of each condition concurrently to promote lasting recovery and improved mental well-being.


Phobias


Extreme fears of specific things, locations, circumstances, emotions, or animals are known as phobias; these anxieties are more intense than normal feelings of fear (which you can overcome through fitness). They arise when individuals perceive particular triggers as posing a greater risk. Similar to social anxiety disorder, phobias can lead to avoidance behaviors. One of the most common examples of phobia is the fear of spiders (arachnophobia).


Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) is one of the most well-known phobias (image by Pierre Bamin / Unsplash)


How Does Anxiety Impact Daily Life?


The multifaceted nature of anxiety can significantly impact your daily life in various ways; here, we'll highlight the most intrusive and obstructive effects of anxiety disorders.


Issues With Digestion


Nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are often among the first (physical) symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Additionally, you might notice a decrease in appetite and subsequent weight loss. Anxiety can worsen preexisting health conditions like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 


Can Anxiety Cause Ulcers?


Once upon a time, people believed that stress-induced hyperacidity in the stomach caused ulcers. Today, such an assumption is obsolete; it’s understood that bacteria is causing the issue. However, you’re still not 100% safe; constant anxiety will do some damage to your immune system, making you more vulnerable to developing ulcers.



Stomach pain is one uncomfortable symptom of anxiety (image by yuris alhumaydy / Unsplash)


The Multifaceted Nature Of Anxiety: Neurological Issues


When you have an anxiety disorder, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) goes into overdrive. Also known as the fight-or-flight response, SNS is meant to react temporarily to threats. However, it can cause health issues when constantly activated. The SNS balances certain biological functions, like muscle tension and alertness, while the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) balances it out. Overactive SNS can lead to issues with sleeping, slow healing, headaches, and muscle pain.


Social Issues (Relationships and Overall Quality of Life)


As if the above is not enough, anxiety disorders harm relationships by limiting our willingness to try new experiences and meet new people due to a constant fear of rejection. Anxiety can also lead to irritability and control issues; it can damage important bonds we share with our surroundings. Beyond relationships, anxiety profoundly diminishes the overall quality of life, making it difficult to pursue opportunities or, in extreme cases, even leave the house, resulting in lost potential and financial setbacks.


Conclusion


Anxiety has the power to diminish our everyday enjoyment; it disrupts our relationships, causes physical discomfort, and hinders our ability to lead a fulfilling life free of worry. In some cases, individuals may resort to substance abuse as a means of coping instead of opting for healthier alternatives. By understanding the multifaceted nature of anxiety, grasping its various types, and recognizing its impact on the daily lives of individuals suffering from it, we gain insight into this prevalent mental health issue. Today, we’ve learned something about anxiety and its pathological side. As the old saying goes, know thy enemy.


References: 


By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Unsplash



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