Anxiety can really chip away at our happiness if we don’t learn how to be and cope with it.
There’re so many different types of anxiety that can show up and steal perfectly enjoyable moments from our lives. It’s a beast of an emotion that can range from mildly uncomfortable to utterly crippling. In the simplest of terms, Anxiety is Worry. To which degree that we stress and worry is what increases or decreases our anxiety.
Anxiety seems to be the new buzz word given our fast moving society and need to always be one step ahead of the game. As a therapist, it’s a common symptom that brings many clients into my office.
As always, when we gain more knowledge about a topic, it becomes less scary. When something becomes less intimidating, we’re able to battle it with more confidence and success. This forces the beast (anxiety) to lose its power in order for us to allow it to pass and be gone.
With that said, I’ll point out 5 different types of anxiety, discuss what they look like and how to deal with them. After all, the trick is to No thy enemy, right?
1. Generalized Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety is one of the more common types of anxiety. In a nutshell, generalized anxiety is described as having an excessive and exaggerated sense of worry about everyday life events for no obvious reasons.
When it comes down to it, stress is stress, regardless of whether the worry is factually legit or not. Events can be benign and simple, yet cause us a ton of angst.
Generalized anxiety has the ability to lower the quality of our life as it grows and becomes louder. A little worry here or there, can be typical, although when worry turns to stress and daily rumination about all the things that could go wrong is standard, this type of anxiety can start quickly over taking our lives.
2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
People with obsessive compulsive disorder can have obsessive thoughts and urges or compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Some individuals diagnosed have both obsessions and compulsions.
With OCD, your thoughts and actions feel uncontrollable, therefore you feel unable to function normally, which greatly effects everything in your life. Work, school, relationships, you name it, suffers because of the fixated need and want to do the compulsive behavior or obsession.
Obsessive thoughts can range from the need for things to be in a particular order to a fear of hurting one self. Compulsive habits can be anything from repeatedly washing hands to checking if the lights are turned off several times more than necessary. These “ritualistic” behaviors are unique to the person and can effect anyone who loves them.
As it sounds, this disorder tends to be more obvious since the behaviors or thoughts encourage a person to do behaviors in ways that go out of the realm of what is deemed “normal.”
3. Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety is when the thought or actual interacting with other people causes irrational anxiety. The irrational fears can show up in a variety of ways; worrying about how the interaction is going to go, if judgement will occur, fear of embarrassment and concern around saying something “wrong” or “foolish.”
Social anxiety is very isolating which further perpetuates the unhealthy cycle of keeping to one’s self and strengthening delusional fears due to isolation.
4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened.”
Also known as, PTSD, is a disorder that causes feelings of intense fear or helplessness within the individual.
The grey area with this anxiety disorder is that trauma is relative. Meaning, what’s traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to another. Unexpected tragedies like deaths, losses, natural disasters are events that our society tends to view as “traumatic.”
Although when PTSD comes from such things as our exposure to abusive intimate relationships or experiences in which we uniquely felt traumatized, the warning signs can go under the radar (be unacknowledged) or be misdiagnosed.
Some common symptoms of PTSD are shock, anger, nervousness and fear. Ruminating about the trauma, flash backs, nightmares and a loss of concentration and inability to function well can also appear. Usually symptoms show up within 3 months of the specific traumatic incident.
Agoraphobia is when you avoid places or situations that you anticipate will cause you panic by triggering feelings of being trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape from the situation that’s triggering your panic. Agoraphobia symptoms center around the fear of leaving home, which creates worry of being exposed to crowds, enclosed spaces and, essentially, any environment that provokes anxiety within the person.
When your fear is so overwhelming that you become unable to leave your home this results in a lack of functioning, loss of quality of life and can lead to isolation and depression.
How to Cope with Anxiety
With whatever type of anxiety you’re dealing with, please know that there’re things that you can start doing for yourself right now to help alleviate the symptoms your experiencing.
I once heard high anxiety cleverly described as being “trapped within your own self imposed prison.” The good news with this is that you hold the key to your own prison cell, my friend.
With commitment and attention, you can find relief of symptoms, and, ultimately more overall peace.
Here are some tips on how to do so:
1. Question It and Dumb It Down
A go-to technique for me when a client is struggling with anxiety, is to start chipping away at the beast by questioning it and dumbing it down.
For example, I always go right to the jugular and ask what the fear is about.
The truth is, the chances of our biggest fear happening is slim to none. Usually too, when someone is struggling with high anxiety, they need some assistance getting their scale of stress assessment back on track, which is where “dumbing it down” comes into play.
When we have anxiety, our scale of what’s a big deal tends to be out of wack. Meaning, we start stressing over things that are relatively “normal” aspects of life. You see this with road rage or, generally, anytime the level of reaction within a person doesn’t align with the actual event.
I find that once I put words to the fears of my clients who are battling anxiety, the emotion often looses it’s power and doesn’t seem as bad.
2. Breathe Babe
Learning ways to calm and clear your mind by practicing self soothing techniques is a key to our overall health and level of happiness.
We were all born knowing how to breath naturally from our bellies (diaphragm.) As we grow and are exposed to life’s pressures, we can begin to breath from our chest, which is defined as shallow breathing. This type of breathing is linked to individuals with anxiety.
Think hyperventilation, which is a psychosomatic response to stress and panic. Learning and practicing breathing techniques that are geared toward slowing your breathing will calm your system down.
Practices such as yoga and meditation are great skills to hone in order to practice helpful breathing techniques.
3. Move That Body
Tapping into your physicality and moving your body regularly is a must, but it can be a saving grace when it comes to those of us who struggle with anxiety.
Releasing natural endorphins through exercise can help boost your mood which will help fight off those nagging feelings of worry.
4. Face Your Fear
With whatever you’re dealing with in life, nothing will completely go away until you directly and purposefully confront it.
When you’re able to muster up the courage to challenge the irrational worries that you have, they will lessen or even completely disappear.
You see the truth of anything that you’re brave enough to face directly. This holds true with sitting and coping with our anxiety. It’s common to want to escape the wraths of anxiety by constantly being so busy and pushing the emotion away. Although this may quiet it for some time, eventually it will resurface, as anything will that’s not dealt with completely.
Remember friends, the only way to get through something is to to go directly through it. There’s no short cuts when it comes to coping with anxiety or life, if you’re living it truthfully.
5. Watch Your Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
Our bodies are similar to gas tanks. What we put into our system absolutely effects its preformance.
If you struggle with anxiety, be mindful of your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that will rev up your system and is known to increase your anxiety. A withdrawal side effect of alcohol is increased anxiety.
Most importantly, increasing your body/mind connection by becoming more aware of how you uniquely feel when you put certain substances and foods in your body is essential to your overall health.
I know that if you’re currently in the grips of anxiety’s strong hold, it can feel like it will never lessen. Please know it can and please know that it will with commitment to doing the positive self care to combat it.
Once you start to look at your habits, your self talk and your self care patterns, you can start to get a handle on it. With more tools in your back pocket to confront anxiety and put it in its place, you will feel relief and an overall higher quality of life.