For 40 million Americans, anxiety presents a list of daily struggles that can feel overwhelming—interfering with many aspects of life. Managing anxiety symptoms while living a full life is something a sufferer of this disorder can say is no easy feat. While a small amount of anxiety is normal, healthy, and even essential for our survival, it can become problematic if it reaches an excessive or irrational level. Many of you who are reading this may wonder exactly what constitutes an anxiety symptom or disorder. Is it that feeling in the pit of your gut that cautions you, worries about the future, or senses trouble ahead? Is anxiety that unshakable feeling of impending doom you sometimes feel when you have too much coffee or don't get enough sleep? Or, is anxiety a restlessness in your body, mind, and soul that keeps you awake at night wondering about each and every possibility in life?
Anxiety can feel like all of these things, and it comes in many forms. If you've ever felt any of the above examples, chances are you've suffered from one form of anxiety or another. At it's worst, anxiety can feel like a mental prison; keeping one frozen from action due to fear, worry, or distress that can become so overwhelming—in the case of a panic attack—that a person may actually feel like he/she is dying. While many may not relate to this last scenario, chances are you've all experienced some form of anxiety in life that hasn't always felt comfortable, or like a biological safety net.
Perhaps some of you reading this article are experiencing some anxiety and wondering if it's normal or not. So, how do you tell if your anxiety is at a normal level, or if it's reached the point of warranting a diagnosis and treatment plan? The biggest component in determining an anxiety disorder is whether or not you are able to function and lead a fulfilling life without these feelings complicating or preventing you from doing the things you must do, and/or enjoy doing. And since not everything in life is so black and white, cut and dry, with different environments, situations, and unseen variables coming into play, we'll cover the basics of an anxiety disorder, how to tell if you have one, and discuss the most effective treatment options available.
Types of Anxiety and Comorbid Disorders
Not all anxiety is created equally, and there are a few different types of anxiety disorders listed in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common form of anxiety. This form of anxiety does not present with the occurrence of panic attacks. Panic Disorder, however, entails the presence of anxiety with panic attacks and warrants a more proactive action plan for treatment. Additional forms of anxiety include Social Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobias. There are also a variety of comorbid (co-occurring) disorders that may present alongside anxiety, are very similar to anxiety, or are rooted in feelings of anxiety such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).
When a person suffers from anxiety or an anxiety disorder, it can have far-reaching effects. In addition to the comorbid disorders mentioned above, anxiety may present as a comorbidly with a plethora of medical conditions and symptoms such as:
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
- Eating Disorders
- Bipolar Disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Insomnia/Sleep Disorders
- Substance Abuse Disorders and Addiction
- Chronic Pain
How to Tell if You Have an Anxiety Disorder
Now that we've covered the basic categories and conditions associated with anxiety, you're probably wondering how to tell if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. The first question you must ask yourself when wondering if you have a diagnosable disorder is whether or not it interferes with your overall daily life functioning, level of happiness, and sense of balance.
If you answered yes, it's time to go over the signs and symptoms associated with anxiety to determine if what you're feeling is in fact anxiety and if it's reached the point of being a disorder. Symptoms associated with GAD, the most common form of anxiety disorder, in both children and adults include:
- Worrying in the absence of a specific threat, feeling worried more often than not, with symptoms being present for 6 months or longer
- The topic of worry is difficult to control and may shift from one thing to the next
- Feelings are accompanied by at least 3 of the following:
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle soreness/aches
*Sweating, nausea, and diarrhea often accompany anxiety but are not required for diagnosis
If you've experienced the following symptoms, or suspect you may have one of the less common anxiety disorders mentioned above, it's important to rule out any other medical conditions or comorbid mental health disorders that may be attributing to your symptoms. The best way to determine whether or not your anxiety is related to another disorder is by seeking a professional opinion, or two. A licensed therapist (MSW, MFT, LPCC, PsyD., or PhD.) will be able to walk you through the diagnosis process with empathy and care; making medical referrals when needed. Once you've decided you'd like some help combating your symptoms (even if they do not warrant a full diagnosis), there are a variety of treatment options available.
There are many holistic, integrative treatment options available for managing the symptoms of anxiety. Therapy is a great place to start, and some therapeutic interventions, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are exceptionally powerful tools for healing anxiety.
While there are some medications that may help combat some of the symptoms of anxiety for a percentage of sufferers, there is no magic psychopharmaceutical potion that can take the disorder away. Some may choose to manage anxiety medically through the use of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is typically prescribed to treat depression. It is important to note, however, that SSRIs are not effective in treating a significant percentage of sufferers. They also come with a long list of side effects that may outweigh the benefits.
Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Valium, etc.) offer another route for treating anxiety, but they can be dangerous and are not intended for long-term use. Benzos work best when used as a PRN (as needed) for emergency situations or isolated incidents only. Once these medications are taken as often as once per day for one month, the body becomes physically dependent on them and seizures may occur when a person decides to terminate use. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal, so it's important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is addicted to one of these medications and would like to cease use.
If you're considering using prescribed medications to treat your anxiety, here's an important warning to note before you begin:
Psychotropic medications are not a one-stop, cure-all for any mental disorder. They are simply going to mask the symptoms a person is experiencing so that he/she may find the space to breathe and organize one's thoughts in life; giving one the ability do the things they need to in order to combat the disorder in ways that foster healing from the root source. Such methods include therapy (studies show this approach to be more effective at treating disorders than solely taking medication), and healthy lifestyle habits.
There isn't enough to be said about the power of a healthy diet, exercise, social support system, sleep schedule, sunshine, nutrients, etc. in achieving good mental health. There are a variety of holistic approaches available; proven to be powerful at treating anxiety. Micronutrients, for example, are being used for treating anxiety naturally. Anxiety treatment research studies show that micronutrients, such as those used in Focus Essentials, are effective in treating not only anxiety, but also depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorders for both children and adults.
The use of pharmaceuticals for treating mental health disorders is ultimately supporting a big business dependent on keeping the masses sick. Holistic methods, however, are focused on curing illnesses and healing people. Your mind is one of your most powerful assets, and you should protect it as such. Do not trust it blindly in the hands of businessmen who've manipulated the healthcare system.If you'd like to learn more about Focus Essentials, and treating your anxiety with micronutrients, we welcome you to contact us with any questions you may have, take a look at our special formula and research, and try a bottle to see how it makes you feel.