Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorder: How to Know When to Seek Help
Anxiety is a word that we have come to normalise in our minds. Of course, it is a much-needed response for survival. But what happens if it doesn’t go away? Can we mitigate the risk of chronic anxiety? Also, how do we recognise the symptoms of anxiety? Lastly, how do we know when to ask for help? Once we start understanding anxiety, it is much easier to take control of it.
What is Anxiety?
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the stress response that we love to hate is a very needed response. In short, it is a normal reaction that we have to the perception of danger. In other words, it is our natural fight-or-flight response.
This can be triggered when we feel threatened, under pressure, or when we are facing a challenging situation. For example, job interviews, exams and first dates can cause some form of anxiety in most of us.
This is, of course, a good thing. In fact, it can be very beneficial in some circumstances. Especially when you need to stay alert and focused, if you need the motivation to solve problems, or need to be spurred into action.
However, when we are afflicted with constant anxiety that does not go away, we start running into problems.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
When anxiety is a persistent issue, it is called an anxiety disorder which can cause chronic strain on the body.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder to Look Out for
In addition to the primary symptom of excessive and irrational fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Watching for signs of danger
- Anticipating the worst
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Feeling like your mind’s gone blank
Adiarrhoeanxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, anxiety also involves a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset
- Frequent urination or diarrhoea
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension or twitches
- Shaking or trembling
Because of these physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their anxiety for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is finally recognized.
What Causes anxiety?
Other than the usual suspects that include prolonged stress, there are some hidden influences that can cause anxious reactions:
- Nicotine withdrawal
- Excessive aspartic acid
- Excessive glutamic acid
- MSG (flavour enhancers)
- Amalgam dental fillings
- Long-term or excessive alcohol use
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Andropause (male menopause)
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
One of the big things that people complain about is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Of course, this then has the knock-on effect of worsening the anxiety. Good sleep hygiene is imperative to allow the body to take a breath and relax.
Try to limit your exposure to stimulation at least two hours before going to bed. This can be challenging since it includes screen time, television and other things that get the brain thinking.
Try to cut out foods that stimulate you, especially after lunch.
This includes food containing caffeine as well as alcohol. If you would like a quick fix to fuel you for the next couple of hours, try to go for foods that are known to help fight anxiety instead.
There are a number of supplements that help with anxiety. Here is a list of 10 of our favourite supplements that we use ourselves. Of course, they help us to combat the feelings of angst that sometimes comes up.
10 Anxiety Fighting Supplements
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- B Vitamins
I’ve shared these before, yet these practical exercises are worth repeating.
It is easy for people to tell you to do things that help release stress. But, what is often left out are practical ways of doing so.
Lessons from a coach: Leave the worries outside
One of my coaches once told me a story that has stuck with me ever since. I often share this with many of the people with whom I work when it comes to stress management.
There was a mechanic who went to work on a rich businessman’s car.
At the end of the day, the mechanic went to the businessman and asked if the businessman would mind giving him a ride to his house since his own car had broken down. He would have to come back the next day and finish fixing the business man’s car.
The businessman saw that the mechanic was troubled and agreed to take him home. On the way there, the mechanic told the businessman that life had indeed been challenging for a while and that his equipment had started malfunctioning.
When they reached the home of the mechanic, the businessman watched him walk up to a tree, he stroked the leaves and as he did so, a smile appeared on his face. With a smile now beaming upon his face, he turned to the house and went inside.
The next morning, clearly interested in the strange behaviour, the businessman asked the mechanic what exactly made him smile when he stroked the leaves of the tree.
The mechanic explained that when he comes home from work and before he enters the house, he touches the tree and places all of his worries in it to be picked up the next day. He does this because his family do not deserve his worries.
“And the amazing thing”, he said, “is that those worries are almost never there the next day…”
This visualisation is a powerful one that can be used in order to take a step back from stressful situations and let the effect of those situations be minimised.
When should I ask for help?
Knowing when to ask for professional help is very important when it comes to anxiety.
While self-help coping strategies for anxiety can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they’re causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, it’s important to seek professional help.
If you’re experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms, you should start by getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isn’t caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma.
Listen to our most recent episode of Health Drops with Dr Craige Golding where we discuss this in more detail.