Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder, affecting nearly one in three individuals over the course of a lifetime. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with this condition, you may be interested to learn more about it.
So, you may be wondering – how does anxiety affect your daily life? What do these symptoms feel like? What do they look like? What can I do to help myself or others?
In this article, you will learn about the challenges that come with anxiety disorders and how to overcome debilitating anxiety.
How Does Anxiety Affect Daily Life?
The feeling of anxiety as a response to stressful situations is natural. The autonomic nervous system produces stress hormones that can help keep us safe when faced with danger.
However, anxiety symptoms can also feel overwhelming. It can have a profound impact on our daily lives, including our personal relationships, responsibilities in school, and performance at work. In severe cases, anxiety can lead to social isolation.
This shows that while anxiety plays a role in self-preservation, it can also affect our thoughts and feelings in a way that is unproductive.
Knowing that we are not alone when this happens is helpful. Many people can effectively manage anxiety daily. Reaching out to a healthcare provider for support can help identify which forms of treatment may be most helpful for you as an individual.
How Does Anxiety Affect Your Daily Life?
Regardless of the cause of anxious thoughts, troubling symptoms can arise. These symptoms can have a significant impact on quality of life.
1. Symptoms Of Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety can be broken down into two basic categories: mental and physical symptoms.
Rumination (Repetitive thoughts, often associated with worry).
Avoidance or isolation.
Heart palpitations (Feeling your heart racing or pounding).
High blood pressure.
Stomach cramps or nausea.
Many of these symptoms are explained by increased stress hormones within the body, contributing to a “fight or flight” response. This can be a normal response to stressful situations and may help keep people safe when faced with real danger.
This becomes problematic when the symptoms are persistent or disproportionate to the situation, disrupting relationships and daily life.
Specific symptoms of anxiety and their causes can vary among individuals. In broader terms, an anxiety disorder may be present when fear or worry becomes excessive and it starts to affect your quality of life. If you feel this may be the case, seeking additional help from a mental health professional is beneficial.
2. Anxiety Disorders
How does anxiety disorder affect your daily life? The answer can vary depending on the type of anxiety you or a loved one is experiencing.
Anxiety disorders are categorized according to their triggers or things that cause someone to feel anxious, symptoms, and the common age range in which they are typically diagnosed.
Occurring predominately in early childhood, selective mutism is observed when an individual who is otherwise able to speak remains silent in situations in which it would be considered inappropriate to stay silent.
The onset of separation anxiety is primarily in early childhood. An individual develops anxious feelings related to being apart from someone, mainly their parent or caregiver, or worries something bad may happen to a person to whom they are attached. This includes physical symptoms, mental symptoms, and the experience of nightmares.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Chronic anxiety associated with daily life without any identifiable specific triggers is considered generalized anxiety. This is often diagnosed in adulthood around 30 years of age, on average, but can affect people during any stage of life.
So, how does generalized anxiety disorder affect your daily life? Individuals with GAD often experience difficulty sleeping, persistent worry, and often a physical response like muscle tension, heart palpitations, and elevated blood pressure.
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden and unexpected intense fear made worse by a feeling of a loss of self-control. It is commonly associated with strong physical symptoms like chest pain, cold sweats, and nausea. Panic attacks cause some individuals to feel as though they are having a heart attack.
This is most often diagnosed in early adulthood (around 25 years) but can affect people of all ages.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Fear of the negative judgment of others causing social withdrawal or avoidance of social situations can be characterized as a social anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety disorder can significantly impact personal relationships, school, and work. Social anxiety disorder is often diagnosed during adolescence (about 13 years old, on average) but can affect all ages.
A specific phobia has a defined trigger – a place, situation, type of animal, etc. An individual will usually go through lengths to avoid this trigger. Depending on their lifestyle and the nature of the trigger, this can significantly impact their daily life. Phobias are often identified during childhood.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic experiences can have a lasting impact on individuals. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been most often associated with veterans who have experienced active combat, but anyone can be affected by any type of traumatic experiences such as car accidents or childhood abuse.
For individuals with PTSD, sleep can be negatively impacted by nightmares or flashbacks. Certain triggers can cause excessive anxiety, paralyzing fear, or even aggressive impulses caused by an autonomic fight or flight response.
Anyone who has experienced trauma can experience these symptoms. Advanced age is associated with more diagnoses. The longer you live, the more experiences you have, and the more likely that some of these experiences may have been traumatic.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Individuals who become preoccupied with repetitive, intrusive thoughts may develop compulsive behaviors in response. This can be a number of things, ranging from a preoccupation with germs leading to excessive hand-washing to a need for environmental order or symmetry. In some instances, the compulsive behavior can be aggressive.
How To Overcome Anxiety?
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition experienced globally and was particularly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are one of many people who live with anxiety, there are a number of treatment options to help improve your sense of well-being.
1. Prescription Medications
There are medications available by prescription from your doctor that can help with anxiety. The medication recommended may vary depending on the specific anxiety disorder you are managing. Two of the most commonly prescribed medications are as follows:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) & Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Modulation of serotonin and/or norepinephrine has become a mainstay of therapy for anxiety. Medications such as Lexapro, Paxil, and Prozac are generally considered safe and effective. However, it is important to note that these medications take time to take effect. Consistent daily use is needed for at least several weeks prior to seeing the intended effects.
These medications (Xanax, Ativan, etc.) are used as needed to provide a more rapid response. They are generally not intended for long-term consistent use due to an increased risk of side effects. These side effects include drowsiness, memory impairment, and the risk of chemical dependency over time.
Hydroxyzine is sometimes used as an alternative to benzodiazepines, providing a quick response. Drowsiness is still a concern, but some individuals prefer it to decrease the risk of potential chemical dependency.
The use of propranolol has become less common for anxiety disorders over time as many clinicians have shifted their focus to SSRIs and SNRIs. The medication remains helpful, however, particularly for individuals experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety or who struggle specifically with performance anxiety such as public speaking.
2. Over-The-Counter Remedies
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been the topic of some promising research in recent years, with more research on the way. Its anxiety management effects appear to be partially related to serotonin modulation – a similar approach to some prescription medications.
Over-the-counter treatments are not FDA-regulated. This means that they are not required to submit to laboratory confirmation of their contents prior to being available for purchase. For this reason, brand selection matters. Brands that submit to independent testing, such as Joy Organics, are more reliable.
3. Therapy & Lifestyle
There are a number of therapy options and lifestyle changes available for your consideration. These can be effective both with or without medications, and an individualized approach is used to help you with your specific challenges.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common therapy approach. CBT systematically identifies thought patterns that ultimately result in anxiety symptoms or destructive behaviors, like isolation. Once identified, these thought patterns can be recognized as they occur, and effective interventions can be used to prevent or lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms.
Different forms of exercise can be beneficial. While rigorous exercise has more pronounced benefits for stress relief and the promotion of self-esteem, less rigorous activities like walking are beneficial as well.
Insomnia and anxiety are often part of the same cycle. Sleep can be impacted by anxiety itself, which is made even more problematic by the fact that insomnia can make anxiety worse. Good sleep hygiene can help improve your sleep patterns and overall sense of well-being.
Learning to use breathing exercises can be very helpful for managing anxiety, particularly because some of these can be done quickly anytime, anywhere. As symptoms arise or prior to confronting a situation that has been previously stressful, these techniques can be employed to produce a calming effect.
Anxiety is an extension of a natural process that keeps us safe in the face of danger. However, severe anxiety may develop into anxiety disorders which could have debilitating symptoms. This can disrupt our day-to-day life including our relationships and work responsibilities.
Remember, you are not alone in this feeling. Help is available and can be personalized to your preferences and needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Just be willing to listen and offer support free of judgment. Do your part to de-stigmatize mental health conditions by openly talking about them.