Many Faces of Anxiety

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As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues – we evolve and adapt to new ways and norms to go about our daily lives. In doing so, we may experience potential fear, stress and anxiety due to the overwhelming volume of information and the demands being put in place to combat the spread and risk of infection. It is important to remember that we are all in this together, and to ask for help when you need it.

Anxiety, regardless of a person’s psychological or biological makeup, is highly common. Although it can be triggered by a specific event, such as a trauma or a stressful situation, anxiety can also present as a consistent theme in a person’s life, creating challenges in daily activities or interactions.

 


 

The main types of anxiety disorders

 

Anxiety comes in many forms, and is highly dependent on the existing physical, emotional, and psychological stressors in your life. (1) Typically, anxiety can be classified into six categories:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). One of the most common forms of anxiety, this disorder is typically characterized by chronic, persistent, and severe feelings of anxiousness, panic, fear, tension, and worry without immediate provocation, or the ability to identify the source of these feelings.
  2. Panic Disorder. Characterized as a condition consisting of persistent panic attacks, panic disorder is accompanied by extreme and unexpected fear, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, and nausea.
  3. Agoraphobia. Characterized as fear and avoidance of places or situations that might cause a person to panic or feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder. Characterized by excessive self-consciousness in everyday situations to the point of developing a social phobia.
  5. Separation Anxiety Disorder. Separation anxiety can occur due to a separation in any relationship, including friends, loved ones, and even pets.
  6. Phobias. Classified based on the extreme fear of a person, thing, archetype, or abstract concept. (2)

The signs, symptoms, and causes

Although genetic predisposition, traumatic events, and current life circumstances are all factors in the development of an anxiety disorder, the exact cause of anxiety disorders is relatively unknown. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders can only be properly assessed on a case by case basis.

If symptoms persist over a few months, or if the anxiety elevates in severity, an anxiety disorder is typically present. (3)

 

These symptoms can include:

  • Panic, fear, and a persistent sense of uneasiness
  • Sleep issues
  • An inability to stay calm or still, especially in a stressful situation
  • Tingling in the hands, feet, and other limbs
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tension in the joints or muscle tissue
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Localized pain, especially in the jaw, neck, and chest

If you have any of the above symptoms and suspect that you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional with the capability of making a definitive diagnosis.

The long term effects

Persistent, untreated anxiety can have long term repercussions on several aspects of the body, including: (4)

  1. The Central Nervous System
  2. The Cardiovascular System
  3. The Excretory and Digestive System
  4. The Immune System
  5. The Respiratory System
  6. Getting help

In all cases where anxiety is concerned, support is crucial. Most people with anxiety will find that having a strong, supportive environment helps in their journey towards a happier, healthier life, free from anxiety. (5) If you’re suffering from anxiety, be sure that you’re supported by friends, family, and colleagues throughout your mental health journey. Although COVID-19 presents challenges, virtual connections and physically distanced interactions are effective ways to sustain help.

Treatment for anxiety is prescribed on a case to case basis, but the three most common treatments are: (6)

  1. Talk therapy
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  3. Prescribed medication


Conclusion

Although anxiety can feel debilitating, it doesn’t have to get in the way of your everyday life. Recovery is all about patience; remember that it can take time before you start feeling a difference, especially if you’ve started to take medication. Give yourself the time and space to heal, and you’ll find that the journey is ultimately more manageable.

With proper treatment, it’s possible to recover from an anxiety disorder and live a healthier, more productive life, free from any fear or worry that might have once hindered you in having a strong, stable sense of self.

 



References:
1. HHS.gov Source: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html

2. Wodele, Andrea & Solan, Matthew. (2017) Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/phobia-simple-specific

3. Browne, Dillon. (2018) Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454.php#treatment

4. Cherney, Kristeen. (2018) Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/effects-on-body#8

5. WebMD (2019) Source: https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1

6. Smith, Melinda & Segal, Robert & Segal, Jeanne. (2019) Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/therapy-for-anxiety-disorders.htm

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