The concept of anxiety has become much more prevalent in today’s social conversation. With the social media boom and the much more liberal acceptance of emotional expression, it makes logical sense that people feel more empowered to express themselves. While this newfound freedom certainly has its benefits, it also creates one very real conundrum. “Normal” occurrences of anxiety are now starting to be conflated with “anxiety disorders.”
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Anxiety can be disruptive and inconvenient, to say the least. However, it is important to differentiate between when that anxiety is of the manageable day-to-day variety or the more serious debilitating variety.
Feeling moments of anxiety are normal human experiences to have. However, when this anxiety begins to impede everyday life, it could be a sign of something more serious like an anxiety disorder. That is why it is crucial to understand some of the “red flags” and symptoms to look out for and thus better be able to differentiate between the two. This will greatly help in determining if treatment is the next right step.
What Is “Normal” Anxiety?
When it comes to “normal” anxiety, the National Institute of Mental Health explains that “Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Many people worry about things such as health, money, or family problems. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear.” There are two key terms regarding anxiety in that description: occasional and temporary.
Feelings of anxiety are often just a part of life. Yes, they can be very uncomfortable, and just because they don’t fit the category of anxiety disorder does not mean that they should be minimized. The difference is that these less intense feelings of anxiety do not debilitate a person’s day-to-day life. Also, as opposed to anxiety disorders, there are individual steps that someone can take to lessen their anxiety.
Ways of Mitigating Day-To-Day Anxiety
Here a just a few ways to calm down normal bouts of anxiety:
- Taking a walk or getting some exercise
- Talking to a friend, co-worker, or close family member about how they are feeling
- Pausing, taking some deep calming breaths, and even working on a more in-depth breathing practice
- Making a change in diet and reducing caffeine and/or alcohol consumption
- Understanding that speaking to a therapist or counselor about regular anxiety is a great tool to help with getting through day-to-day experiences
- Working on establishing better routine sleep patterns
If these slight changes do not lessen anxiety, or if some of the symptoms that we will soon discuss appear, then it may be time to take some more intensive steps.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
The National Institute of Mental Health goes into more depth on what constitutes an anxiety disorder. “For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.” The two themes to take away here are “does not go away” and “gets worse over time.”
Those are the primary differences between an anxiety disorder and everyday manageable anxiety. There is often no reprieve from an anxiety disorder unless the proper care is administered. Also, because an anxiety disorder often intensifies without help, it is important to seek a treatment plan sooner than later.
It is also essential to understand that anxiety disorder is just a blanket term for an array of specific disorders, all of which have their own symptoms, underlying causes, and treatments. Though, of course, many of them overlap.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are five different anxiety disorders. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder
Also, many in the psychology sphere now believe that “phobia” is the sixth category of anxiety disorder.
How to Differentiate Anxiety From an Anxiety Disorder
The best way to differentiate between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is to be able to spot some of the common symptoms of anxiety disorders. Some of the more common symptoms are:
- Feelings of being wound up or on edge
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Continued and uncontrollable feelings of irritability
- Uncontrollable constant sweating
- A constant racing or pounding heart
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feeling overly self-conscious or having distinctive feelings of being judged
- Taking active steps to avoid certain people, places, or things
These are just a few of the symptoms that are commonly associated with anxiety disorders; there are many more. However, it may be helpful to remember that one way of determining if an anxiety disorder is present is by asking this question: is anxiety interrupting my quality of life? If that is the case, seeking professional help and guidance may be the right next step.
Seeking Professional Help
Everyone has most likely experienced some form of anxiety at some point in their life. This is normal and a routine part of the human experience. However, it is important to understand that while some anxiety can be normal, anxiety that begins to interrupt everyday life may be something more severe, like an anxiety disorder. Being able to spot some of the symptoms of anxiety disorders can be very helpful in getting the help you need. If you feel like you, or someone you love, is struggling with an anxiety disorder, there are treatment options that can help. You don’t have to cope with anxiety alone anymore. For more information, call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185