A Beginner’s Guide to Anxiety
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Written by: Aaron Piando
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a heavily stigmatized topic that requires lots of unpacking to fully understand and considering how several anxiety-related disorders are extremely prevalent in younger generations, taking time to research and understand anxiety is becoming increasingly necessary as well.
For starters, everyone experiences anxiety to a minor degree; it is the brain’s natural response to being put in stressful circumstances and is often characterized by a feeling of uneasiness or dread. While a small amount of anxiety is considered to be healthy, once it surpasses a certain level, it can become unmanageable and result in the formation of an anxiety-related disorder that influences every thought and action of a person.
Common Anxiety-Related Disorders Among the Youth
Children and adolescents are at an especially high risk of developing anxiety-related disorders because they easily form paranoias and phobias in new, unfamiliar situations beyond their comfort zone— especially in the school environment. However, while having fears is a completely normal aspect of childhood, failing to confront them or grow out of them can lead to serious mental health issues.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that nearly a third of all adolescents have an anxiety disorder that, on average, began developing at the age of six. The most common disorders among participants include the following:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves having a continuous sense of fear or angst; a person with GAD is constantly prepared to have a fight-or-flight response if they encounter a potential threat. While these symptoms also may be observed in other anxiety-related disorders, a patient must have no other specific symptoms that can be accounted for by another mental illness in order to be diagnosed with GAD.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves having repetitive, intrusive thoughts that cause a feeling of intense worry and can trigger sudden compulsions. OCD is often mistaken for keeping one’s belongings neat and organized, but the most common form of OCD is constant hand washing in response to a fear of germs and sickness. Another common form of OCD is excessive physical activity and dieting in response to a fear of becoming overweight.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is developed after a person experiences a traumatic or extremely stressful event; when one encounters a similar situation afterwards or recalls the events that occurred during the traumatic event, they can experience a sudden wave of anxiety. PTSD can develop from Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), which has similar symptoms to PTSD but only lasts for around a month after a person experiences trauma.
Stress vs. Anxiety: What’s the Difference?
Stress and anxiety are two similar concepts that are often confused, but understanding the key differences between them is necessary in order to break long-standing stigmas surrounding anxiety:
Coping Mechanisms for Stress and Anxiety
While the two concepts are certainly related, one main takeaway from the above table is that stress may provoke feelings of anxiety when mismanaged. Thus, an important way to prevent the formation of an anxiety disorder is to effectively manage one’s stress.
The following list outlines a few methods to help cope with stress (and minor feelings of anxiety):
Target your stressors. Take some time to make a list of the various situations that make you feel stressed!
Now think about actions! Reflect on the different things that you can do in order to alleviate some of the stress in each of the situations you listed.
Do some breathing exercises. Search up breathing patterns on YouTube or other streaming services.
Take a walk. Get up, go outside, and let your muscles move as you let your mind rest.
Listen to calming music. There are several streaming apps with playlists designed to help listeners destress; take advantage of those!
Remember that you are never fully in control. While this isn’t the easiest recommendation to follow, it can certainly be helpful to keep in mind that not everything that affects you is something that you can manipulate or discontinue, and that you can never completely determine the outcomes of your actions.
While reading this article may give you a better image of anxiety and its effects on those with related disorders, there is still so much more depth to this subject that you can dive into! Here are a few links you can utilize for further reading, as well as others in the following citation section.
● Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More ● Anxiety disorders - Symptoms and causes ● 8 Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Are Actually Effective During the Pandemic ● Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 ● Coping With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Tips for Living Well ● Anxiety management strategies