Why Are Rates Of Anxiety Increasing
Anxiety in its several forms, including phobias and social anxiety, is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. Population-based surveys indicate that about a third of adults in the U.S. will grapple with disabling anxiety at some point.
High as the number is, there is someand sometimes conflictingevidence that the prevalence of anxiety is increasing, especially among the young. Several factors are thought to be responsible for a rise in prevalence. In general, as the middle class erodes, there is growing economic uncertainty for much of the population. The high cost of health care also creates a burden of chronic worry about getting sick. In addition, a lack of coping skills, emotion regulation skills notably among them, is said to be making younger people vulnerable to a number of mental health disorders, particularly anxiety and depression.
Social media are singled out for their especially pernicious effect on young teens, because they introduce a means of constant social comparison and, through it, self-doubtand that self-doubt drives further social media use, with compounding negative effects. In addition, dating and mating practices are far less structured than in past eras, and digital forms of communication create so much ambiguity that young people are often clueless about where they stand in romantic relationships. Ambiguity typically breeds anxiety.
Why It’s A Problem
Chronic anxiety can prevent you from meeting your daily responsibilities, at work, at home or socially. It gets in the way of getting along with other people, both meeting new people and maintaining existing relationships, says Jane Timmons-Mitchell, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The physical effects can be wide-ranging, as well. Anxiety can impact physical health in almost any way you can imagine, Zucker says. It’s very, very powerful. It can contribute to sleeplessness, gastrointestinal difficulties, breathing problems, back pain and cardiovascular disease.
Boost Your Brain Health With Staying Sharp
What Happens In The Brain With Anxiety
Neuroimaging studies reliably show changes in brain function among those who experience chronic anxiety, and they involve dysfunction of connectivity among areas of the brain that work together to orchestrate emotional response. Under normal circumstances the brain region known as the amygdala flags threats and, in an act of protection, sends out a signal to many parts of the brain. The stress response system kicks in immediately, preparing the body for action. On a slower track, signals travel to the prefrontal cortex, the so-called thinking brain, where the threat can be evaluated and, if needed, action planned to ameliorate any potential danger. But in anxiety, often because the amygdala has been sensitized by early adverse experience, it overresponds, overwhelming the capacity of the PFC to rationally assess and manage any threat, however remote or hypothetical.
Researchers have recently identified a tiny brain region known as the BNST, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, as a major node in brain circuits of anxiety. About the size of a small sunflower seed, it is considered an extension of the amygdala. Its primary function is to monitor the environment for vague, psychologically distant, or unpredictable threatssay, imagining that youll stumble badly and embarrass yourself when you give that upcoming talk. And when activated, it sends out alarms prompting alertness and hypervigilance to potential dangerthe hallmarks of anxiety.
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Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode. Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
How Does Psychotherapy Treat Anxiety Disorders
Psychotherapy, or counseling, helps you deal with your emotional response to the illness. A mental health provider talks through strategies to help you better understand and manage the disorder. Approaches include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used with anxiety disorders. CBT for anxiety teaches you to recognize thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. You then work on changing them.
- Exposure therapy focuses on dealing with the fears behind the anxiety disorder. It helps you engage with activities or situations you may have been avoiding. Your provider may also use relaxation exercises and imagery with exposure therapy.
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How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Theyll start with a complete medical history and physical examination.
There are no lab tests or scans that can diagnose anxiety disorders. But your provider may run some of these tests to rule out physical conditions that may be causing symptoms.
Living And Management Of Fear And Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is on medications, your veterinarian will want to conduct occasional blood testing to make sure your dogs body can process and eliminate the medications appropriately.
If behavior modification does not work over the long-term, your veterinarian may want to modify the approach. If left untreated, these disorders are likely to progress.
You will need to help your dog with behavior modification exercises and teach your dog to relax in a variety of environmental settings. Encourage calmness when your dog appears distressed. Distract him and redirect his attention, following the plan your vet has set for you.
Fearful or anxious dogs may need to live in a protected environment with as few social stressors as possible. They do not do well in dog shows, dog parks or large crowds.
And remember that not all dogs are calmer when crated some dogs panic when caged and will injure themselves if forced to be confined. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia or anxiety.
Contact your veterinarian for a referral to get professional help with your dogs behavior modification.
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How To Help Kids With Anxiety
Parents have an important and essential role in helping children deal with anxiety disorders. One of the vital ways that parents can be instrumental in reducing a childs anxiety is by not inadvertently reinforcing it. Childrens natural response to anxiety is to rely on parents for help and that is a normal way that human beings respond to fear or anxiety when they are young, Lebowitz explains While an adult might respond to fear primarily with self-defense, the fight or flight response, children dont have that capacity. They are programmed to respond to fear by signaling their parent so that the parent can protect and soothe the child until the perceived danger has passed, says Lebowitz. Parents, in turn, are naturally hardwired to detect cues of fear in their children and to step in to provide that protection and emotional regulation, he says.
However, a child with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety even when the situations or circumstances dont warrant that heightened response. And what that happens the parent responds to the childs distress through accommodation, explains Lebowitz. What that means is that to help the child, the parent responds differently to the situation than they normally would.
Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders
A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a persons risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:
- Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias .
Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from womens hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too men have more, and it may ease anxiety. Its also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.
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Treatment For Childhood Anxiety Disorders
If you suspect your child has a disorder, the first step is to see a trained therapist who will take a full history, talk with and ask questions of the parents, family members, and the child about the fears and behavior. The therapist can diagnosis the childs specific anxiety disorder based on the information collected through these interviews.
The Difference Between Stress And Anxiety
“I think of anxiety as a very internal feeling, says Ashley Zucker, M.D., director of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, Calif. And it’s usually in anticipation of a future threat you’re worried about something that might happen.
Anxiety rises above what you would consider a normal response to a fear and often continues after the possible threat or incident has gone away. The person continues to worry about something that already occurred, Zucker says. Did I make a mistake? Did I say the wrong thing? The brain can’t let it go.
Stress, on the other hand, is a response to an external event, say, a deadline at work or an argument with a spouse. Once it’s passed, it goes away, Zucker says. It doesn’t have that lingering effect that anxiety does. Stress also tends to be less debilitating.
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Learning To Be Assertive
Being assertive means communicating your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to others in a direct and honest manner without intentionally hurting anyones feelings. A person with an anxiety disorder may have trouble being assertive because they are afraid of conflict or believe they have no right to speak up. However, relating passively to others lowers self-confidence and reinforces anxiety. Learning to behave assertively is central to developing a stronger self-esteem.
Does Anxiety Make You More Itchy At Night
Some people with anxiety-related itching report that their itching is worse at night. Itchy skin at night is also called nocturnal pruritus. While researchers dont know exactly why this happens, there are a few theories .
First, your body increases blood flow to the skin at night, and your skin tends to retain less moisture both of which could potentially worsen itchy sensations.
In addition, the body releases fewer anti-inflammatory corticosteroids at night, while releasing higher levels of certain itch-related hormones.
Also, unlike during the day when we have plenty of distractions, lying in bed at night can draw our attention to the sensations in our body, including itchy skin, making it feel more itchy.
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There Are Effective Treatments For Anxiety
Treatment is tailored to the diagnosis. Effective options include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as skipping caffeine, exercising regularly, and avoiding medicines or substances that might cause anxiety symptoms.
- Mind-body approaches, such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and techniques to ease muscle tension and promote calm.
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. CBT teaches people to challenge and reframe distorted or unhelpful anxious thinking, because thoughts influence feelings and actions. Exposure therapy helps people tolerate and calm anxiety by gradually exposing a person to feared situations or objects under guidance from a therapist.
- Medicines, such as short-acting drugs called benzodiazepines, which are taken as needed when anxiety spikes. Low doses of some antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , help relieve anxiety when taken daily.
Often, a combination of approaches is best. Relieving anxiety with medicine while using CBT or exposure therapy to strengthen coping skills and help retrain the brain can do much to make anxiety manageable.
Whats The Outlook For People With Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can often go undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately, treatment can help. The right treatment can help improve your quality of life, relationships and productivity. It can also support your overall well-being.
You dont need to live with constant worry and fear. If you notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Its best to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Doing so can limit the problems that anxiety disorders can cause. Often, a combination of medications and counseling for anxiety can help you feel your best.
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If Someone Has A More Serious Anxiety Problem Avoid Stigmatizing Them
What can we do for folks with more serious issues? People experiencing things like panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking may fear that theyre literally going crazy. Helping them may feel beyond your ability.
You can still be supportive in many ways. When someone is experiencing significant anxiety, its helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasnt changed. Theyre still the same person theyre just suffering a temporary problem situation that has become out of control. Theyre not broken and who they are hasnt changed. To the extent possible, you can help the person stay connected to positive aspects of their identity by participating in or encouraging their interests and hobbies.
Sometimes, individuals who have chronic anxiety problems arent interested in changing. For example, you might be friends with someone who has agoraphobia or an eating disorder, but their condition is long-term and stable. In these cases, you can be accepting of that person so that they dont feel isolated. Being matter-of-fact about their limitations without excessively shaming them or insisting they should pursue becoming normal is often the best strategy.
What Happens In The Brain During Depression
Depression causes the hippocampus to raise its cortisol levels, impeding the development of neurons in your brain. The shrinkage of brain circuits is closely connected to the reduction of the affected parts function. While other cerebral areas shrink due to high levels of cortisol, the amygdala enlarges.
It helps you identify as well as transform distorted or negative attitude patterns and also instructs you abilities to reply to lifes obstacles in a favorable method. Nutritional and also dietary supplements are not monitored by the FDA similarly that medications are. Its best to do some research before what can i do to help depression and anxiety beginning any kind of dietary supplement. See to it youre purchasing your supplements from a trustworthy company, and figure out precisely what they contain. Its been made use of for medical purposes in various other components of the world for countless years.
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What Kind Of Anxiety Disorder Do You Have
As with every health issue, an accurate diagnosis is essential. A few common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: A pattern of excessive worry about a variety of issues on most days for at least six months, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, a hammering heart, or dizziness.
- Social anxiety disorder: Feeling significant anxiety in social situations or when called on to perform in front of others, such as in public speaking.
- Phobias: A particular animal, insect, object, or situation causes substantial anxiety.
- Panic disorder: Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of heart-banging fear, breathlessness, and dread. Its the feeling youd have if you just missed being hit by a Mack truck but for people with panic disorder there is no Mack truck, says Dr. Beresin.
Tips To Manage Anxiety And Stress
Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity , or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find its more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an exercise buddy. It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.
If you are the parent of a college-aged child with an anxiety disorder, here are some tips to help with managing his or her anxiety.
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When Should I Seek Professional Help For My Anxious Child
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and our experts, you should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating children with an anxiety disorder when the childs behavior or anxiety:
- Disrupts the household and interferes with family activities and life
- When the child gets upset multiple times a day or week
- When the frequency and intensity of the fears escalate .
- When the anxiety leads to significant avoidance behavior. The child continually and consistently makes excuses to avoid school or other situations that may provoke anxiety.
- When the disorder is making it difficult for the child to interact with, make or keep friends.
- When sleep habits are disrupted
- When you begin to see compulsive behaviors and rituals such as repeated hand washing, counting, checking things and when the child refuses or is unable to leave the house without performing these rituals.
- When your child shows a pattern of physical symptoms that are disruptive and detrimental to the child
- When your child experiences panic attacks characterized by heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, hyperventilation.