Research shows that one-fourth of those who are age 13 to 18 years will suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, with the anxiety symptoms beginning at an average of 11 years old. Eighteen percent of adults will have an anxiety disorder during any given year. Women are more than twice as likely as a man to suffer from an anxiety disorder over their lifetime.
If you have anxiety, it is likely hard to ignore. But there are several different types of anxiety disorders, and the amount of anxiety you may feel ranges from mild to severe. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition where you experience anxiety that isn’t related to a specific event. You feel worried about every-day events, like school or work, and the anxiety persists for six months or more. You worry about the future and may fear that your future is doomed. You feel like you can’t stop worrying no matter how hard you try to let things go. Symptoms include feeling restless, tense, on-edge, irritable, and having trouble sleeping. Physical sensations may occur with muscle tension, stomach pain, or joint, neck and back pain. GAD is the most common form of anxiety disorder, and is often accompanied by depression.
Social Anxiety Disorder, on the other hand, occurs when your anxiety is attached to a social situation. The anxiety may occur when you have to meet new people or are in a group setting, and you feel you are being judged or evaluated by others. You worry you will be embarrassed or humiliated by your anxiety symptoms showing. Your symptoms may include blushing, sweating, rapid heart rate, quavering voice, and feeling shaky. You may avoid social situations and find even the thought of going into a new social setting to be upsetting. Social anxiety can impact your performance at work, it can prevent you from developing friendships, and it can impair your ability to successfully date and find romantic partners.
Panic disorder is marked by fear of having a panic attack and not being able to escape or get help. During a panic attack, you may have shortness of breath, a lump in your throat, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, ringing in your ears and hyperventilation. You worry that you are losing control or are going crazy. You may fear that you are going to die, although these symptoms are not lethal. You may end up adjusting your routine, avoiding certain places or activities, in order to reduce your chance of having a panic attack.
If your anxiety began at a young age, you may have noticed some of these symptoms of childhood anxiety:
- Being worried about being separated from your parents
- When you’d have a problem, you would get a funny feeling in your stomach or stomach ache
- Had trouble going to school in the mornings because of feeling scared or nervous
- Worried you would embarrass yourself in front of people
- Fearful that something awful would happen to a member of your family
- Fear of being in crowded places (shopping centers, movies, busy playgrounds or cafeteria)
- Feeling scared if you had to travel in a bus, train or plane
- Feeling nervous if you had to stay away from home overnight
- Worried what people would think of you
- Feeling nervous about talking in front of the class
- Being scared of the dark, high places, insects or spiders
- Feeling shaky, dizzy, fast heart beat or had trouble breathing for no reason
If you currently have any type of anxiety, it is likely that you tend to ruminate and worry a great deal. Rumination means you have the same worrisome thoughts over and over again. You may even feel that your worry prevents bad things from happening in the future. You also may recognize that your worry prevents you from enjoying life, trying new activities, and living life according to your own rules.
Many people experience anxiety that goes untreated for months, or even years. Finally getting help and support for your anxiety disorder can be a life-changing experience. Our work together to treat your anxiety will include evidence-based treatments of cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. I encourage you to take the next step in entering therapy.