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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
To say that a lot of people deal with anxiety would be an understatement. It is thought that around 40 million adults in the United States have experience with an anxiety disorder. But, sadly, a little less than 37 percent of those people seek treatment.
There’s no other way to put it — this number is unacceptable. Living with an anxiety disorder is something no one should have to do — especially since there are ways to get a handle on these worrisome feelings.
If you’re wondering if you may have an anxiety disorder or are looking for tips on controlling your feelings of anxiety, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get into it.
First, whether you experience occasional anxiety or are suffering with an actual anxiety disorder, tips for reducing these feelings can be helpful. That said, if you’ve got an anxiety disorder, it’s helpful to have a better understanding of what that even means.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the more common anxiety disorders. It’s generally diagnosed if someone has trouble controlling their anxiety more often than not over a course of six months. If you notice your worries and nerves are getting in the way of embracing a healthy lifestyle, you definitely need to make some changes.
There are both psychological and physical symptoms that may present if you have an anxiety disorder. Symptoms connected to GAD include an increased heart rate, hyperventilation, fatigue, irritability, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, stomach issues and more.
Beyond GAD, there are four other types of anxiety disorders that are commonly diagnosed. They are:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD have trouble escaping recurrent thoughts and compulsive behaviors (like washing their hands over and over or checking to make sure the stove is turned off repeatedly).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This disorder is most likely to occur after traumatic events — like being sexually assaulted, surviving a car accident or serving in the military.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Sometimes called social phobia, this is defined as when someone feels overwhelmed in social situations. It can be general anxiety over being around people or specific to things like public speaking.
Panic Disorder: Signs someone is dealing with this disorder include feelings of paralyzing fear, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Panic attacks are often associated with this type of anxiety.
Again, not everyone who feels anxious has an anxiety disorder. And you really shouldn’t diagnose anxiety yourself. Instead, if you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder or are just generally feeling anxious, you should seek the advice of a mental health professional.
Whatever your anxiety situation might be, there are things you can do to get your arms around it. Check them out.
One way that many people control their anxiety is through talk therapy. In fact, there are a number of different types of therapy that may work.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very common form of therapy to treat anxiety. In this form of therapy, you will work with a mental health professional to identify behaviors that may be feeding your anxiety and then come up with ways to change them or cope.
Exposure therapy is another type that could be beneficial. With this, you’ll work on confronting the things that make you anxious in a safe way. It has been found to help with GAD.
These are just two types of therapy that can help—there are many more. To determine the best fit for you, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider.
There are plenty of ways of controlling anxiety without medication. That said, if you are navigating severe anxiety, it may be worth considering.
The only person who should ever prescribe you an anti-anxiety medication is a licensed healthcare professional. Hers offers online consultations, which make it easy to start the process of assessing if medication could help you.
Duh, exercise is good for your physical health. But did you know it’s also pretty darn great for the treatment of anxiety?
The general recommendation is for adults to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise in a week. Seventy-five minutes of high-intensity physical activity also works.
Also good to remember: Exercise is great for your overall health. It can assist you in maintaining a healthy weight, stabilize your blood sugar and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Meditation is pretty buzzed about these days — and with good reason. Taking time to center and calm your brain is always a good idea. But it may also help with anxious thoughts.
Related read: Can Anxiety Make You Believe Things That Aren't True?
In a study performed in 2014, it was found that 20 minutes of mindful meditation could assist in decreasing anxiety. It’s thought that this happens because meditation reduces brain activity temporarily.
Need more evidence? There are published findings from more than 47 randomized clinical trials that show that meditation can be helpful to those who are suffering from anxiety and stress.
Mindful meditation focuses on attention and acceptance. The idea is to stay mindful of what is happening in the moment. For example, think about how your body feels or the sound of your breath going in and out. If thoughts pop into your head, that’s okay — accept them and let them go.
If you are just starting out, try to make a habit of attempting to mindfully meditate daily. Start with just five minutes and slowly work your way up to 20 minutes.
Shortness of breath is a symptom of anxiety. Breathing exercises can help regulate your breath and bring down your anxiety. See, breathing affects areas of our internal systems that influence mental wellbeing. The amygdala being one of these.
The secret is to really focus on your breathing. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests getting into a comfortable position and taking a few deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and slowly exhale through pursed lips.
Pay attention to how the breath feels as you draw it into your body and push it out. Once you start to notice your anxiety dissipating, you’re done.
It may take work and there could be some trial and error, but getting a handle on your anxiety is absolutely possible.
Symptoms of anxiety include shortness of breath, extreme worry, heart palpitations and more. When you control your anxiety, you should notice these things go away or, at least, lessen.
From taking medication to therapy online or practicing meditation, there are a number of options. It may even be most beneficial to try a combo of a few things to make your anxiety levels more manageable.
Asking a mental health professional is a great way to figure out what’s causing your anxiety. They’ll be able to tell you if you have an anxiety disorder (self-diagnosing yourself with anxiety is not recommended.) and can then help you come up with a treatment plan so that you can live the full, healthy life you deserve — with your anxiety under control.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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