Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/9/2019
Did you know that 40 million American adults are dealing with an anxiety disorder? Sadly, only 36.9 percent of those who suffer receive treatment.
But even if you’re not dealing with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, it’s common to occasionally feel overwhelmed by life.
No matter what type of anxiety you’re dealing with, however, it’s important to have coping mechanisms. That way, when you’re feeling particularly anxious you can nip it in the bud.
Read on to learn how to identify the type of anxiety you might have as well as ways to handle it.
Maybe you have a big work presentation or a moody family member. Well, it’s totally normal if these things (and others!) cause your anxiety to spike.
If you only experience anxiety every once in a while, there’s nothing to be worried about.
But what if your anxiety is more frequent? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, if you’re struggling to control your anxiety more days than not over a period of six months, you may be dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
People with GAD often experience the following symptoms:
Feeling nervous and/or irritable
Feeling panic or doom
An increased heart rate
Tiredness and/or weakness
If you suspect you are dealing with GAD, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional.
Aside from GAD, there are four other types of anxiety disorders.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: OCD involves recurrent, unwanted thoughts and compulsive behavior — such as repetitive handwashing, counting or checking.
Panic Disorder: People who have panic disorder experience unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear along with physical symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This type of anxiety disorder develops after a traumatic event such as a violent assault, natural disaster, accident or military combat.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Also called social phobia, it’s categorized by feeling extremely overwhelmed in social situations. It can be limited to very specific situations (like speaking in public) or be so severe that you feel anxiety any time you’re around other people.
A variety of things can set off your anxiety and make it feel ‘bad.’ As previously mentioned, stressful life events (like work and family issues) commonly cause an increase in anxious feelings.
But there are also some more unexpected things that can trigger it. For example, a 2010 study found that caffeine can spike anxiety in some people.
Anxiety can also be brought on by a feared object or situation. For example, people with social anxiety may go into a spiral if they’re going to be around a lot of people.
It’s also important to remember that anxiety isn’t linear. Some days it may be really high, while other times it can dip and be almost nonexistent.
No matter what makes you anxious or how often you feel anxious, there are many ways you can approach treating your anxiety. Check them out:
Breaking a sweat doesn’t just keep you physically healthy — though it’s definitely great for that. Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and more.
Research has also shown that working out can have a positive effect on mental health.
A 2013 review of animal studies found that exercise reduced levels of stress and anxiety and led to overall mood improvements.
Time to get your Om on. A 2014 study found that 20 minutes of mindful meditation can decrease anxiety by reducing overall brain activity.
Need more evidence about meditation? John Hopkins published findings from more than 47 randomized clinical trials and concluded that meditation helps people cope with anxiety and stress.
There are a few different types of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders. The type you need depends on what symptoms you have.
You’ll want to work with a mental health provider to determine the type of therapy you’d benefit from most. Different types of therapy used to treat anxiety include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT revolves around identifying patterns and behaviors that may lead to anxiety and using problem-solving skills to cope.
Exposure therapy: In this form of therapy, people confront their fears in a safe environment. It has been shown to help with GAD, among other things.
Dialectical behavior therapy: This is a form of CBT that was originally used for people with borderline personality disorder before also being used for anxiety.
Interpersonal therapy: Working with a professional, people in this type of therapy work to overcome interpersonal issues that may be affecting mental health — like coworker dynamics and romantic relationships.
Psychodynamic therapy: The focus of this therapy is on past issues that may contribute to current feelings or dynamics. It involves a lot of reflection.
In some cases, a healthcare professional may suggest prescription anxiety medication as a way of managing anxiety.
Commonly prescribed medications for anxiety include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
To determine if medication could help you and, if so, which one might be best for you, talk to a healthcare professional.
The first step to dealing with bad anxiety is to...actually deal with it.
Whether you try relaxation techniques like medication or start taking a prescription medication, there are plenty of ways to address your specific situation.
For best results, to help your anxiety not feel so bad — it’s helpful to consult with a healthcare professional or try online therapy, to find what’s best for you.