Anxiety and Your Body

Anxiety and Your Body
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Prevalence and Observation of Anxiety in America

Anxiety is a large problem in the United States – it is the most reported mental health concern. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, and those are only the ones that are diagnosed. Anxiety involves an overall sense of dread, worry, or fear that can cause sweating, racing heart, and shortness of breath. Anxiety disorders include a wide range of diagnoses including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, phobias, and more. 

There are many other health risks and comorbidities that anxiety can lead to, such as substance abuse/addiction, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, major depressive disorder (MDD), heart disease, and more. Now all of this may sound pretty scary or hopeless, especially if you’re currently struggling with anxiety. It can be helpful to focus on understanding your anxiety, rather than focusing on experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. All humans experience anxiety in their life, it is a part of our human condition and can actually be helpful in some situations.

Understanding Anxiety: What is Going on in My body?

Many people are debilitated by their anxiety disorders and this post is not meant to insult them or their experience with anxiety. My intention is to provide hope and de-stigmatize some perceptions of anxiety. A bit of backtracking, all humans experience anxiety in some capacity and we, as a species, have been dealing with it all our existence. If we did not experience anxiety or worry about things then we would not see a reason to eat, to run, to protect ourselves, or to not look both ways before crossing the street.

 Anxiety is helpful in those ways and many people have it explained to them in terms of fight or flight with the caveman and the tiger. But essentially our brain perceives a threat and then decides to either fight the threat or flee from the threat. The symptoms seen in anxiety are meant to help us in those fight or flight moments. Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body, increasing heart rate for pumping blood throughout the body, making our breathing shallow to draw in more oxygen to our blood, and less crucial bodily functions are shut down (reproductive system, digestive system, and immune system). Once we escape or defeat the threat, the reaction and the body changes return to normal. Unfortunately, in the modern-day we cannot fight or flee many of our threats or stressors, like bills, tests, job loss, divorce/breakups, etc.

What Can Help

Today since the stressors cannot be dealt with by our fight or flight reaction we are stuck in the response where there is constant adrenaline and cortisol in our body. Whenever we are reminded of what the stressor is or think about it, we have anxiety. Self-care and mindfulness are very helpful in reducing anxiety and can prevent it from getting to a level that may be unmanageable. Mindfulness is just being aware of the fact that you are stressed or having an anxiety attack and knowing what is going on in your body. Using deep breathing techniques to calm yourself and grounding techniques to distract yourself from the stressful thought can also be helpful. Self-care can reduce reactivity to stress throughout your life: going on a walk, reading a book that you enjoy, or spending time with friends or family. There is a helpful Ted Talk video by Kelly McGonigal called “How to make stress your friend” that also talks about anxiety – I will attach a link below.

If you find yourself struggling with any anxiety-related issues and are interested in therapy, contact us for more information.

About the Author

John Loh is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at Finding Peace Counseling Center in The Woodlands, TX. John’s specialties includes men’s issues, anxiety disorders, and relationship issues, and he works with individuals, couples, and families.  For more information on anxiety or any related issues, contact Finding Peace Counseling Center today by calling 832-306-2969 or emailing [email protected] for more information. You can also schedule an appointment now by visiting the Finding Peace Counseling Center website. 

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