Exploring the Effects of Anxiety

Woman resting chin on clasped handsI recently had the opportunity to share a few articles here on anger and how this affects us. It is my pleasure to now begin writing a bit about anxiety and how this, too, is a major issue for many of us. In fact, anxiety disorders are being seen more and more across the ages. For example, I see more children these days—no kidding—worrying how they will do on school/state-wide testing and other children overwhelmed with their family’s separation or divorce. Then there are all of us adults overwhelmed with the economy, job, and housing issues and not feeling a positive sense of control over our lives.

I believe that, at any given point in time, millions of us are plagued with stress and anxiety. Now, what is unfortunate is the reality that many people do not want to acknowledge their struggles and reach out for help (and come to counseling, for example) until things reach an overwhelming level. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go to the hospital complaining of some type of physical ailment, and yet the doctors cannot find anything physically wrong. The diagnosis that tends to come up is anxiety, which can affect the mind and body in powerful ways.

The fact is that stress and anxiety can occupy so much within us and debilitate us if we allow this to happen. Anxiety is a more impactful issue than stress, and it can be too easy to use the words stress and anxiety as the same thing. However, I would like to outline the difference. According to the National Institutes of Health, stress is the result of feeling frustrated, while anxiety makes you feel uneasy and fearful, usually because of a combination of stressors or a long-term stressor. Excessive stress can turn into an anxiety disorder, and the symptoms may interfere with your life and require the attention of a doctor.

One of these anxiety-related issues that does indeed lead to contact with one’s doctor or the emergency room is panic disorder. The effects of anxiety in the body can mimic a heart attack, with symptoms such as heart palpitations, feeling like you are not able to catch your breath, nausea, headaches, stomach pain, and even chest pain. The dread of a potential heart attack may cause even further anxiety, making those moments even more scary. Sometimes these attacks can be so severe, the person experiencing this level of anxiety does not want to leave home. This type of anxiety is classified as agoraphobia.

Over the next few articles, I will examine some of the other specific forms of anxiety disorders; these may range from something perhaps more “mild,” like an adjustment disorder with anxiety, to others such as a social phobia (excessive worry about how others will view us, resulting in avoidance of performance or social interactions), a specific phobia (fear of spiders, flying, receiving an injection, and so forth), posttraumatic stress disorder (many of us have heard of this; it involves personally experiencing or even witnessing a traumatic event in which we later re-experience the trauma in a variety of negative ways), generalized anxiety disorder (the anxiety is not necessarily related to a specific issue but rather a number of areas in someone’s life they worry excessively about), as well as others, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, which many may not even realize is an anxiety-related disorder.

Now, sometimes, a little bit of information can be a terrible thing, meaning my hope is that you do not read my brief introduction to these anxiety disorders and fear you have one or more of them. Rather, my hope is to first educate and explore how anxiety may be affecting us. Furthermore, my intention is to look at some general issues we tend to struggle with and offer some help. Although I will not be offering actual therapy in this column, I would like to offer some tools and techniques to best address the anxiety. I hope to help.

Related articles:
Biofeedback for Treatment of Migraines and Stress
Pleasing Others to Escape the Bad Person Feeling
Excerpt From a Therapy Session: Panic Attacks While Driving

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • melly

    melly

    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Thanks for making this so much clearer to readers.
    I too am one of those readers who probably incorrectly used the words stress and anxiety interchangeably.
    I now see that actually it is all of the stresses in my life that causes tose horrid feelings of anxiety that I sometimes find difficult to control.
    Now that I have that straight now maybe I can focus on the things that I need to confront to help me ease some of that anxiety in my life.

  • Craig Tyler

    Craig Tyler

    March 23rd, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    Anxiety-as I believe it-is something that stems from a desire to control things around us. It could be our strong expectations, but the basic fact is that it comes from wanting things to go our way. And that is where the problem is-we need to realize that we do not have control over some things and that we can only hope and pray but in that process too, we should not make it something bigger than it actually is. The feeling of wanting to control things and to make them go our way is what creates anxiety and the issues that follow.

  • Marcus

    Marcus

    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    uncontrolled anxiety and stress can cause numerpus health issues, from heart disease to eating disorders to who knows what else! if we are mindful of the myriad of ways that it can affect us, then controlling it should always be at the forefront of the things that we do to take care of ourselves.

  • Lottie

    Lottie

    March 24th, 2012 at 5:07 AM

    Honestly, is experiencing anxiety percieved to be such a weakness that we are unwilling to veen acknowledge just how severaly it could be affecting our lives?

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    April 10th, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Wonderful input everyone. Even I use both terms as one sometimes Melly but there are differences. I do “fear” you are right Lottie — too many come in for therapy already overwhelmed with how it will look that they are here in the first place. We place way too much credence on others and their opinions of us

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