Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Ways to Manage Anxiety

Woman clutching hem of dressAnxiety is a normal reaction wherein you feel a sense of uneasiness, apprehension, uncertainty, or fear about something. It is a feeling everyone experiences from time to time.

Like all emotions, anxiety has a purpose. Its job is to protect you and keep you out of harm’s way by motivating you to take some kind of action. If you feel anxious about an upcoming test or interview, anxiety can push you to prepare. If you witness a potentially dangerous situation, anxiety may compel you to flee.

Excessive anxiety can become problematic when it begins to interfere with relationships, work, academics, hobbies, and other important areas of life. It is possible to manage anxious symptoms effectively through healthy coping.

What Are Some Symptoms of Anxiety?

Possible symptoms of anxiety include a fast heart rate, headache, muscle tension, nausea, trembling, and sweating. Symptoms may affect you physically, cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. You may recognize anxiety through sore muscles, an inability to concentrate, feeling like you can’t turn off your thoughts, and restlessness. You may notice a change in appetite and either overeat or experience reduced hunger.

When anxiety symptoms are excessive or ongoing, such as when they persist longer than six months, teens and adults may develop certain anxious conditions including phobias, social anxiety, or panic.

6 Risk Factors for Developing an Anxiety Condition

Although the following are not necessarily causes of anxiety, they may increase the risk of developing an issue with anxiety:

  1. Chronic stress: Ongoing, unmanaged stress can lead to health problems in addition to anxiety.
  2. Family history: Anxiety conditions may be learned as well as hereditary.
  3. Traumatic events: Trauma can erode a sense of safety and trust, which may increase the likelihood of feeling anxious.
  4. Substance abuse: Some substances and associated withdrawal may cause a sense of paranoia, panic, or jitteriness, and worsen anxious feelings.
  5. Presence of other mental health conditions: Additional diagnoses of mental health issues can create vulnerability to anxiety.
  6. Medical conditions: Physical illness can lead to worry about outcomes of treatment and your future.

20 Ways to Manage Anxiety and Stress

There are many ways you can manage anxiety on your own or with the support of others. Here are 20 ways to manage or reduce anxiety:

  1. Accept what you can and cannot control.
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Various types of counseling can help manage anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, exposure therapy, and mindfulness. Consult with various counselors to determine which method you think you will feel most comfortable with. Many counselors use a combination of theoretical methods.
  4. Deep breathing
  5. A balanced diet
  6. Get involved with volunteer work or engage in other community activities.
  7. Group therapy/support groups
  8. Identify the triggers for your anxiety. Look for a pattern so you can cope with the trigger(s).
  9. Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  10. Medication prescribed by a psychiatrist or your family physician. Medication in combination with psychotherapy may be more effective than medication alone.
  11. Meditation
  12. Mental imagery or visualization
  13. Mobile phone apps (such as Happify)
  14. Progressive muscle relaxation
  15. Recreational and physical activities. Do stuff you enjoy!
  16. Rely on a support system. Share your worries with those you trust and who support you emotionally.
  17. Take a time-out. Set aside “worry time” and allow yourself time throughout your day to not worry.
  18. Use “coping cards” or “catchphrase cards.” Using a 3×5 card, write down a reminder that your anxiety symptoms are temporary. Next, write a reminder to use a coping skill. An example might be: “This nervousness is temporary. Breathe in for five seconds, pause, breathe out for five seconds.” Practice reading your card every day so when the anxiety-inducing situation arises, you will remember how to handle it.
  19. Use humor and laughter to lighten your mood.
  20. Yoga

What helps you manage anxiety? What do you notice about how that activity helps you? Do you have a favorite anxiety-management mobile app to recommend? What healthy techniques do you recommend for someone experiencing anxiety?

References:

  1. What is anxiety? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety
  2. Managing anxiety and stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Marjie L. Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS, therapist in Vancouver, Washington

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.

  • 9 comments
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  • Malia

    Malia

    March 17th, 2016 at 8:43 AM

    Just another way that my family history is coming back to bit me in the bum.

  • Holly

    Holly

    March 17th, 2016 at 11:16 AM

    Even if you can check yes to many of these risk factors that doesn’t mean that this has to become a self fulfilling prophecy and that this will actually be a part of who you are.
    There are choices that you can actually make in life than can help determine who you are and what you become.
    I understand that you could face more of a challenge and have to fight against it harder, but you still don’t automatically have to allow it to define you.

  • Grant

    Grant

    March 17th, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    There are some things that are beyond our control.
    It can be especially difficult when you are not only talking about having a period of especially trying things going on in your own life plus you have family history to work against you as well.
    It might seem easy enough to just say to shrug it off but anyone who has lived with anxiety knows that it is just not so easy.

  • edna

    edna

    March 18th, 2016 at 7:32 AM

    I am assuming that there are still medications that can help people manage their anxiety? I know that it might not always be the option of choice but I would also assume that for many it is a necessity?

  • pauLette

    pauLette

    March 19th, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    I think that I have always been an anxious sort, not really knowing why or what could have started it but I always seem to feel a little on edge and honestly overwhelmed even when most of the things in my life are going pretty smoothly. I have tried talking to a couple of people but I always have this feeling that they would rather me come to them already knowing what causes this behavior in me and I am being quite truthful when I say that I do not know.

  • Zachary

    Zachary

    March 21st, 2016 at 6:40 AM

    It is tough for me to even imagine that anxiety is even supposed to be a mechanism that should protect you. For me it feels like it is swallowing me up and does nothing to make me feel safe.

  • Sasha C

    Sasha C

    March 21st, 2016 at 1:41 PM

    This is a great blog post. I have been struggling with personal issues for 10 years and have found reaching out online to seek the advice of others has helped me through the good and bad time. I have always had relationship issues and have started to follow the advice of Dr. Robi Ludwig. I saw her on a tv show once and I really appreciated her take on current psychological issues. I have been following her twitter for updates and advice

  • Marjie L Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS

    Marjie L Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS

    March 23rd, 2016 at 3:57 PM

    Hello Everyone, thank you for your interest and comments about the article!
    ~Malia: although family history is a risk factor for anxiety, it does not have to be automatic that you will experience it. I hope that if you do experience anxiety that you will give some of the above suggestions a try!
    ~Holly: you’re right that while risk factors can increase the likelihood of anxiety, they do not automatically lead to anxiousness. The article identifies some of the choices people can make to work on managing anxious symptoms.
    ~Grant: you’re right, too, that some things are beyond our control. Recognizing that can help some people ease anxiety (as listed #1 in the suggestions above!) Anxiety builds when we believe that there is little within our own control and we feel “stuck” or restless. The 20 suggestions listed above are all things that people may use to gain a sense of control over their anxiety.
    ~edna: yes, as #10 mentions above, medication can be an important part of anxiety management for some people. Medication can help create a sense of stabilization and once that happens people can begin focusing on other aspects of life that anxiety has interfered with.
    ~pauLette: some people do have more sensitive nervous systems than other people. It sounds like you’ve tried getting some support but that it hasn’t been that helpful to you so far. I hope you keep searching for the support you need or that you can try some of the suggestions above to help you manage your anxious feelings.
    ~Zachary: it sounds like you’re really familiar with the symptoms of anxiety. I hope that you are able to find some support for your feeling of being “swallowed up” and unsafe, or that you’re able to try some of the suggestions above to help you manage anxious feelings. Although anxiety is meant to protect us, it can leave us feeling exhausted when it has us in a constant state of “readiness” or hypervigilance that something might happen.
    ~Sasha C: thank you for your compliment on the article and for sharing how you’ve managed to cope with anxiety. I’m not familiar with Dr. Ludwig’s work, but it sounds like her knowledge and advice has been beneficial to you!

  • mark m.

    mark m.

    August 1st, 2017 at 11:30 AM

    I have suffered with depression and anxiety for years. It caused me to abuse alcohol and made my home life a mess. Went to therapy for years with no help. Finally went to a psychiatrist who proscribed Cumbalta. Been on it for 6 months and i am completely changed. No anxiety, sadness and no more drinking. Home and work life is 100% improved. never felt this good.

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