Your stomach is turning. Somehow, your hands are both cold and sweaty. Your legs feel weak, and you are not sure they can hold you up. The microphone looms large in front of you. Eager faces look up at you expectantly. All you want to do is run away!
We have all experienced anxiety like this at some point, whether it was a public speaking class in college, oral book reports in middle school or presentations at work. It affects us all, and that is not always a bad thing. Anxiety helps us by providing warning signals when something is dangerous. While this is important, our anxiety cannot always distinguish between real or imagined threats. Public speaking causes anxiety for millions of people, and our anxiety can make speaking in public feel as if a hungry lion is chasing us. One of those situations is life-threatening. The other is our anxiety making us think it is life-threatening.
When Anxiety Becomes a Problem
When your anxiety becomes crushing and overwhelming, it is time to seek help. Anxiety disorders affect about 19 million Americans each year.[i] Anxiety becomes a problem when it starts interfering with everyday activities, like errands, sleeping, or being with friends. One HopeNet client who struggled with anxiety was not able to go to the grocery store or go for a run outside without having a panic attack. If you find yourself canceling plans, unable to sleep due to anxious thoughts, having unexplained gastrointestinal issues or unable to pinpoint exactly why you are feeling so anxious, you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive anxiety about a variety of things for at least several months. Those struggling with generalized anxiety disorder often feel like they have to worry and that their worrying is out of their control. They might even think they can prevent bad things from happening by worrying.[ii]
Panic Attacks symptoms generally include dizziness, nausea, intense heartbeat, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing. Sufferers feel immobilized. Years ago, many dismissed panic attacks as if the symptoms were not real. Today, doctors and mental health therapists treat panic attacks as a real medical condition, and treatment can be very effective.
Social Anxiety is more extreme than shyness or a reserved demeanor. It often consists of an intense fear of being judged, rejected or making a mistake in social situations. Social anxiety will make it difficult or nearly impossible for someone to go to parties, job interviews, or engage in other socially interactive activities.[iii]
Obsessive-compulsive disorder an anxiety disorder where someone has excessive thoughts or impulses that distress them and try to alleviate that distress by compulsive acts. It is much more than just wanting things in order, as often portrayed in the media. The obsessions and compulsions keep the person from doing what they actually want to do. [iv]
If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, talking to your family doctor is a great place to start. You can also call a counseling center like HopeNet. Anxiety affects so many people, but with treatment, relief is possible! With the help of your mental health therapist, you will create a strategic plan to address your anxiety. This plan may include stress management, therapy or medication. The great news is that most people who seek treatment will find relief from their anxiety. There is hope for those struggling with anxiety. Call HopeNet today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one.