From everyday anxieties to full-blown panic attacks, anxiety disorders have never been more prevalent than they are today. In fact, approximately 40 million adults in the United States alone have some type of anxiety disorder and that’s not even including the children and teenagers who also suffer from this incredibly difficult and even debilitating mental illness. But as terrible as anxiety can be to go through, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because it is treatable! There are many types of treatments available and even more simple lifestyle, diet and mindset changes you can make right now to start experiencing relief. So, whether you’re interested in learning about the different types of anxiety disorders you may be struggling with or are ready to take the steps towards healing, this article has you covered.
What is Anxiety?
There is a fine line between anxiety and anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a completely normal emotion that often comes with worried thoughts, a feeling of uneasiness, dread or fear and it’s something that we all experience. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are a type of mental health condition where the anxiety is so intense and frequent that it makes it difficult to live life as you normally would. You may start to avoid going to places for fear of experiencing feelings of nervousness and panic, or experience a rush of panic when faced with everyday situations, such as a work meeting or class presentation.
Both every day anxiety and anxiety disorders are often associated with an anticipation of a future concern. For example, knowing you have a big party to go to that will have a large crowd or a meeting can make you experience feelings of nervousness and fear long before the situation has even occurred.
Overtime, anxiety can disrupt all aspects of your life if left untreated because you start to avoid things in an effort to prevent those unbearable feelings. As a result, anxiety can start to take a toll on your personal relationships, productivity and performance, career and so on and so forth. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to take action against anxiety.
The Different Types of Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of mental illness. There are several different types and you can experience one or several all at the same time. It’s important to identify the type of anxiety disorder you have, as this can be key to finding the proper treatment and approach.
While it’s highly recommended to do some research on the specific type(s) of anxiety you’re struggling with, let’s take a quick look at what each typically looks like.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is often characterized by having constant and excessive worries that interfere with your daily life. these worries often revolve around everyday concerns such as work responsibilities, family health, or everyday tasks like household chores, car repairs, or appointments. The constant worrying often comes with some physical symptoms like restlessness, feeling on edge, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and sleep problems.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurring panic attacks, which is an immense rush of panic often followed by the body’s fight, flight or freeze response.
These panic attacks often bring on a mix of intense physical and psychological distress, such as:
- Breathing difficulties, such as a smothering feeling or shortness of breath
- Body temperature changes, such as chills or hot flashes
- Chest pains
- Feeling like you’re choking or having difficulty swallowing
- Feeling – and fearing – that you’re dying
- Disassociation (feeling detached from yourself and your surroundings)
- Dizziness or feeling like you’re going to faint
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness or tingling
- Stomach aches and pains
- Sweating excessively
- Trembling and shaking
The thing about panic attacks is that they feel so real that your body and brain react as if a fear is imminent, even if it’s not.
A specific phobia refers to an intense feeling of fear associated with a particular object, situation, or activity that is typically harmless. Many people with phobia-specific anxieties know that they fear is irrational but still find it incredibly difficult to overcome it. Some common examples of phobias include public speaking, flying and spiders, but can also include:
- Social Anxiety: An anxiety disorder that is often associated with fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, or judged negatively in social situations. Common examples include an extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people, eating/drinking in public and being in large crowds.
- Separation Anxiety: An anxiety disorder where you experience excessive fear or anxiety when being separated from the people that you are deeply attached to. This fear goes beyond what is considered “typical” for certain age groups and often causes difficulties in daily functioning.
- Agoraphobia: A disorder where immense fear and anxiety arises when in situations where escape might be challenging or embarrassing, such as in a crowded concert, in a job interview, on public transportation, or simply being outside of one’s home.
- Health anxiety: An anxiety disorder that causes an immense fear of being unwell or dying, which often results in an obsession that starts to take over your life.
There are many other types of phobia-specific anxieties but these are the most common. It’s also worth mentioning that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are also classified as anxiety disorders.
While there are few things “good” about having anxiety, one thing that will come to you as a great relief is that all types of anxiety are treatable. Although each anxiety disorder has its unique characteristics, there are two primary types of treatment that have proven to be effective for all types: psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications.
Talk therapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a type of therapy that helps you develop new ways of thinking, reacting, and behaving to rewire your brain, change your learned behaviors and eradicate anxiety.
Medications can also be used to reduce your symptoms. While medication isn’t a cure in itself, it can give you the relief you need to start managing your symptoms and tackling your anxiety. Some common types are SSRIs and anti-depressants.
Speaking with your doctor will help you determine the best course of action with regards to using these conventional treatments.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
You don’t have to go the conventional route when it comes to healing your anxiety disorder. In fact, many people find great success simply by making a few changes to their lifestyle and diet, and using some natural remedies to help ease their symptoms. These can also be used in combination with the conventional options mentioned above to boost the effectiveness of treatment. Here are some helpful approaches for managing anxiety naturally.
Stress management techniques
Learning how to manage and reduce your stress is absolutely imperative when dealing with anxiety. After all, the more stress you have in your life, the higher your cortisol levels (stress hormone) will be, which directly impacts your anxiety levels.
This natural remedy for anxiety will improve all aspects of your life – from your mental health to your emotional health, your relationships, productivity, and so on and so forth.
Some things you can do to start reducing and managing your stress levels on a daily basis include:
- Journaling your thoughts (so they aren’t stuck in your head).
- Meditation to help train the brain to remain calm.
- Breathing exercises to learn how to calm your mind and body.
- Organizing with to-do lists and a daily planner.
- Practising gratitude can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your mood.
- Use grounding techniques to feel calm and connected.
- Laughing can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, and it feels good too!
- Spend time in nature to reduce depression and anxiety.
- Take time for yourself, whether it’s a weekly bath in a warm tub of Epsom salt water or setting aside time to do something just for you each week.
Your lifestyle plays a major role in the severity of your anxiety levels and your ability to cope with them. For example, drinking one too many coffees in the morning can immediately cause a spike in your anxiety, whereas starting the day off with a calming tea can do quite the opposite. Here are some things you’ll want to consider to help reduce your anxiety:
- Limit caffeine as it’s a stimulate that often exacerbates anxiety symptoms.
- Get a minimum of 20 minutes of physical activity in each day.
- Prioritize your sleep (as difficult as that may seem) by sticking with a sleep schedule, winding down before bed and avoiding technology at night.
- Use positive affirmations when your thoughts turn negative.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can worsen your anxiety
- Eat a clean, healthy diet with minimal processed foods and sugars.
- Sit out in the sun (or use a light therapy lamp) for a minimum of 15 minutes a day, preferably in the morning.
- Limit your contact with toxic situations and relationships.
- Join a support group, whether it’s an online support group or in-person classes.
- Set boundaries and stick to them.
- Stay hydrated (dehydration often creates symptoms similar to that of anxiety).
- Take magnesium supplements daily or eat more magnesium-rich foods, such as whole grains, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach and chia seeds.
There’s certainly no shortage of natural remedies for anxiety and fortunately, science is finally starting to back them up! For example, the use of lavender is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Here are some of our favorites:
- Fidget tools: Whether it’s a fidget cube or an anxiety ring, fidgeting can be an excellent way to reduce anxiety, release anxious energy and distract your brain away from your fearful thoughts.
- Herbal remedies: There are many herbs you can use to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, such as lavender, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm and kava are top herbal remedies. Depending on the herb you’re using, you can make tea with it, cook with it, or take it in a supplement form.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils are all the rage and for the right reasons. This natural remedy uses plant extracts to send messages to your brain to help you relax. Some top essential oils for anxiety relief are; lavender, clary sage, bergamot, chamomile, peppermint, basil and ylang ylang.
- Weighted blankets: Something as simple as laying under a weighted blanket can be all you need to put your body into rest mode, according to studies. The key is to get the right weight for you based on your body weight.
- Acupuncture: This alternative treatment option that involves putting tiny needles into pressure points in the body has been used for thousands of years and it has shown promising results for reducing anxiety.
- Supplements: There are certain supplements that can be particularly helpful for managing anxiety, such as ashwagandha, kava root, l-theanine, GABA, magnesium, and B vitamins.
While it’s entirely normal to experience stress and anxiety at certain points throughout your life, chronic anxiety that disrupts your life should not be overlooked. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses today, and it doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone at any time, any age, any reason – and for what seems like no reason at all. Unfortunately, when left untreated, anxiety typically tends to get worse so it’s absolutely crucial to take the steps towards healing. Whether you’re interested in traditional therapy or natural alternatives, there are a variety of options available that can help you get back to living the life you deserve.