Anxiety is the feeling of worry, apprehension, fear, and/or panic in response to situations which seem overwhelming, threatening, unsafe, or uncomfortable. We all feel anxious at times. We may experience sweaty palms, muscle tightness, a racing or pounding heart, and feelings of uneasiness. The brain releases adrenaline and kicks our fight-or-flight response into gear. It can be tied to a specific situation, such as going to the doctor or taking a test. It could even occur before positive events, such as weddings or graduations. For others, anxiety seems to be more of a constant companion, an unrelenting knot in the stomach, difficulty sleeping, and worry that doesn’t fade, only the topic of the worry changes.
Positives and negatives
Having some anxiety has been shown to enhance motivation and performance. Positive anxiety helps protect us from realistic danger, such as being cautious about walking alone in a city at night. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can interfere with decision-making and decrease performance. Oftentimes, anxiety is affected by heredity; patterns of excessive anxiety or worry in the family may put you at higher risk of having an anxiety disorder. Self-confidence, higher self-esteem, and comfort in being out of control or unsure how things will turn out are protective factors against anxiety.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes in your life and causes impairment or distress. It can prevent you from functioning adequately at school or work and from engaging in satisfying social interactions. Anxiety disorders comprise the most common mental health diagnosis in the U.S. More than 23 million Americans suffer from a diagnosable and treatable form of anxiety.
Physical problems are often linked to stress and anxiety. Headaches, insomnia, TMJ, irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes, high blood pressure, and heart problems are often caused by anxiety. Ongoing, untreated anxiety can become a chronic, lifelong condition. It may lead to, not only physical problems, but additional psychological issues such as depression.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Unhealthy anxiety can occur in response to trauma (PTSD), or it can be triggered by uncomfortable situations we would like to avoid, such as with phobias or social anxiety. Many peoples experience generalized anxiety (GAD) that is not linked to a specific situation, and others may manifest their anxiety with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors (OCD). Regardless of the form the anxiety takes, our nature tells us to avoid anxiety-provoking situations. Unfortunately, this avoidance ultimately feeds our anxiety even if we feel some relief in the moment. Life can become very limited if our only coping skill is avoidance.
Unhealthy Coping Strategies
Unfortunately, many people use alcohol and other drugs to control their anxiety or “self-medicate”; marijuana is commonly used for this purpose. Though these substances may calm you down in the short-term, they exacerbate problems of anxiety in the long run. Using drugs can also lead to other problems (e.g. missing classes, not studying) that eventually have a negative effect on your life. Smoking cigarettes and other compulsive type behaviors (e.g. shopping, playing video games, gambling, etc.) may provide temporary, but not long-lasting, relief from stress and anxiety.
The following questions will help you determine if anxiety is a concern you should take a closer look at:
Anxiety can be treated by psychotherapy, mind-body practices, and/or medication. Consult a professional to discover what types of treatments may work best for you. Also, remember to take care of yourself by:
Suggestions for intervening with an anxious friend or loved one are as follows:
Wayne College offers free counseling services to enrolled students.
Visit the Smucker Learning Center or call (330)684-8960 to schedule an appointment.
The Counseling Center of Wayne and Holmes Counties
Wooster Location: 2285 Benden Drive (330)264-9029
Orrville Location: 345 South Crown Hill Drive (330)683-5106
Rittman Location: 8 North Main Street (330)925-5466
*Crisis Assistance available 24/7*
Catholic Charities of Wayne County
521 Beall Avenue, Wooster, OH 44691
STEPS at Liberty Center
Gault Liberty Center
104 Spink Street, Wooster, OH 44691
Your Human Resource Center
Wooster Location: 2587 Back Orrville Road (330)264-9597 or (800)721-YHRC
Orrville Location: 119 East Market Street (330)682-5800
Millersburg Location: 186 West Jackson Street (330)674-4608
Rittman Location: 51 North Main Street (330)927-2244
National Institute of Mental Health
Smucker Learning Center