Symptoms of anxiety are quite common and can often co-exist with symptoms of depression, panic, and PTSD. Anxiety symptoms can begin in childhood and continue well into adulthood. Childhood anxiety can often result when children experience separation anxiety by being separated from their main caretaker (i.e., parent). The child can often experience fear and worry that their parent may not return.
Other factors that can cause anxiety in children are past traumatic events that can trigger fear and worry about the safety of their environment. Young children might exhibit anxiety symptoms as shaking, rapid heart beating, crying, and pleading not to be left in the care of others.
In the adolescent years, anxiety is often related to academic performance. Adolescents are often triggered by anxiety about schoolwork and social endeavors, especially when identity development and social status are critical. Kids often feel pressure to fit in and be accepted by certain social groups.
Adolescents might exhibit anxiety as feeling tense, irritable, feeling nervous, difficulty concentrating, sweating, shaking, or avoiding things and situations that trigger their anxiety.
As a parent, catching these signs early can mean the difference between getting your child the appropriate help, versus your child engaging in substance use to help manage these difficult symptoms. It is important to keep open lines of communication with your child so they can feel comfortable talking about the difficulties they face. This is often extremely difficult for adolescents to do and being able to encourage them in this process is important.
In adulthood, general anxiety symptoms can be brought on by various life demands, such as raising a family while working a full-time job, caring for an elderly parent, the loss of a loved one, loss of employment, or dealing with divorce and raising children as a single parent.
Life can throw many unexpected challenges at you that you must be ready to face. General anxiety symptoms can include worry, stress, irritability, feeling tense/keyed up, feeling overwhelmed, lack of concentration, increased heart rate, and racing thoughts. Anxiety often includes worry related to future events, such as “How am I going to get through this? What am I going to do?”
It is important to keep your thoughts in perspective when you experience anxiety because of thoughts getting away from you. You may find that you think one anxious thought, which leads to another anxious thought, and the cycle just keeps going and going.
When you find yourself engaging in these ruminating thoughts, it might be helpful to ask yourself “What can I do about this now? Is this something I should be worrying about now?” And if it isn’t, it may not be worth your energy to focus on at the moment.
There are times when you may be worrying about things that are not within your control to change at the moment and those are things that you want to avoid dwelling on. If it is within your control to change, it might be helpful to develop a plan for how to tackle the issue so you can solve the problem and be able to move on from it.
Anxiety attacks often result from faulty thinking that causes people to feel that they have no control over their circumstances. For example, if you worry about losing your job, but you have no basis for the thought because your boss constantly tells you what a fantastic job you are doing, you may find yourself thinking about this fearful thought too much, dwelling on the presumption that you will lose your job.
That thought produces a feeling, in this case, the feeling of anxiety, such as an increased heart rate and worry, which will send you in a tailspin that results in an anxiety attack because your thought produces an unpleasant emotion, which is very real within your body. The cycle between your thought and emotion reinforces your thinking, telling you “Yes, I will lose my job.”
You might even create other false scenarios to attempt to convince yourself that you will lose your job any day now. It’s important to keep your thoughts in perspective and to interrupt your negative thinking by finding evidence to the contrary whenever you experience these types of fantasy thoughts.
Ask yourself, “When is the last time I lost my job?” or “When is the last time my boss spoke to me about my inferior performance and the need for improvement?” It is critical to recall and reflect on the facts. Focusing on the reality of your circumstances will help to keep you grounded and decrease unhelpful thinking.
Panic attacks share some similar symptoms with anxiety. However, panic attacks can often include an intense feeling of fear, shortness of breath, nausea, and like anxiety symptoms, will include a racing heartbeat. Anxiety and Panic can occur together, though it is important to understand that anxiety can often be triggered by a stimulus, such as events or situations.
For example, if you take a test of any kind and it causes you anxiety, you are likely to feel anxious the next time you have to take any type of test. The test then becomes the stimulus that triggers the feeling of anxiety within you.
The one symptom that separates anxiety from panic is the difficulty breathing and chest pain that occurs with panic attacks and often makes people feel that they are going to die. Panic attacks can occur whether anticipated or not and you are more likely to experience a second or third panic attack after you experience the first one, often causing you to fear having additional attacks.
Panic attacks are also more severe and disruptive. Panic attacks can interfere with your daily life, at home, at work, or in relationships. Panic attacks can result in a panic disorder if they continue to occur. However, not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop a panic disorder.
The causes of panic disorders are not clear, although researchers believe that they may be genetic. However, just because a member of your family has experienced panic attacks, does not mean you will also experience them.
It is believed that people often misinterpret sensations in the body as a threat, when in fact there is no threat present. From a physiological perspective, the body is believed to have a “feeling” memory and when you encounter stimuli that is like a prior uncomfortable, or threatening situation, your body will react in the same manner it did when you were under threat, but that does not mean that you are again in a dangerous situation.
The confusion of responding to bodily reactions (fear, or hypervigilance) as though one is in a dangerous situation again is what perpetuates ongoing anxiety and panic. It is the fight or flight reaction present in all of us. Instead of responding in similar, unhelpful ways, people need to learn to reprogram their nervous systems to gain control over false threat triggers.
One helpful strategy to help decrease panic symptoms is to be mindful of the thoughts you are thinking. Just as with anxiety, thoughts often will trigger an emotion and if you are feeling a specific feeling inside, it’s important to ask, “What am I thinking about right now?” If you are thinking anxious thoughts or thoughts that you feel you have no control over, this might start you down the path to anxiety or panic, and you want to stop this as quickly as possible.
You may want to also engage in deep breathing exercises by simultaneously focusing on relaxing or calming images as you breathe, reminding yourself that you feel calm and/or relaxed. If you constantly focus on what is going wrong in your life, try and shift your focus on what is going right.
Far too often, people focus on the negative aspects of life, and it might be in your best interest to focus on the good for a change. You may also want to start a gratitude journal. Identify five things you are grateful for in your life today and add one or two every day. Make it a habit to read your list every morning.
There are many ways to ward off symptoms of anxiety and panic, such as speaking to your primary physician or psychiatrist about various medications that can help with these symptoms. Common medications for anxiety, panic, and depression include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), and Benzodiazepines. To help with the physical symptoms, Beta-blockers are also used.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is also useful in addressing these symptoms, helping to focus on the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If you are struggling with these symptoms, you are not alone. Christian Counseling can help you gain more control over your life. Please call today to make a therapy appointment and begin developing the tools you need to manage these symptoms more effectively and live a more fulfilled life. You will be glad you did.
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