It’s a question that’s been asked for years: is anxiety a mental illness? Though there is no clear-cut answer, recent research has shed some light on the matter. Here’s what we know so far.
Defining anxiety and its symptoms
Anxiety is a common emotion that everyone experiences in various situations, however when persistent it can become a disorder. It is usually described as a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension, accompanied by physical symptoms like increased heart rate, shortness of breath, tense muscles and restlessness. People with anxiety may exhibit avoidance behaviour, difficulty concentrating or sleeping and an inability to control worrying thoughts. In certain cases it can even lead to panic attacks. In these instances it is essential to seek medical help from professionals who can diagnose and treat anxiety effectively.
How anxiety affects daily life
Anxiety is very difficult to grapple with and can deeply affect our everyday lives. It causes us to worry excessively, focus too much on the negative and make it hard for us to focus and be productive. This often translates into difficulty in social interactions and at work or school as we are constantly in an overwhelmed state, unable to think clearly or complete tasks efficiently. Taking time out for self-care is essential for people who suffer from anxiety and spending time alone doing activities that bring them peace can help improve productivity. A mental health professional can provide strategies to manage the symptoms of anxiety so that the person struggling with it can live a more productive, normal life.
The difference between anxiety and other mental illnesses
Anxiety is an emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It’s a feeling of nervousness, fear or uneasiness about an event in the future and can be a healthy response to danger. However, when the level of anxiety becomes disproportionate or chronically presents itself, it may become classified as an anxiety disorder. While this could be likened to other mental illnesses like depression or personality disorders, they are in fact very different things. Depending on the severity, symptoms of anxiety include chest tightness, palpitations and excessive worrying while depression manifests itself through feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, being isolated and loss of interest in hobbies or activities. Personality disorders often carry distinct behaviors like anti-social behavior, avoidance of social contact and difficulties with self-identity whereas this is not seen in an individual experiencing anxiety. It’s important to recognize when emotions raise their head so you can get help if necessary.
Seeking help for anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating, forcing a person to retreat from daily activities and into their own internal world of fear and worry. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available for those suffering from an anxiety disorder. Seeking help is the first step to managing the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as intense feelings of distress or panic, insomnia, or unwanted compulsions. Talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional is usually recommended; this could include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing habits that may be exacerbating symptoms. In addition to individual talk therapy, group counseling may also provide invaluable support and guidance during treatment. Medication may also be prescribed by a physician to reduce anxious thoughts and physical reactions associated with stress. With dedicated effort and consistent help from trained professionals, recovery from an anxiety disorder is possible.