The world is moving faster than ever and becoming more complex. When we look around, stress is everywhere: the expression, “I’m so stressed,” has become part of our normal lexicon, and with it, higher levels of anxiety than, arguably, ever. But how much anxiety is normal, and when should someone living with anxiety seek help for their condition? Read on for answers to these questions and others….
Experiencing Some Symptoms?
We all have experienced at least some anxiety symptoms to a degree, right? Maybe you struggle with sleepless nights, excessive worry, an inability to focus or overall fatigue. The signs of stress can manifest in many ways. You may even be experiencing physical symptoms like headaches or a racing heart rate. Your symptoms may appear once in a while, as the result of a specific situation, or maybe they are consistent, creeping up on you at unexpected moments. It can be difficult to recognize the differences between stress and anxiety and whether it’s time to seek professional help for your symptoms…
So when should you seek help? When chronic symptoms occur for prolonged periods of time and affect your ability to function in your normal life, it is time to seek help from a professional. If you are unable to work consistently, maintain healthy relationships, and you experience stress-related illness, reach out for help.
Difference Between Stress and Anxiety and a Disorder
Our bodies trigger the symptoms of stress to help us through a short-term situation. Stress is triggered by a threat. It could be a threat of danger, threat of losing someone, and even the threat of failing our college class. Think back to that deadline for your college paper that you thought was impossible to meet. The stress of procrastination allowed you to stay awake for hours and focus to finish it. Symptoms of stress can also make us sick, causing insomnia, poor concentration and digestive issues. Most of the time, the symptoms of stress can be managed with deep breathing or meditation and are fairly short-term.
The following symptoms are commonly associated with stress:
- Sleep disturbance
- Back pain
- Sweaty palms or feet
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Excessive worry
- Rapid heart rate
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Decreased sexual desire
The symptoms you experience during stressful situations may change each time. Learning new coping mechanisms can help reduce the impact of stress on your body and help you get through challenges.
Anxiety is a sustained state of symptoms consistent with stress that are not necessarily situational and do not subside quickly. Rather, the symptoms persist for a long duration. People who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience excessive and disproportionate anxiety or worry for at least six months. The symptoms affect their daily lives more days than not. The following symptoms are common for those who have been diagnosed with anxiety:
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Inability to hold on to a thought
- Psychosomatic symptoms like headaches and stomachaches
- Physical symptoms like heart palpitations and sweating
- The anxiety affects daily life
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common mental health disorder in the United States and affects 6.8 million adults each year. Women are twice as likely to be affected and the onset of the disorder is gradual, although the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.
Effects of Ignoring Symptoms
Several studies have shown that stress has negative effects on overall health. Chronic stress disrupts every symptom in your body. Prolonged or frequent stress can suppress your immune system, making you susceptible to illness and infection. It also accelerates the body’s aging process. Stress is known to increase the likelihood of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and high blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that frequent, high levels of stress can even rewire our brains, making us more likely to experience mental illness challenges in the future.
One of the dangers of stress is that we can begin to adjust to stress. Symptoms of stress can become easier to ignore because they begin to feel “normal.” It may be difficult, over time, to realize the impact of the effects of stress until it is too late. That is why it is important to pay attention to your body and never ignore the symptoms of stress.
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it’s important to know your body and how much stress you are able to endure and still remain healthy. The level of stress that is “too much” is different for each person. Some people handle stress with ease, while others crumble when faced with obstacles or frustrations. Some people, like Wall Street investors and race car drivers, thrive on the thrill of high-stress lifestyles.
Factors that influence your individual level of stress tolerance include:
- Having a support system. A strong network of supportive friends and family members can help enormously when coping with stress.
- Sense of control. People who have confidence in their ability to persevere through challenges tend to cope with stress better.
- Outlook on life. The way you view life and the inevitable challenges you will face makes a difference in your ability to handle stress.
- Managing emotions. When you have the tools to calm and soothe yourself during times of sadness, you’re less likely to become stressed and agitated.
Understanding when to seek help for anxiety is important for your ongoing overall health.
Could the Symptoms Be Caused by Something Else?
The onset of stress can occur as the result of a minor event or something much bigger. If you find that your stress is unmanageable, there could be other things going on in your life or with your body that are elevating your stress levels.
In the weeks following a trauma, you may struggle to manage stress levels of daily life. This is often diagnosed as acute stress disorder (ASD). Symptoms are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and persist for weeks, months, and even for years. It is widely accepted that up to eight percent of the population experiences PTSD at some point in their lives.
Experiencing an injury, especially one that changes your daily life functions can cause extreme stress. Learning how to recover from an injury and cope with the resulting stress can complicate healing and overall health. Injuries that limit mobility or change the way we handle bodily functions can lead to stress and depression.
Chronic Health Concerns
There is much discussion about how stress can cause various illnesses and diseases, but it works the other way as well. People who are diagnosed with chronic illness can quickly develop symptoms of high stress. Stress-related symptoms compound the existing health concern and cause complications.
Should You Get Diagnosed?
Learning to cope with stress is a learning process. What works for another may not work for you. It is important to try to mitigate your own stress methods for self-help for anxiety:
- Relaxation breathing
- Practice mindfulness
- Daily exercising
- Engage in creative activities
- Listen to music
When these coping measures fail, it may be time to seek professional help. When your stress levels impede your ability to get out of bed, go to work, and enjoy time with friends and family, talking with a mental health professional and possibly receiving a diagnosis can help. Once you schedule an appointment with a mental health professional, you will be assessed for anxiety disorders. The benefit of a diagnosis is that you will then be able to form a treatment plan that puts you on the path to feeling better.
A few treatment options may be:
- Lifestyle adjustments
- Natural help for anxiety
Fears of Being Diagnosed
The prospect of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder can be enough to keep some people from ever seeking much-needed treatment and finding a healthy resolution to their chronic anxiety. If a potential anxiety diagnosis seems scary or carries a heavy stigma, remember you are not alone. Millions of people have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders— and, thanks to professional help, have gone on to experience a much better, more manageable life with treatment. As more people are becoming vocal about their experiences with anxiety disorders, the stigma is fading. (After all, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in this country.) There is tremendous strength in seeking help for anxiety and actively improving your life.
A Better Life Is Possible
If you are struggling to manage the stress in your life and think that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out for free help for anxiety. Contact us today by calling (866) 653-6220. Our compassionate team of counselors are standing by to speak with you 24/7. Don’t live another day in crippling anxiety when relief is only a phone call away.