We’ve all had those weeks when we feel overly tired, can’t sleep and feel down but aren’t entirely sure why. There’s a looming feeling of unease, but there doesn’t seem to be a source. Then, a vicious cycle of sleep anxiety takes over. An individual can’t sleep, which makes them anxious, and that anxiety causes more insomnia.
It’s essential to distinguish if these are “off” weeks or if they’re symptoms of a larger disorder. Have the feelings lasted past a week? Or are the emotions starting to occur more and more often? If so, these signs might be more aligned with an anxiety disorder than simply a bad week.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is a perfectly normal and healthy reaction. It’s the body’s response to high levels of stress or discomfort. Anxiety can be beneficial, as it can alert an individual to potential danger and make them more aware.
Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are a mental health condition. This disorder occurs when a person feels excessive fear or stress about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders can reach such feelings of intense panic or terror that they result in a panic attack.
Telltale Signs of Anxiety Disorder
There are differing types of anxiety disorders, such as:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
Sleep Anxiety & Other Common Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder are:
- Feeling tense, nervous, or restless all the time
- Feeling high levels of stress and sleeplessness
- Having a constant sense of impending doom, panic or danger
- Scaring easily
- Frequently having an increased heart rate
- Unexplained sweating and trembling
- Feeling tired and weak
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than your present worry
- Insomnia (sleep anxiety)
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
- Inability to control your level of worry
- Avoiding people, places, or things that you think will trigger your anxiety
Sleeping and anxiety are especially closely tied to each other. Unfortunately, as individuals experience high anxiety levels, they have difficulty calming down enough to get a restful sleep. This starts a terrible cycle, as individuals who aren’t getting enough sleep are more prone to being tense and getting anxious all over again.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
It’s not completely clear what causes anxiety disorders. If a person is already prone to anxiety, a traumatic event can trigger an anxiety disorder. Additionally, inherited traits and a family history of anxiety disorders can make some people more susceptible. For some individuals, an anxiety disorder can be caused by another underlying health condition. Some medical problems that have been linked to increased anxiety or anxiety disorders are:
- Heart disease and heart conditions
- Thyroid conditions (hyperthyroidism)
- Respiratory disorders (asthma, COPD)
- Drug abuse or drug withdrawal
- Withdrawal from drugs, alcohol, medications and anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines)
- Chronic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Rare tumors that produce specific fight-or-flight hormones
Lastly, an anxiety disorder can sometimes be triggered as a side effect of a medication.
Seeking Professional Help
It’s essential to understand that displaying one of these symptoms is not an automatic diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Additionally, if you’re experiencing these symptoms during an incredibly stressful time in your life, you could just have anxiety and not necessarily a disorder. Anxiety disorder diagnoses commonly require multiple symptoms, and these symptoms have to be reoccurring or constant.
Ultimately, you need to seek professional treatment to receive a confirmed diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. You’ll want to do this anyway to clarify your situation, rule out other medical explanations for your symptoms and begin a treatment plan.
Anxiety Disorders & Treatment
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders. In fact, nearly 30% of adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. The good news is that anxiety disorders are completely treatable. There are many effective treatment options available for individuals to consider. With proper and continued treatment, most individuals with an anxiety disorder can lead a normal, productive life.
People struggling with an anxiety disorder can choose the treatment option that best suits their preferences. Anxiety disorders can be treated with:
- Counseling: Individual counseling sessions with a medical professional to help manage daily symptoms and learn coping mechanisms.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most effective forms of treatment for anxiety disorders. Working with a therapist, the individual will learn how to spot triggering events, avoid these events and learn coping techniques.
- Exposure Therapy: If the anxiety stems from a specific fear of a thing or place, exposure therapy hopes to reduce this fear by having the person continuously confront (be exposed to) this fear.
- Medication: Medications can help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Some popular medication options include antidepressants, benzodiazepines and anti-anxiety medications.
- Meditation, Yoga and Breathing Exercises: All three of these are more natural approaches that teach an individual how to regain control of their mind and body so they can remain at peace.
- Acupuncture: Some individuals find their anxiety symptoms are reduced with acupuncture treatments.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, treatment can help you during times of high anxiety in your life. If you’re dealing with high amounts of stress, seeking counseling, considering medication, taking up yoga, journaling or increasing your exercise can help calm you.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Anxiety
Anxiety can have health impacts if left unaddressed. Long-term anxiety and the stress it produces can result in severe health conditions such as depression, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and even personality disorders.
Anxiety disorders can cause such fear and panic in people that their quality of life is impacted. For example, an individual with a social anxiety disorder might stop seeing friends and family and may not be able to go into their place of work anymore. If these disorders aren’t addressed early on, the symptoms and side effects can develop and become more severe.
FHE Health Can Help
The first step is to receive a diagnosis. If you do in fact have an anxiety disorder, you can then move on to one of the many effective treatment options out there. FHE Health specializes in mental health treatment for long-term recovery. Contact us today to book an initial consultation by calling (833) 596-3502.