Why do we have anxiety and how to cope with it?

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the world. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects around 18% of the whole U.S adult population or 40 million people. Crazy right? 

As mentioned previously, anxiety symptoms affect us all at some point in our lives, but they usually disappear when the source of our anxiety vanishes. But for some, anxiety is a real illness and affects their ability to function and live a healthy life. The sad reality is that less than 40% of those people suffering from anxiety seek professional help, yet it is a highly treatable mental health problem. I believe that so many people don’t get professional help due to the fact that every individual has faced the symptoms of anxiety at some point. People assume that it is normal and that they don’t need help. 

But let me tell you – whatever makes you feel like you cannot live a healthy and active life or makes you unhappy is not normal. Even though there are external (out of our control) factors that impact our lives, improving our lives or seeking help is our choice and IS in our control.

My story.

I have been dealing with OCD most of my life. It is one of the 5 types of anxiety disorders that will be discussed later in the post. I can recognise different OCD symptoms in myself. For example, obsession with round numbers (when I use my Apple Watch to log my exercise, I cannot stop it at 12:58. I will wait for it to be 13:00) or fear of germs (I wash my hands countless times a day). Luckily, it is not severe and does not impact my ability to work, have relationships with people or my everyday activities. But I am always keeping track of my symptoms to see if they are not getting more severe as time goes on. 

The cause and types of anxiety.

Since so many people are suffering from this mental health problem, let’s look at the causes of it. What triggers anxiety? 

There are 5 main types of anxiety, but all of them share the same trigger/ cause – fear. Fear is necessary. It keeps us safe. It acts as a defense mechanism against danger and forces us to pay attention to a certain situation. But when it is excessive, then it becomes a problem. 

The 5 types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Panic disorder. This can be triggered by fear or can just occur for no reason. Panic attacks can be severe and people experience different combinations of symptoms, like, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea. 
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder. A person experiences excessive worry. One that interferes with their daily activities or relationships. The symptoms include feeling uneasy, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and fatigue. 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is related to obsessive, repetitive thoughts (obsessions) or obsessive, repetitive behaviours (compulsions). With compulsion, a person tends to do repetitive activities to make obsessive thoughts go away, for instance, washing hands or arranging things in perfect order. 
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It develops after a horrifying experience where the individual has suffered grave physical or emotional harm. 
  • Social Phobia. It occurs in everyday social situations. It is usually caused by the fear of embarrassment or humiliation. For example, it can be a fear of public speaking. 

How can you cope and treat anxiety?

If you are diagnosed with any of the listed anxiety disorders or you feel that you may be suffering from anxiety, then there are a few things that you can do to cope with it and treat it altogether. 

To cope with anxiety…

1. Keep an anxiety journal. It is a great method to take notes of your daily moods, anxiety symptoms and triggers. It can help you to understand the root cause of your anxiety which is the first step in the treatment process. My anxiety journal can be purchased on Amazon.

2. Find an activity that calms your symptoms. Some of the most effective approaches to cope with anxiety symptoms include doodling and colouring. Whenever you start to feel stressed or experience any physical symptoms, take a pencil/pen and start doodling random shapes or everyday objects. It will shift your focus. Anxiety is a mental disorder. Therefore, it is all in your head. Even if you experience physical symptoms, these are triggered by your mental processes. 

To treat anxiety…

The only way to treat anxiety is to seek professional help. Both of the coping approaches that I have suggested can be helpful for you to learn more about your triggers, symptoms and sources of your anxiety or ease your symptoms in a short term, but it is not a solution or a substitute to a professional treatment.