While once believed to be nothing more than an inability to cope with stressors, anxiety has become part of daily life for the majority of the population. Anxiety has grown to be the most significant mental health disorder in America and closely follows depression as the primary cause of suicide and self-injurious behaviors. Additionally, it has been recently described as 800% more prevalent than cancer. The devastation of cancer is easily understood, but many fail to understand how anxiety affects and influences life.
What Is Anxiety?
The hallmarks of anxiety remain a paralyzing fear about a given thought, situation, or action. The range in severity from mild to severe, and nearly every person has experienced it. This can actually result in extreme, short periods of increased cardiovascular activity, or a panic attack, which may feel like a heart attack. An attack results in rapid heart rate, increased respiration rate, racing thoughts, and inability to act appropriately.
Unlike cancer, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of treatment options available. The primary means of treatment is identification of its causes. Anxiety may be the result of a co-occurring mental health disorder, or changes in work, school, or familial environments and responsibilities. When the anxiety is a symptom of another health condition, the underlying condition requires concurrent treatment. Psychotherapy and medications may be used to control the symptoms while the cause is being addressed. Anti-anxiety medications can alleviate the symptoms temporarily, but excess use of anti-anxiety medications result in tolerance and dependency. As the use of medications for anxiety increases, the body grows to need the medications to function on a daily basis. There are several other natural and holistic methods that can be applied as well, from home remedies as simple as chamomile tea to mind/body routines and meditation. Several studies have linked meditation to lessen the effects of anxiety over time and would be the recommended first step for those suffering from minor issues.
Coping With Stressors
Anything can trigger the worry, which includes stressors from religious beliefs, legal problems, final exams for students, and financial problems. Since the cause of anxiety identifies the appropriate treatment, developing a healthy way to deal with these stressors is crucial to ending the problems. Some healthy coping strategies may include journaling, exercising, spending time with family and friends, caring for pets, spending time outdoors, arts and crafts, taking up a new hobby, reading, seeing a movie, visiting the store, and gardening. Unhealthy coping strategies refer to the use of alcohol, drugs, or other illicit substances to deal with the problems. Additionally, avoiding the stressor entirely, especially if it concerns school, work, or legal responsibilities, is an ineffective coping strategy.
The world is full of things to worry about, including cancer. However, anxiety affects more people than all forms of cancer combined. Fortunately, it can be overcome by understanding its causes, treatment, and prevention through healthy coping strategies.