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Feelings of anxiety are a normal part of life. Everyday experiences like public speaking, an important meeting at work, or a high-stakes conversation can produce feelings of anxiety. Even mundane events like shopping, running errands, going to school, or driving a car can cause anxiety.

Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the US, with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affecting 6.8 million adults in any given year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a group of symptoms including excessive worry about multiple topics most of the time for at least 6 months, feeling that it is hard to control the worry, and three or more of the following symptoms restlessness, irritability, fatigue, trouble with concentration, muscle tension/aches, difficulty with sleep. There are several different types of anxiety disorders including Obsessive compulsive disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Panic disorder, Social anxiety disorder, Adjustment disorder with anxiety, and phobias.

 

What Causes Anxiety?

Anxiety is how our bodies react to unfamiliar, stressful, or dangerous situations. The heightened alertness is part of the body’s “fight or flight” response. The anxiety reaction is intended to make sure we’re aware of and prepared to respond to nearby threats.

Anxiety disorders cause you to experience physical and emotional reactions out of proportion to the perceived threat. When those feelings of anxiety persist long after the potential threat has passed, particularly if the feelings continue to the point where you no longer feel in control of your emotions, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

 

9 Things That Make Anxiety Worse

It’s important to realize that anxiety can be the result of a gradual build-up of negative experiences over time, as well as a sudden, immediate event. Unpleasant emotions, like stress, frustration, physical or emotional insecurity, or other negative emotions can accumulate over time, resulting in an anxious episode.

There is a clear connection between external events and anxiety. The good news: that means you have some control over these external events and can choose to recover from stressors. To better manage your anxiety symptoms, try to prioritize what situations are most meaningful for you to be a part of, make time for relaxation, fun, interesting activities to recover from stress, and make a plan for how to take breaks and focus your attention to manage anxiety in the situations that can increase anxiety feelings.

Here are 9 things that make your anxiety worse:

Social situations

help for depressionNearly everyone experiences some level of anxiety from social situations. It could be going to a large party, meeting new people for the first time (perhaps at said party), or a work or school event. Not all social events are avoidable, and it would be a poor decision to avoid them altogether, so your best strategy is to acknowledge the situation up front and recognize you will experience some anxiety.

Decide which social situations are most important to you to participate in and use strategies to manage stress before and after the events. Taking short breaks and then returning to the social situation can be effective. Remember, avoiding situations in which you are having a larger than is helpful anxiety response will just make the anxiety bigger and more in control of your life. We can take control back from anxiety by gradually building confidence in facing situations that cause anxiety with a plan to manage the stress. This retrains your brain that the situation is not dangerous.

Remember – if the situation is dangerous, our anxiety response is appropriate and helpful. Anxiety is there to get you to avoid dangerous situations, but sometimes anxiety gets attached to non-dangerous situations and then avoiding those situations narrows our life experiences and places anxiety in more control of our choices and behaviors.

Financial concerns

Financial concerns have a way of grinding at us day after day, producing a slow building but constant form of anxiety. Struggling to pay bills, worrying about a job loss, or finding yourself unable to make ends meet each month can create a large dose of worry and anxiety.

Caffeine

Caffeine increases heart rate, which can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Cutting back on sources of caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks and colas) can help reduce anxiety.

Medications

Some medications can produce feelings of anxiety. Certain ingredients in medications can produce unsettling feelings, leading to uneasy thoughts. If you suspect your medication may be increasing your anxiety, speak with your doctor. There may be an equally effective alternate medication that uses a different formulation.

Interpersonal conflict

Whether you experience conflict at work with a boss, co-worker, or difficult customer, or conflict in relationships at home, the link between interpersonal conflict and anxiety is clear. To the extent possible, try to address conflict with an assertive, clear approach. Avoiding conflict can contribute to anxiety when underlying issues remain unresolved.

Negative internal talk track

Your own thoughts may be betraying you. A negative internal talk track, full of self-critical observations and pessimism, can increase anxiety. Work to redirect negative thought patterns as a way to decrease anxiety. Choosing to turn attention from focusing on the negative to focusing on more neutral topics, or even things that are going well can help.

Poor diet/gastrointestinal issues

There is a close connection between the gut and anxious or fearful feelings. When we experience anxiety, we often feel it in our gut in the form of “butterflies in our stomach” or a sinking feeling. On the other hand, a poor diet and gastrointestinal issues can worsen anxiety.

Stress

While several of the items on this list can contribute to stress (social situations, financial worries, or conflict), stress can come from a variety of situations. Even pleasant occasions can cause stress (think spending the holidays with family). Stress can be particularly damaging when you feel unable to control the cause or amount of stress. Focusing on recovering from stress on a regular basis by engaging in fun, interesting, relaxing activities can help relieve the buildup of stress that accumulates daily.

Major life changes

Getting married, changing jobs, moving to a new house, having a baby, or going through a divorce can all be significant anxiety triggers. Even when the event is a happy one (switching to a better job or having a baby, for example), the accumulation of new emotions and situations can cause anxiety. Due to the nature of these major life events, they cannot be simply avoided, so having a good coping strategies in place is an important preparation step. Finding ways to incorporate regular time to recharge and relax and being patient with yourself as you adapt to the life change can help.

 

Treatment For Anxiety

Anxiety can be treated with lifestyle changes, medication, therapy, ketamine and interventional psychiatric procedures, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS). Although TMS is principally used to treat depression, it is also FDA-approved for other treatments including anxious depression (which is a distinct diagnosis from generalized anxiety disorder), OCD, and smoking cessation.

The treatment of generalized anxiety disorder using TMS is relatively new, and the FDA has not yet approved generalized anxiety disorder as a principal diagnosis for TMS treatment. However, results from research studies and clinical observation are promising. Many patients with anxiety also suffer from depression, and the two conditions can be treated concurrently with TMS.

Anxiety Treatment at Ampelis Health

At Ampelis Health, we carefully consider each patient’s unique situation in order to develop a customized treatment plan. Our psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners have multiple, effective treatment options available for patients with anxiety disorders. Treatment options may include medication, TMS, or a combination of treatments in order to achieve the desired relief.

If you or someone you love is experiencing anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition, please call us today at 435-776-5909 or submit an appointment request. We look forward to helping you achieve a happier, more meaningful life!

 

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