Worry versus anxiety
Mona Amini, MD is a psychiatry resident physician at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. Her office can be reached at (602) 839-6800.
Question: My brother is an attorney and has always been a “worry-wart,” but it’s getting worse. He worries about things that are out of his control, can’t sleep, has regular tension headaches, says he feels heart flutters, and even complains of being short of breath. Is it possible that his work is just catching up with him?
Answer: Anxiety can be a normal reaction to someone under stress, whether it is related to work, school, dangerous situations or more. However, these feelings should not be experienced on a daily basis, lead to physical symptoms, or cause someone to stop doing things they once enjoyed. Though you describe your brother as someone who has a history of worrying, his symptoms may be signaling the onset of an anxiety disorder.
Individuals who face tremendous stress as work may be more vulnerable to severe anxiety that could potentially lead to a true anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorder may include increased nervousness and worries that seem out of character for the individual, worrisome feelings that are difficult to control or stop, feeling on edge, becoming tired easily, irritability, muscle tension, an inability to concentrate, and sleep issues such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting restful sleep.
The severity of someone’s anxiety is considered higher than normal when symptoms are experienced at least a few days a week over a period of six months or longer.
While the stress of work may worsen a person’s natural tendency to worry, it is possible that other factors may be causing an increase in anxiety. For instance, the physiological changes that come with an increase or withdrawal from caffeine and/or alcohol may also aggravate symptoms of anxiety.
If symptoms do not improve or continue to worsen, seek help from a mental health professional who is trained in assisting individuals in coping with anxiety through a wide range of methods, including therapy, relaxation techniques and medication.