Anxiety & Stress

If you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone. In fact, anxiety disorders are widely recognized as the most common form of mental illness in the United States. They affect millions of adults in the United States each year. Luckily, anxiety disorders are highly treatable. 

The experts at Banner Health are here to help with excellent care to manage and treat anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the sense of uneasiness, dread or distress one feels before a stressful, dangerous or unfamiliar event or situation. A certain level of anxiety in the body can help us stay alert and aware, but if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, that feeling can be debilitating and interfere with daily life. 

Anxiety doesn’t look the same for everyone. There are several different kinds of anxiety-related disorders that are divided into the following categories:

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by either a general feeling of excessive fear, such as an emotional response to a perceived or real threat, or general anxiety, such as worrying about a future threat. This constant fear and worry can lead to negative emotional and behavioral consequences such as stress or exhaustion.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and other related disorders are characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts that trigger related compulsive behaviors. These behaviors are performed to relieve the anxiety that is associated with the obsessive thoughts.

Trauma and Stressor Disorders

These disorders are related to the experience of trauma, such as a car accident, or a stressor, such as divorce or starting college.

Anxiety disorders that fall into all three of these categories include:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Agoraphobia

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Feeling nervous
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • An increased heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) issues
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Having trouble controlling worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

If you think you show signs of anxiety, talk to your doctor.

Screenings and Diagnosis for Anxiety

Sometimes, anxiety can be related to a medical condition. Your primary care provider can check for signs of an underlying medical condition or medications that could be causing your anxiety. If your doctor suspects a medical condition could be the cause, they may order a blood or urine test.

In cases of severe anxiety, your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist who can help diagnose and treat your condition. In order to diagnose an anxiety disorder, your mental health specialist may give you a psychological questionnaire or check your symptoms based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatments for Anxiety

There are two main treatments for anxiety disorders:

Psychotherapy

Commonly known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, this treatment option includes working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. This type of therapy focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and encouraging you to gradually return to activities you avoided because of anxiety.

Medications

In some cases, several types of medications are used to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Medication and psychotherapy can be used together as an effective treatment for certain anxiety disorders.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s physical, mental and/or emotional reaction to a change that requires adjustment. Stress is a normal part of life and can be experienced from your environment, body and thoughts.

The difference between stress and anxiety is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation, while anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

The signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • General aches and pains
  • Grinding teeth and/or clenched jaw
  • Headaches
  • Increase or loss of appetite
  • Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
  • Dizziness or a general feeling of “being out of it”
  • Problems sleeping
  • Muscle tension in the neck, face or shoulders
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Racing heart
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Diarrhea or upset stomach
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Cold and sweaty palms

Screenings and Diagnosis for Stress

Your doctor will be able to diagnose stress based on your symptoms and by asking a few questions. Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of stress.

Stress Treatments

Stress is a normal part of life that can’t be fully treated. However, there are ways to manage stress to help you lead a happy and healthy life, including:

  • Accepting that there are events you cannot control
  • Keeping a positive attitude
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or tai-chi
  • Learning time management skills
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating well-balanced and healthy meals
  • Setting limits and saying no to requests that create stress
  • Making time for hobbies and interests
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Seeking treatment with a mental health professional

Sexual Dysfunctions and Anxiety

Anxiety can prevent or inhibit the autonomic nervous system, which in turn, prevents physical arousal. Anxiety can affect sexual arousal for people in a variety of ways. In some instances, anxiety can increase arousal or even lead to sexual arousal by fear or threat.

Phobias

Phobias are an excessive and irrational fear reaction to something specific. People with phobias can experience a deep sense of dread or panic when facing the source of their fear, such as a certain place, situation or object. Depending on the severity, symptoms of phobias can range from mild annoyances to severely disabling.

Learn more about phobias here.

Although stress and anxiety are normal parts of life, they can sometimes be debilitating and interfere with daily life. The compassionate team at Banner Health is here to help you manage your anxiety disorder and get back to living life to the fullest.