Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Surprising Things that Increase Anxiety

We all feel anxious at one time or another. A big test in school. A meeting with the boss. A confrontation with your spouse. Any and all of those things can make a person feel anxious.

There are those people that go beyond "natural" anxiety and actually have an anxiety disorder. I'm one of those people. I have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. I also have OCD, Panic Disorder, and PTSD. Those are also anxiety disorders.

What are they, you ask?

Well, let's consult WebMD or Wikipedia, if you would prefer.

Anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination.[2] It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over something unlikely to happen, such as the feeling of imminent death.[3] Anxiety is not the same asfear, which is felt about something realistically intimidating or dangerous and is an appropriate response to a perceived threat;[4] anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and uneasiness, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.[5] It is often accompanied by restlessness, fatigue, problems in concentration, and muscular tension. Anxiety is not considered to be a normal reaction to a perceived stressor although many feel it occasionally.

What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?
There are several recognized types of anxiety disorders, including:
  • Panic disorder: People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attackinclude sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or "going crazy."
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions. An example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and tend to be emotionally numb.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
  • Specific phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
Do you recognize any of these in you or someone you know?

What about symptoms?

Symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
  • Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences
  • Nightmares
  • Ritualistic behaviors, such as repeated hand washing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • An inability to be still and calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness

Do you know that not just social situations can cause anxiety? iVillage has come up with a list of very surprising ways that cause anxiety triggers in a person. Most are controllable. Let's see them in detail.

Food additives: Aspartame, food coloring, dyes 
Many people report mood swings and anxiety after ingesting man-made sweeteners, like aspartame and high fructose corn syrup, food dyes (including Red #40 and Yellow #5) and flavorings like MSG. Direct links between artificial food additives and mood are still under investigation though they've been implicated as a cause of ADHD and autism in children. The fact is that dyes and artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins that can disrupt normal nervous system function, leading to increased symptoms of anxiety.

Over the counter drugs and supplements 
Medicines that contain caffeine, including several headache and migraine relievers, some cough medicines, decongestants, asthma medications and weight-loss supplements that includes stimulants, can lead to increased heart rates and a spike in feelings of anxiety. Popular herbal remedies and supplements like St. John's Wort, ginseng and kava kava may also cause or increase unease.

Food sensitivities 
Symptoms of food sensitivity can range from digestive issues like stomach pain to difficulty breathing. While both of these problems can cause anxiety, there's also increasing evidence that food sensitivities affect mood directly as well. Gluten, soy, dairy -- even chocolate -- can impact hormones lelvels and other key chemicals in the brain, upsetting the delicate balance needed to keep the body and mind in control of anxiousness.

Skipping meals 
In our harried, stressful world, skipping a meal here and there is all too common. What's more, many people who are anxious and stressed may feel they have no appetite or simply lack the desire to eat. But for most people used to regular meals, skipping meals causes a drop in the body's blood sugar levels. If prolonged, this drop may lead to increased feelings of anxiety and irritability. Other anxiety-provoking effects of low blood sugar are dizziness, light-headedness, confusion and weakness.

A 2009 study at Tufts University found a clear link between hydration and mood. The study found that student athletes who were just mildly dehydrated reported feeling angry, confused, tense and fatigued. Staying hydrated is essential to keeping the body's physiological functions running smoothly, including speeding the healing process and removing toxins. Drinking enough water daily may be one of the easiest ways to help the body control its nerves.

Millions of people rely on a regular caffeine fix to jump start their day or to perk up when their energy nosedives. But too much is no good. "Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder" is actually a recognized condition found in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the "bible" used by mental health experts throughout the United States. As most people are aware, too much caffeine can cause a racing heartbeat, which can trigger a panic attack. And while a little caffeine can improve one's ability to focus, too much may increase nervousness and a host of anxiety symptoms, like sweating palms, ringing in the ears, even feelings of impending doom.

Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol 
Relying on smoking, drinking or using drugs to feel calmer can backfire. Nicotine is a stimulant that studies have shown can raise blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke also may cause breathing problems that the body responds to as if it's suffocating, increasing the likelihood of panic attacks. As for alcohol and drugs, people suffering from an anxiety disorder are two to three times more likely to abuse these than the general population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Both alcohol and drugs can lead to panic attacks and their disruptive effect on the central nervous system limits the brain's ability to calm the mind and body.

Nutrient deficiencies 
Make sure you eat your vitamins! B complex, C and E vitamins play important roles in nervous system function, and B vitamins particularly affect mood and metabolism. Magnesium is known to help relieve stress, thus a deficiency in this mineral may lead to irritability and apathy. Selenium, an antioxidant essential to the efficient function of neurotransmitters in the brain, helps control mood. And according to a 2006 study, people with lower levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were also at increased risk of anxiety.

As we age, we face multiple stresses that can bring on bouts of anxiety. Life events such as health changes, memory problems, the death of a spouse or even a seemingly happy change like retirement, can all be stress-provoking. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation estimates that 10-to-20 percent of older adults suffer from anxiety, although many go untreated because they may not recognize the symptoms.

Negative thinking 
Many therapists stress that persistent negative thinking really does have a harmful effect on our emotional well-being. Ever hear of automatic negative thoughts (or ANT’s)? These are quick, unconscious, off-the-cuff criticisms that the mind churns out when faced with stressful situations. "Why did I do that?" "Why am I so dumb?" and other negative self-criticisms wreak havoc on your emotional state. The good news is that a therapist can help you identify these ANT’s and reduce the power they have on your psyche.

Unconscious cues
A song, smell or location can be unconsciously linked to a bad feeling or memory, which can be problematic. This is perhaps most common in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (where, for example, a soldier hearing a loud bang may associate the sound with gunfire and thus become anxious), but it can occur in other types of anxiety as well. Identifying anxiety-provoking unconscious cues on your own can be difficult. However, with the help of a therapist it's possible to untangle this complicated process and put negative thoughts in their place.
To help control your anxiety or identify the triggers, you can go to this guide for more information. There are many things you can do to help yourself ease your anxiety or identify it and avoid it altogether.

Here are 11 Tips to Help Manage Anxiety at PsychCentral.

From Anxiety and Depression Association of America are tips to manage stress and anxiety.

For me, distraction is my biggest trick to help me alleviate stress or anxiety. I find something to occupy my mind that will push the anxiety away. One way to distract myself is to read God's word.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

What do you do to help alleviate your anxiety?

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