Mental Health Highlight: Anxiety

Mental Health Highlight: Anxiety

For Mental Health Month, we wanted to highlight a few different mental health conditions that you have probably heard of, but may have questions about. This week, we’re talking about anxiety.

What is anxiety?
In a general sense, anxiety refers to any feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease. Everyone experiences anxious feelings from time to time, but when these feelings begin to get in the way of your everyday life, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders involve excessive feelings of fear or worry, which can cause unwanted emotional or behavioral responses. Other mental health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorders or impulse control disorders (such as trichotillomania) can also fall under the category of anxiety disorders. While not directly under the category of anxiety disorders, some mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other trauma and stress disorders can sometimes include some of the same symptoms as anxiety disorders.

How common is anxiety?
If you’re dealing with anxiety, you’re not alone. Around 40 million adults in the U.S., or about one in five people, have an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness in America.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are some common symptoms to look for:

  • General feelings of nervousness or tension
  • Feeling a sense of imminent danger, panic, or doom
  • Physical symptoms like faster heartbeat, sweating, shaking, a weak or tired feeling, or stomach/GI upset
  • Difficulty focusing on other things besides what you’re currently worried about
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to control feelings of worry
  • Avoidance of anxiety provoking things or situations

What different treatments are available for anxiety?
There are a wide variety of proven treatment methods for anxiety. Just like different people experience anxiety differently, different people can also find different treatments for anxiety helpful.

Treatment for anxiety falls into three main categories: psychotherapy, medication, and complementary or alternative therapies. Psychotherapy is a broad term used to describe a number of different therapeutic approaches, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and more. Medication can also be prescribed, often alongside these different psychotherapy treatments, for maximum effectiveness. Alternative therapies include things like mindfulness meditation or yoga that can be helpful in conjunction with other treatments.

Despite being the most common mental illness diagnosis in the U.S., and being very treatable, only about ⅓ of people suffering from anxiety disorders ever seek treatment. Barriers to seeking help can include anything from cost to stigma to lack of treatment availability in one’s area.

Now more than ever, there are many different options to help overcome these barriers, including using technology tools like mobile apps to help manage symptoms of anxiety.

How does Pacifica help with anxiety?
Pacifica’s tools are based on several of the different methods listed above, including CBT and mindfulness meditation. CBT tells us that our thoughts cause feelings which cause actions, and that by changing our thinking, we can change the way we feel and behave as a result. Pacifica’s thought recording tools are one example of a method that can be used in this treatment for anxiety.

Additionally, Pacifica’s guided audio mindfulness meditations can help with relaxation and learning different ways to cope with anxiety.

How can I help someone that’s struggling with anxiety?
We’ve said it a couple times already, but it bears repeating, everyone experiences anxiety differently, so there are many different ways to help if someone you care about is dealing with an anxiety disorder. The best way to find out how to best help is to ask. Oftentimes being there for someone to listen and support them is the most helpful thing you can do.

Exposure to anxiety provoking things and situations is a big part of overcoming anxiety. You can help by gently holding someone accountable for continuing to work on this, and by encouraging (but not pushing) someone to step out of their comfort zone and face their fears a little at a time. However, being conscious of not being a crutch for someone as they begin to confront their anxiety is also important.

Have another question about anxiety? Call in to our podcast, “Your Mind Matters” and ask! Call (415) 855-0553 and leave us a message with your question.