Lately, anxiety has been a major focus in the field of mental health. The media is highlighting increased levels of anxiety in our children and in ourselves. Anxiety is seen in our schools, place of employment, in our homes, and many other places. So why the increase in this emotion? Recent research has found a correlation between increased anxiety and social media, screen time, and rising levels of responsibility in our daily lives. Furthermore, researchers are finding increased correlations between clinically significant levels of anxiety and decreased academic achievement, lower numbers in academic graduation, and a decrease in meeting daily expectations of employers and home responsibilities.
With such an alarming rate in rising anxiety levels, what can you do to protect yourself or your child from what seems to be a trending epidemic? There are many different forms of treatment for anxiety; some effective, others, not so much. Before scanning every search engine for the best treatment (if that was your first response you probably have anxiety), take a moment to identify the emotion(s) you are experiencing.
Identify the symptoms of anxiety.
Many people experience anxiety everyday of their lives and don’t realize it. Anxiety can be mistaken for depression, fear, nervousness, or other intense emotions. It is not uncommon for anxiety to be part of a com-morbid (dual) diagnosis, or to be misdiagnosed for another disorder. A Salt City Mental Health clinician can provide specialized expertise to help you identify your anxiety and determine if it meets criteria for a diagnosable disorder.
If you are unsure you need to meet with a therapist but feel like something is off with yourself or your child, here is a list of symptoms that may help you identify any anxiety that you are experiencing.
- Feeling keyed up or on edge
- Increased heart rate
- Increased rate in breathing
- Holding or shortness of breath
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feeling a need to escape
- Mind wandering or going blank
- Depersonalization (feeling disconnected from your body)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality)
- Feelings of tingling or numbness
- Chest pain
- In children, symptoms of anxiety often present as irritability.
Many of these symptoms can be experienced daily and almost always have underlying triggers. A good way to identify symptoms of anxiety is by practicing a Mindfulness skill known as Observe, Describe, Participate. Here’s how it works. Observe the emotion in your body by noticing the physical sensations you are experiencing. Allow your thoughts to come and try not to judge them. Describe you experience. Tell yourself, out loud, what you are experiencing and how it feels. Participate in the moment by allowing yourself to experience any emotion that comes. Try to remove any judgement and be very objective.
Identify what is triggering your anxiety.
Now that you know how to identify the physical symptoms of anxiety, it is a good idea to understand what causes the emotion. As mentioned earlier, anxiety can be triggered in a variety of ways. This does not mean you should throw out the Xbox or quit your job, but it does mean that mindfully approaching your day can help with identifying triggers. Take time each day to track what is happening when you feel symptoms of anxiety. Write down the time, location, situation, and level of anxiety on a 1-10 scale. As you begin to track the moments you feel anxiety, it is likely that you will begin to notice patterns. Knowing what triggers your anxiety can help you prepare to meet the perceived threat head on.
Don’t ignore your anxiety, it only gets worse.
With heightened levels of anxiety, it is not uncommon for your brain to send a signal communicating false threat, tricking you into believing you are in danger. It is not unusual for an individual to neutralize their anxiety by engaging in a behavior that makes them feel safe or by avoiding the situation altogether. Ignoring your anxiety is ineffective in the long-term. Although this may feel better than facing it, you are training your brain that what you are anxious about is truly threatening and must be avoided. The temporary gain you receive from avoidance is far outweighed by the suffering you will likely experience in the future. Neutralizing the threat can be even more damaging for an individual suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Dustin Hall, LCSW is a therapist for anxiety in Bountiful, Utah. Dustin has specialized in the treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders for several years and can help you manage your emotions in an effective way. Don’t let anxiety control you. Find the courage to schedule an appointment with an anxiety specialist and let Salt City Mental Health guide you to relief. Visit our website at https://saltcitymentalhealth.com/anxiety.html for more details.
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