Anxiety disorders affect between 13-18% of the general population, but the fact is we all experience different kinds of anxiety during our lives. An anxious mental state is often defined by feelings of anxiety, worry, uneasiness, or dread. It’s frequently future-oriented, meaning that our anxieties are directed toward potential threats or negative experiences that haven’t yet occurred.
In the actual world, the majority of us experience anxiety in varying degrees depending on the circumstance. It isn’t always a bad thing, as some anxiety can motivate us to re-plan or re-think a situation before acting. However, excessive anxiety can be crippling to a point where we can not decide, we don’t do it, or we mess up when the event finally comes.
DIFFERENT FORMS OF ANXIETY
These three types of stress are often the most common types discussed in contemporary psychology study, but there are probably other types of anxiety that do not fit so neatly in those categories (specific phobias, existential anxiety, death anxiety, etc.) Nevertheless, these are the types of stress I will be referring to in this article:
Social anxiety is a fear or worry about social conditions. We may feel uncomfortable or avoid environments that involve large groups of people (such as school, work, public speeches, high school reunions, etc.) or we may even feel uncomfortable or avoid certain sorts of 1-to-1 interactions (such as job interviews, relationship, interacting with a stranger for the first time, or meeting a celebrity).
Most folks feel some kind of anxiety in these situations but it varies greatly from person to person. Some people might feel more comfortable talking to familiar faces, while others feel more comfortable meeting someone for the first time. It really depends on the environment and the person.
Unlike social stress, performance anxiety is a fear or worry about performances, such as a student taking a final exam at school, or a musician performing on stage, or an athlete playing at a huge sports game. We worry that we won’t do our best, or that we will mess up or lose, and that stress can actually inhibit us from doing to our maximum capacity (or even doing at all, such as due to too much “stage fright”).
Instead of focusing on what we will need to get done to succeed, we become more concentrated on all of the ways things that may fail. This can sometimes turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our thoughts make us uncomfortable and ill prepared, and then these thoughts lead to actions that reinforce our previous conceptions.
Choice anxiety is an anxiety rooted in uncertainty when making decisions. The fact remains that none of us can act or make a decision with full knowledge of what the consequences will be; the universe is just too complex, and our minds aren’t capable of fully understanding it. Due to this, we often feel anxiety when making a big choice in our life, because we do not know if we will make the best possible option.
We make decisions everyday and we must face the “opportunity costs” from choosing one option over another. Some research indicates that the more choices we must pick from, the more difficult it is to make a decision. They claim that having more options leads to a greater “opportunity cost” (theoretically: the more we have to choose from, the more we miss out on), and if this opportunity cost becomes too large we can often suffer from paralysis by analysis. Paralysis by analysis inhibits us from making ANY choice because we’re so lost on what the perfect course of action is.
I’m positive that you’ve experienced these kinds of anxieties through your life to varying degrees. A lot of our anxiety can be healthy and natural. However, when it starts interfering with how we want to live our lives, then it can turn into a problem that we need to take care of. The first step toward addressing this problem is identifying some of the potential causes of our anxiety, then we could determine what are the best ways to treat it.
There are a whole lot of factors that can contribute to our stress (and our mental health more generally). In this part, I will discuss some of the most frequent causes of anxiety, and also some possible treatment options for every one. However, it is important to not forget that since our anxiety can be due to such a wide variety of different variables, it is often better to incorporate several treatment choices simultaneously.
Certain gene variants may be associated with greater levels of anxiety. All of us have a distinct biological make-up, and sometimes individuals may experience elevated levels of stress for no other reason but that it’s embedded in their genetic code. These genes essentially cause chemical imbalances in the brain that leader to your nervousness.
Treatment options: If your anxiety is driven by your biology it may be possible to get prescribed medication from a professional psychologist. Beware, however, that many of these drugs can have adverse side effects (you may go through several different medications before finding one that works best – a good psychiatrist can help you through this process). Also beware that if your anxiety is caused by other factors than medication is only going to serve as a fast fix, but it won’t solve the deeper issues in your life. You might have to supplement your medicine with different treatments.
Anxiety can also be caused as a result of physical inactivity and poor diet. When we do not treat our bodies right then can frequently have an effect on our mental states.
If we don’t eat balanced meals and get all of the nutrition we need, which often means our brains are not getting enough nourishment either. This inhibits our brains from functionally as efficiently as they could be, which might well become a contributor to high levels of anxiety.
Physical activity is also vital to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Running, playing sports, going to the gym, dancing, and anything that provides exercise is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety that may build up during the days or weeks. It is important that we have a way to channel hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) in positive and healthy ways, otherwise they manifest themselves as stress and anxiety.
Treatment options: If you don’t already take decent care of your body, you’d probably be surprised of how much less stressed and anxious you would be if you started taking better care of your health. Consider doing small things like replacing soda with water, eating less cake, going for a jog several times weekly, or being more conscious of what you eat, and you will begin to feel better both physically and mentally.