Anxiety is an emotion that involves feelings of worry, uneasiness, and tension. These feelings are normally accompanied by physical changes such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, headaches, cold and sweaty hands and feet and more. When we experience potentially harmful triggers, anxiety is not only normal, but essential emotion for our survival.
However, when the duration or severity of anxiety is out of proportion to the trigger, we become regularly overwhelmed with concern, fear, and fatigue. When these responses move beyond normal anxious feelings, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Knowing the difference between normal feelings of anxiety and an anxiety disorder can help you recognize the condition and seek treatment.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect around 40 million adults in the United States each year. Anxiety disorders will most likely become the second most common cause of disability around the world by 2020. But can anxiety be cured?
How to Treat Anxiety?
Anxiety can be triggered by many factors including genetics, environmental factors, brain changes, other medical conditions and our self-critical thoughts and negative thinking patterns.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. However, studies show that only 37 percent of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment.
The two main treatment options for anxiety are psychotherapy and medications. Also, lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques have proven to be very helpful in treating this mental health condition.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is the most successful treatment for anxiety disorders. This goal-oriented, short-term therapy approach helps you change your dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, improve resilience and manage overwhelming emotions like fear, worry, grief or anger. However, this form of psychotherapy requires your active involvement to succeed.
This psychotherapy approach has been particularly effective for phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders. In exposure therapy, the therapist gradually exposes you to an object or situation that provokes fear. Over time, you learn to become less sensitive to a feared object or/and situation.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was initially developed as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. This approach helps you see upsetting experiences in a less hurtful way. In short, you recall a traumatic or disturbing experience while undergoing a bilateral stimulation that typically includes moving eyes from side to side. Nevertheless, the stimulation may also involve alternating auditory tones, tapping movements or vibrations on different sides of the body.
EMDR focuses on disturbing thoughts and emotions. Therefore, this technique has been successfully used to treat panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.
Mindfulness Meditation and Other Relaxation Techniques
Research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain that plays a key role in processing emotions and triggering anxiety reactions. Reducing the activity of the amygdala, mindfulness exercise indirectly alleviates your level of stress and anxiety.
Also, mindfulness meditation and different relaxation methods such as deep breathing can help you stay focused, increase optimism, and improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Lifestyle changes are also a good way to manage your anxiety. Regular physical activity helps reduce fatigue and tension, increase mood, and boost your energy. Also, many studies have shown that physical activity stimulates the brain hormones called endorphins (also known as “hormones of happiness”) that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic and calming effect.
Affirmations or positive statements about ourselves are a powerful tool in overcoming anxious ruminations. Positive affirmations can help you overcome self-criticism that accompany anxiety and depression, enhance your stress resilience, boost your mood, and improve your interpersonal relationships.
Finally, keeping up with a balanced diet, good sleep, a positive mindset and doing things that you enjoy can help you to reduce the symptoms and overcome anxiety.