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Anxiety is defined by the APA (American Psychological Association) as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worries thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure." Anxiety itself is a very normal, and often healthy emotion - but when someone is feeling a disproportionate levels of anxiety that it may have become a disorder.

Feelings of anxiety will pop up when a person is facing potentially harmful situations or triggers, and are not only normal, but necessary for survival! Since the beginning stages of humanity, predators nearby and incoming danger will automatically set off alarms in the body that allows you to utilize evasive action. These alarms are most noted by physical changes such as elevated heartbeat, increased sensitivity to your surroundings, and sweating.

The threat of danger causes an adrenaline rush, which in turn triggers a person's "fight or flight" response. This is the moment that prepares humans to physically confront their attacker, or flee.

In the times when we were running from enormous predatory animals and working to escape their threats, anxiety seems to make sense. Purely evolutional. However, these days, we aren't trying to escape a beast four times our size - we now struggle with things that are more mentally challenging beasts, such as work, health, family life, and money. Our anxieties now do not cause a fight or flight sensation, but still affect us just as dramatically.

Anxiety Disorders

The length of time spent revolving around your anxious emotions can sometimes be out of proportion to the original stressor. When you have an over-abundance of anxiety, this can also affect your physical wellbeing, causing problems with blood pressure and nausea. Once you've hit this point of more anxiety than naturally necessary, you're knocking on the door to an anxiety disorder - defined by the APA as "someone having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns." Anxiety at this stage can absolute affect your day to day functioning.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder:

While there are multiple acute and specific diagnosis within the umbrella of an Anxiety Disorder, the most common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which traditionally includes the following feelings:

  • unmanageable feelings of worry

  • difficulty concentrating

  • difficulties sleeping, such as falling asleep or staying asleep

  • increased irritability

  • restlessness, feeling like you're 'on edge'

While these feelings can occur normally in daily life, attributed to outside sources or moments of stress in your life, people with GAD will experience them on an unsettling level. It may present as vague, unspecific worry all the way to a very severe anxiety that affects a person's day to day.

7 Main Types of Anxiety

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: GAD is a chronic disorder that displays itself as feelings of excessive, long-lasting anxieties and worries about non-specific situations, events, or objects in your life. It is the most common anxiety disorder, and often causes people suffering from it to not be able to pinpoint what is causing their anxieties.

  2. Panic Disorder: Panic disorder comes hand in hand with panic attacks. Brief or sudden attacks of terror and apprehension characterize this disorder, leading to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea and breathing difficulties. They often occur rapidly, peaking after approximately 10 minutes. Under some circumstances, however, a panic attack can last for hours. Traditionally they occur after after a frightening experience, or prolonged stress, but can still happen without a triggering situation.

  3. Specific phobia: Phobias are irrational fears and avoidance of particular situations or objects. Phobias are different than other anxiety disorders, because they relate directly to a specific cause/trigger. A person with a phobia can often times know that their fear is completely irrational, however when faced with their fear they cannot control the feelings of anxiety and panic. Phobia triggers range from everyday objects, to animals, to situations.

  4. Agoraphobia: Though 'phobia' is in the name, this specific anxiety disorder is a bit different. Agoraphobia specifically relates to the fear and avoidance of places, events or situations in which, under the circumstance of being trapped or in danger, a person may not be able to find help/safety. Often, people misunderstand and assume this to be a phobia of the outdoors/open spaces, but it's actually more akin to situations like being in elevators, or using public transport.

  5. Selective Mutism: This form of anxiety is usually seen in children, in which they are unable or choose to not speak in certain places or contexts, such as school, even though outside of those situations they could have excellent verbal communication skills. It can often be a reflection of an extreme social phobia.

  6. Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia: Social anxiety disorder speaks to a person's fear of negative judgment from others, or public embarrassment. It includes a range of feelings such as stage fright, fear of intimacy, and anxiety revolving around humiliation and rejection. This particular disorder can cause people to avoid situations in public, which can make everyday living extremely uncomfortable.

  7. Separation Anxiety Disorder: Separation anxiety comes from the heightened levels of anxiety a person feels after being away from a specific person or place that provides feelings of comfort and safety. Sometimes, separation issues can also cause similar feelings to panic.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can be caused by numerous things - and are often extremely complicated. Sometimes they can be caused by a series of events and triggers, some can be caused by the affects of another anxiety disorder, and sometimes they won't crop up until you're already experiencing another anxiety disorder.

Some possible causes for anxiety disorders:

  • genetics, such as people who have family members with anxiety disorders - they are more likely to develop one themselves

  • brain chemistry - many psychologists define a lot of anxiety disorders as incorrect alignments of hormones and electrical signals in the brain

  • withdrawal from illicit substances, which can intensity the impact over other anxiety disorders

  • environmental stressors, such as difficulties in your relationship, at work, or family issues

  • medical factors, such as the effects of medication, symptoms from a different disease, or the stressors from intensive surgery/prolonged recovery.

Treatment Options

Treatment for anxiety disorders should always be led by a mental health professional. If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety well above the normal amount, please consult with your therapist - or utilize a service like ours to find yourself a new therapist!

Your mental health professional will be able to help you build a treatment plan, often revolving around stress management, relaxation techniques, exercises to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, and a healthy support network. The addition of exercise, as well counseling, and potentially medical prescriptions may be utilized to build your mental health to the point it needs to be!

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Have you ever wanted to try something new, but didn't for fear you would fail? Bought a dress you loved but never wore it because, "what if...?" These feelings relate directly to your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is defined as the confidence someone has in themselves, and their feelings of self-respect and self-worth. Often, when someone has low self-esteem, they are unhappy with who they are as individuals, usually believing they can't accomplish anything - and can even believe they are unworthy of other people's love and affection. On the other hand, someone with high self-esteem believes in themselves, their abilities, and their worthiness of love.


So why do people develop low self-esteem?

Difficulties in early life: Early childhood experiences directly affect your self-esteem from the beginning. Traumatic encounters, bullying, or even abuse or family conflict can cause children to develop low self-esteems. This comes from the feeling of complete lack of control over your surroundings, and an inability to protect yourself. That feeling often follows people into adulthood, causing self-esteem issues.

Dysfunctional Parenting: Healthy parenting plays an enormous role in the way a person develops self-esteem. People with extremely critical parents, or extremely busy parents, often don't get the right support - this lack of attention can cause loss of confidence in the child's abilities, and they might end up feeling unwanted, or like they are not valuable enough for people to want to be around them.

Messages from the media: Advertisements are created, specifically, to show people the things they are 'missing' in their lives so they will want to purchase a product. TV shows and adverts often are completely misleading about the way that people look and behave, causing some individuals to believe that they just don't measure up. Being constantly surrounded by these messages and reminders that you 'don't look right' or 'aren't skinny/strong enough' will inevitably have a dramatic impact on a person's self-esteem.


How can we build a healthy self-esteem?

Practice Affirmations: Affirmations, or positive messages that you can repeat to yourself in order to get rid of those negative thoughts/emotions, are a helpful tool in building your self-esteem. Try to make yourself a list of 3 or 4, and then repeat them to yourself whenever you are feeling down. For example, "I am worthy of love and respect", "I like myself the way I am", "I am a supportive and loving friend."

Identify your strengths: People fighting with their self-esteem often hyper-focus on their negative qualities, instead of building themselves up over all the positive qualities they have! Try to take the time to think about the things you have done to positively impact others' lives - this can be holding a door for someone who's hands are full, telling a joke to a coworker, or giving spare change to a person in need.

Build better relationships: The people that you surround yourself with is just as important as the way you treat yourself. If you are surrounded by people who invalidate and belittle you, you're never going to get over the hump of feeling bad about yourself, because they're constantly making you feel worse! It's important to have people in your life that respect your boundaries, accept you for who you are without overlooking your flaws, and communicate with you in a constructive manner that allows for improvement!

Make sure you take the time to build yourself up - a strong self-esteem is the backbone to a healthy life! If you don't value yourself, you'll allow yourself to be treated poorly - and no one deserves to feel undervalued!

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