What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal feeling that everybody will experience at some point in their life, and its purpose is to alert us to danger or threat [6]. Anxiety manifests as emotional and physical symptoms, and the symptoms experienced can vary from person to person [1]. Anxiety symptoms typically include tightness in the chest, racing thoughts, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath [6].

However, while, in most people, feelings of anxiety are short-lived, there are some cases where anxiety can be long-lasting or occur even when there is no threat or danger. For example, almost 20% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In these cases, anxiety requires treatment through talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), stress-reduction and relaxation strategies, and medication [1].  

How does anxiety affect day-to-day life?

Anxiety impacts everyone differently. There are both physical and emotional symptoms, varying in severity. Not only does anxiety impact the person with the symptoms, but it can also often impact family and friends. Being diagnosed with anxiety can affect a person's career, hobbies, and self-esteem [5].

Individuals with severe anxiety may have difficulty driving, working, studying, shopping, visiting a doctor, and more. They may no longer want to socialize in large groups or sign up for new activities. They become limited in what they can do comfortably, negatively impacting both their physical and mental health. 

A mental health professional may diagnose an anxiety disorder if the level of anxiety is to such a degree that symptoms are overpowering and interfere with daily life. The healthcare professional may ask about physical symptoms and thoughts and how these impact regular life [2]

Anxiety keeps individuals safe in their comfort zone, making trying new things and taking risks very difficult. Anxiety also impacts the quality of life. It can leave someone exhausted from the constant worry and unable to take any personal risks for growth [5]

Anxiety and driving

There are various reasons someone may experience anxiety with driving, also known as vehophobia. Whether they’ve experienced traumatic events in the past or have an intense fear of enclosed spaces, driving anxiety impacts daily life [3]. Some people may only experience anxiety if they are driving alone. For others, it’s when they are driving somewhere new. This can impact their social life, their ability to work outside the home, and more.

Anxiety and work 

Living a full and financially stable life without a steady income is difficult. Unfortunately, some people with an anxiety disorder may be unable to keep their jobs. An individual may have difficulty in meetings, confronting peers or asking for help, and other struggles [4]. For some, working from home is an option that can help ease feelings and symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety and relationships 

As with any mental disorder, relationships can be harder to maintain when struggling with anxiety. This disorder often leaves individuals constantly stressed, uncontrollably worried, and second-guessing their relationships [5]. Whether in romantic or familial relationships, someone who doesn’t experience anxiety may have a hard time understanding these new anxious changes in their loved ones.

Anxiety disorders

There are several different types of anxiety disorders. The most common are [6]:

While many of these disorders have similar emotional and physical symptoms, certain stressful situations may impact an individual more than others. For example, someone with agoraphobia may have difficulty walking in an unfamiliar forest. In contrast, someone with social anxiety disorder would probably rather walk in a forest away from the crowds. 

Despite the differences in how some anxiety disorders impact individuals, there are still instances where individuals with different anxiety disorders may struggle with the same things. For example, someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and someone with generalized anxiety disorder may find they both struggle in large crowds. However, these disorders are classified differently because of the thought processes involved and how they impact day-to-day life [5].

Coping with anxiety in everyday life

Anxiety is a more common disorder in modern society than it used to be. Anxiety disorders make up almost 30% of all diagnosed mental disorders [6].

For each person, treatment may look different. There are medications and therapies available with professional help. Some self-help methods can reduce the severity of symptoms, such as exercising more, meditating, journaling, and changing your diet [2] [5].

A type of talking therapy, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can treat anxiety by identifying negative thoughts and exploring more rational ways of thinking. Medication can also be used to treat anxiety alongside talking therapy. Some in-person or online support groups that can help someone struggling with anxiety not feel so isolated [6].

Resources:

  1. Anxiety Disorders. (2017). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders/Overview
  2. Anxiety That Impacts Everyday Life May Be a Disorder (2016), Premier Health. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.premierhealth.com/news-and-events/news/news-release/2016/12/16/anxiety-that-impacts-everyday-life-may-be-a-disorder
  3. Overcoming the Fear of Driving (2017) Anxiety & Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/overcome-fear-driving
  4. Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace (n.d.) Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/managing-stress-anxiety-in-workplace/anxiety-disorders-in-workplace
  5. B, S. (2021) What is Anxiety and how it will Affect Your Daily Life? Prime Scholars. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://www.primescholars.com/articles/what-is-anxiety-and-how-it-will-affect-your-daily-life-107950.html
  6. Muskin, P. (2021) What are Anxiety Disorders? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders