If you struggle with anxiety, you’re aware of the monumental toll it can take on almost every aspect of your life. While the mental burden is blatantly apparent, anxiety also affects your body’s physical systems as well. In addition to the hormones and chemicals that flood your central nervous system, all-consuming anxieties exert stress on your cardiovascular system, digestive system, and immune system.
While these physical manifestations of anxiety already decrease your quality of life, many of your relationships can also be affected, especially if you suffer from social anxiety. You may develop dependent or avoidant tendencies in your relationships, both of which can strain your ability to have healthy relationships with your friends and loved ones.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know has anxiety, you’ll need to brush up on the tell-tale signs of an anxiety disorder and keep your eyes peeled for problematic behaviours. If you experience or notice someone experiencing frequent agitation, restlessness, and irritability, anxiety may be the culprit of these intrusive feelings.
Other signs include excessive worrying, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, tense muscles, lower quality of sleep, panic attacks, avoidance of social situations, and debilitating irrational fears.
If an untreated anxiety disorder has shoved you out of the driver’s seat and robbed you of your sense of control, understand that you aren’t alone in your struggles. Ultimately, there is hope. While your anxiety might feel your life-long cross to bear, expert-approved guidance on managing your symptoms and nip anxiety’s effects in the bud.
When to contact your doctor about your anxiety
Often, people who struggle with anxiety don’t necessarily realize the impacts it has on their lives. However, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about your anxiety disorder if it’s preventing you from functionally living day-to-day, harming your physical well-being, or if it persists for months.
Before visiting your doctor, make sure you’re making the best financial decision for yourself by minimising your medical costs. Without health insurance, a doctor’s visit could cost between $300 and $600 on average. However, with health insurance, you can be relieved of the burden of paying an ever-growing stack of medical bills without assistance, drastically reducing any financial anxiety you may have about receiving treatment.
Websites like AHiX Marketplace can help you find short-term healthcare insurance plans and connect with medical professionals without putting yourself under financial pressure, making you more likely to seek out a primary care physician for help.
Not only will your doctor help you devise a plan for managing your anxiety, whether that includes taking medication or finding a therapist, these medical professionals can also identify the common triggers that cause your anxiety to flare up.
As a society that runs on daily caffeine consumption, it may be hard to realize that your coffee habits contribute to your anxiety flare-ups. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant designed to help you feel more alert by blocking the brain chemical adenosine, contributing to feelings of tiredness. All the while, your morning espresso shots trigger the release of epinephrine, giving your energy levels a much-needed boost.
Epinephrine is also released in fight-or-flight situations, causing your heart rate to increase and sharpening your senses. However, in cases where that fight-or-flight response is unnecessary, the feelings epinephrine can trigger in your body can lead to increased anxiety and even the occasional panic attack.
Exploring non-caffeinated options like decaf coffee or caffeine-free sodas can help you retain a sense of normalcy around consuming your habitual beverages without the added effects of anxiety.
Dealing with loss
Grief is a complicated emotion with many stages, many of which are accompanied by anxiety. Experiencing loss is destabilising, spiralling your mental health out of control when healthy coping mechanisms lie fear out of reach.
You might experience overwhelming thoughts about relationships, career opportunities, or valuables that can slip through your fingers in the future, or you may stand face-to-face with your mortality. Regardless of your mental state, it’s essential to validate your feelings and seek help to prevent yourself from spiralling into anxiety or depression. Counsellors can teach you healthy coping mechanisms and equip you with intrusive-thought-disrupting strategies to guide you back to a healing path.
Whether it’s just your busy day or the physical effects of already-present anxieties, skipping a meal is an all too common occurrence. However, skipping meals leads to a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to increased feelings of anxiety and irritability. Other effects of low blood sugar include feeling jittery, dizzy, confused, and light-headed, all of which contribute to triggering anxiety. If it’s challenging to avoid skipping a meal, keeping healthy snacks with you wherever you go can be an easy way to resolve low blood sugar levels.
Using drugs and drinking alcohol
Many people may turn to various substances to cope with feelings of anxiety. However, that coping mechanism often backfires due to drug and alcohol’s effects on your nervous system. While drinking alcohol catalyzes a sense of relaxation due to its properties as a depressant, you can build up a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol, ultimately increasing your anxiety.
Be warned that relying on alcohol to relieve disruptive anxiety can swing open a door to alcohol addiction. Similarly, smoking cigarettes and forming dependencies on stimulant drugs will only exacerbate pre-existing anxiety, much like caffeine. That said, the easiest way to combat the feelings of dread that accompany substance use is to stay away from drugs and alcohol altogether or limit your consumption.
While there are many commonly-shared triggers within the anxiety disorder community, you may notice specific triggers exclusive to you and your experiences. If your anxiety is tied to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may experience anxiety in response to reminders of the trauma you suffered. These triggers can come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, many of which affect the senses.
Fortunately, with the help of a mental health specialist, you can identify these triggers and find healthy ways of avoiding them and coping with their effects.
While anxiety can be extremely debilitating and difficult to manage, finding help lies within the realm of possibility, even with anxiety’s presence. Seeing a therapist and identifying your triggers are must-have steps to kickstarting your healing process. Before proceeding and managing your symptoms, realize that there countless symptom-management resources well within reach as you embark on your mental health journey.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.