It’s been a busy morning hustling the kids to school, dropping the car off at the dealer for that repair, and getting back home in time for the Zoom meeting with the team. As you sip your coffee and try to concentrate on what the boss is saying, you notice your heart seems to be beating faster than normal and you’re breathing quickly. Is something wrong? The house is cool, but you fan yourself as you feel sweat forming on your forehead.
Your body is reacting to all the stresses you’ve faced this morning (and that extra cup of coffee). Your brain isn’t quite sure what has you concerned, but it’s triggering hormones like cortisol and adrenalin to prepare your body for a quick escape. What you’re feeling is what’s called anxiety.
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, apprehensive uneasiness, or nervousness. It’s an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear that’s often marked by physical signs such as feeling out of breath, sweating, and an increased pulse rate. As it becomes more frequent or intense, anxiety may include recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns that can become obsessions.
Everyone gets nervous or worried from time to time, and while those emotions may provoke similar responses, anxiety isn’t normal nervousness. While medical science is still learning about why we develop anxiety, we do know that some life experiences — particularly those that are traumatic — may trigger anxiety in many people. In some cases, anxiety may be an early warning of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid problems.
The good news is that for most people, anxiety is not a permanent condition. It’s usually improved through therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication. People who enter therapy because they feel anxious typically report better outcomes in as few as ten sessions. Trained therapists such as our professional counselors focus not only on helping people address their current feelings of anxiety, but also on developing strategies to reduce the likelihood that those feelings will return in the future.
Unfortunately, half of all people experiencing anxiety will not seek help for it. Some are frightened, others are ashamed and see their feelings as a sign of weakness, and still others assume they can’t be helped. That’s sad, because people who don’t seek help for anxiety tend to have less marital satisfaction, higher divorce rates, and more missed work because of their symptoms. Many will attempt to “fix” those symptoms by turning to alcohol and/or drugs, which often leads to addictions and more severe problems.
If you or someone you love is experiencing anxiety, please don’t ignore it. The right help can make a difference, and a professional can determine the degree of anxiety and whether there may be other causes, such as possible medical issues. Start on the road to feeling better by setting a time to talk with one of our professional counselors.
Ifen Donovan is one of Care to Change’s student therapists who will be graduating at the end of this year. She will specialize in art therapy and trauma.