What is anxiety?

What is anxiety? 
By: Elizabeth Clements

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (2023), more than 40 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety. But what is anxiety? Anxiety can manifest in many forms affecting our thinking processes and physical comfort. Feelings often associated with anxiety are excessive worry over events or situations that are not frightening or intimidating, feeling irritable, fidgety, or strained. The feeling of dread or the thought that something awful is going to happen, is associated with anxiety. Anxiety also affects us physically. You might experience rapid heartbeat, flushing in the face or sweating, shortness of breath, and headaches. Anxiety has been linked to excessive tiredness and trouble sleeping, along with unpleasant stomach issues.  

An example of a situation that might manifest physical and psychological feelings of anxiety might be worrying about going to a friend’s birthday party so much that you talk yourself out of going to the event. In this situation you might begin to feel your heart race or the palms of your hands becoming sweaty. Your mind might race with thoughts about all the things that could possibly go wrong. You might worry that you will not say the right things and make a fool of yourself. The fearful thought that you might not have a great outfit, or you will not have anyone to talk to runs through your mind. As these thoughts and physical responses occur, you become overwhelmed and give up the thought of going.  

Anxiety should be thought of as a spectrum of symptoms that range from controllable to debilitating. It also comes in many forms such as situational anxiety that can occur over test-taking, presenting or public speaking, and performance or athletic anxieties. Some people experience intense anxiety in daily areas of life such as going to the grocery store. Phobias are a form of anxiety.  

The good news is that, for many people, anxiety can be worked through and there are many techniques that can be learned to help control the effects. People can seek professional treatment to help assist in aiding their anxiety. There are many online resources available to further knowledge of techniques that help lessen the physical effects of anxiety like deep breathing and distractive measures. Some really great apps have also been developed to assist people experiencing anxiety, such as Mind Shift, Headspace, and SAM: Self-help Anxiety Management. Overall, anxiety can be awful, and there is help. If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, please reach out to Samaritan Counseling, Michigan City Indiana (219.879.3283), and connect with a professional.