Firstly, let’s dispel some misinformation. Contrary to what some media outlets might have you believe, anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing but is rather a part of everyday life. Indeed, in many situations, anxiety can be beneficial, giving you a heightened state of alertness and a greater ability to avert danger. It can also often make you perform better e.g. before a job interview or speaking in public.
However, if anxiety starts to take over your life and you feel this same increased sense of alertness on a regular basis, it can have detrimental effects on your health and general well-being.
Different types of anxiety
As you might expect, there are different types of anxiety disorders that can affect people in very different ways. The most common include:
Social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety is possibly the most common of all anxieties and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates the disorder affects around 15 million US adults. The condition typically develops in the early teenage years and can last many years – so much so, around one-third of social anxiety sufferers wait 10 or more years before seeking treatment. Social anxiety is typified by a fear of judgment or humiliation by others.
Generalized anxiety disorder: Generalized anxiety disorder (sometimes referred to as GAD) is universal anxiety caused by no particular thing or reason - in other words, sufferers are just anxious all the time without any specific catalyst. The ADAA suggests around 6.8 million Americans suffer from GAD every year.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (also known as OCD) manifests itself in the need to perform repetitive tasks over and over (compulsions) or being hung up on repetitive thoughts (obsessions). Typical compulsions include handwashing or checking locks, while an obsession might be fixating on excessive cleanliness.
Post-traumatic stress disorder: Post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD) occurs as a result of experiencing extreme trauma – for example, war, witnessing a death or being the victim of a physical attack. The onset of PTSD can be immediate or can sometimes take years to develop.
Panic disorder: Panic disorder normally results in panic attacks – where the sufferer can experience shortness of breath, increased blood pressure/heart rate or heart palpitations. Panic attacks can strike at any time and are usually associated with feelings of overwhelming fear or terror. It is quite common for panic attacks to occur alongside the other disorders noted above.
Treatments to alleviate anxiety
If you feel you are experiencing problems with anxiety, you should consult a doctor who will be able to offer specialized advice and access to treatment. The most common solutions include:
Herbal treatments: Various naturally-occurring herbs and substances have been found to alleviate stress, including CBD oil. The recent relaxation of the laws surrounding CBD has allowed some doctors to recommend smoking CBD oil that is believed to help relieve many symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Therapy: Your doctor may refer you for psychological treatment, most likely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or guided self-help (mostly based on CBT with support).
Applied relaxation: Also requiring the help of a specialist, applied relaxation techniques teach the sufferer to employ proven muscle relaxation techniques to alleviate stress. Once-a-week courses usually run for three to four months to help train the sufferer to adopt these coping mechanisms.
Medication: Medication is usually offered if the above techniques don’t work or the sufferer would prefer to move directly to prescription aids. There is now a vast array of medications available to treat anxiety disorders – your GP will be able to advise you on your options.