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This month’s mental health awareness topic is Anxiety. Here is our Mental Health Liaison Kaela, to tell us more:

Anxiety Defined

​According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure”. While everyone experiences these feelings, some fight with anxiety disorders. Those with these disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns causing them to avoid certain situations out of worry. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5), general anxiety disorder (“GAD”) can be hard to diagnose as anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences from time to time. Those suffering from GAD experience excessive anxiety for periods of up to six months. These feelings are also very hard to control and can shift from one topic to another. Common symptoms can be accompanied by edginess, fatigue, impaired concentration, feeling as though the mind goes blank, irritability, increased muscle aches or soreness, and difficulty sleeping. Someone battling GAD may feel anxiety and worry without the presence of any specific threat. 

More Than Just Feelings

As mentioned above, people suffering from GAD may experience both mental and physical symptoms. When anxiety is running high, it can cause dizziness, tiredness, a fast heartbeat, shaking, dry mouth, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, stomach ache, and headache. It’s not true that anxiety is, “it’s all in your head.” Anxiety can affect every part of the body.

Coping with Anxiety

When these symptoms begin to present themselves, here are some coping strategies. The first thing to do is to pause and notice what is going on in your body. Think about what is being experienced and see if it relates to an emotional feeling, such as worry or sadness. If you determine anxiety is the root of these symptoms, distraction can be a very useful tool. Try doing small tasks such as watering plants or reading a book. You can also fight symptoms by relaxing the body through deep breathing or relaxing exercises. Physical activity, such as a daily walk, run, or going to the gym, can also help. Finally, try reassuring yourself that it will be okay, the symptoms will pass, and you are not in harms way. Your recognition of these symptoms is important in fighting them and allowing them to pass. 

Anxiety Disorders Are Very Common

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect about 18.1% of the population each year and is the most common mental illness. Many people suffer from it and cannot simply “calm down.” Next time you interact with someone who says they are feeling anxious, try letting them know you are there for them and they do not have to carry this burden on their own. Listen to how they would like to be supported. Everyone is different.

​Anxiety can present itself in different ways, both physically and mentally. It is a very real mental health disorder that people struggle with daily. Those suffering with anxiety are not overreacting and are not too emotional. They are fighting with their bodies which believe they are in a fight or flight scenario. If you or someone you care about fights with GAD, there are professional services, like therapy, out there to help. You are not alone.