How to Cope With Crippling Anxiety and Knowing When to Seek Treatment
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses. Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. When it becomes crippling, changing how you live your life and making every day a struggle, treatment becomes necessary. Getting professional treatment is just the beginning of your journey. You can also benefit from learning lifelong coping mechanisms that will help you prevent anxiety attacks, minimize anxiety in the moment, and reduce symptoms over time.
In any given year, 40 percent of Americans have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. At 18 percent of the population, this means that excessive, overwhelming anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues we face.
Anxiety can be normal and understandable, especially in response to difficult times. But when anxiety becomes crippling, it is destructive and disruptive. Getting treatment is the first step in learning how to manage severe anxiety. This will set the foundation for being able to cope with this lifelong, chronic mental illness.
Is Anxiety Normal?
Anxiety disorders are characterized by worrying and anxiety that persist. An anxious reaction to stressful situations or difficult events in your life is completely normal. Even a little worry when there is no real cause for it is not uncommon.
What isn’t normal is when you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, when you feel anxious more days than not for months on end, and when you can’t function normally. If anxiety keeps you from activities and hobbies, socializing, and work or home responsibilities, it is no longer normal.
You could have an anxiety disorder. A mental health professional can diagnose you, but generally the signs of generalized anxiety in addition to worrying and feeling anxious are restlessness, fatigue, difficulty focusing, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping.
If you have generalized anxiety, you tend to feel anxious in any situation with no reasonable triggers. Other types of anxiety disorders are triggered by social interactions or specific fears and may cause panic attacks.
When Anxiety Becomes Crippling – Seeking Professional Care
If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or feel that you could be diagnosed, you can benefit from professional treatment. Anyone struggling with anxiety will get something out of care, but there are also important signs that indicate treatment is essential:
- You can’t control your anxiety, worries, and fears, and they become overwhelming.
- Your physical health is suffering because of anxiety.
- You are unable to do essential tasks—take care of yourself, work, care for children.
- Anxiety leaves you frozen, your mind blank, and you can’t think or act.
- The anxiety is with you more days than not.
- You avoid or miss out on doing activities or socializing because of anxiety.
In other words, if anxiety is taking over your life, preventing you from doing normal activities, and making you miserable most days, it’s time to get treatment.
A stay in a residential facility is a great option for crippling anxiety. It will give you the opportunity to focus on therapy and learning coping skills. The more effort and time you can put into treatment, the better you will be able to function and manage this mental illness.
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Coping Tips for Living With Severe Anxiety
Anxiety disorder does not have a cure, but you can take steps to manage it. This is a chronic mental illness that never fully goes away. That doesn’t mean you can’t make significant improvements to reduce anxiety and function more normally.
Treatment is the foundation of managing anxiety. It will give you many of the tools needed to reduce symptoms and live well with this disorder. One-time treatment is not a cure, though. You will need to learn and practice coping skills.
- Halt anxiety in the moment. If you live with crippling anxiety, it is important to be able to tackle the feeling in the moment and to quickly nip it in the bud. There are several tools you can use as soon as you feel worry and anxiety beginning to take over. Try questioning your thoughts and reactions. Are they rational? Do you have any real reason to worry? Focus on your breathing and try the 4-7-8 method. To do it, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven, and then slowly exhale for eight seconds. Other quick coping mechanisms include aromatherapy, meditation, and exercise.
- Get regular exercise. In addition to strategies that help manage anxiety immediately, there are several long-term coping tools. One of the most important of these is exercise. Research has proven over and over again that exercise is a powerful way to mitigate worry, stress, and anxiety. Aerobic exercise is especially useful. Exercise reduces physical tension in the body, distracts you from worrying, and even changes brain chemicals to boost mood and lower anxiety.
- Regular meditation. Practicing meditation regularly is as useful for reducing anxiety as exercising. A large review of 47 studies on meditation found that the practice is effective for improving symptoms of anxiety disorders. The studies also showed meditation reduces depression, stress, and pain, and improves quality of life. Don’t be intimidated by what seems like a difficult activity. Anyone can learn to meditate. Start slowly with just a few minutes a day and see how it goes.
- Connect with people. Social support is a great tool in the fight against anxiety. When you’re struggling, a talk with a friend or a walk around the block with a family member can lower your stress and ease worries. Just talking about what you’re feeling often provides immediate relief. Over the long-term, having a strong social network helps you be more resilient in the face of anxiety. In addition to those close to you, consider spending time in support groups sharing with and learning from others who understand the anxiety you deal with regularly.
- Change your diet. Being physically healthy will help you better cope with anxiety. Food is essential to good health, and you may not be eating as well as you think. Consider working with a nutritionist or dietician to plan a healthy, balanced diet. A professional can also suggest foods and supplements that naturally support reducing anxiety. For example, some studies have connected low magnesium levels with anxiety and that foods rich in zinc or omega-3 fatty acids can reduce anxiety. Always talk to your doctor before trying a supplement, of course.
- Identify triggers. Journaling as a way to reflect on your feelings and experiences is a useful tool for coping with any mental illness. Write with a focus on trying to identify what most triggers episodes of anxiety. When you understand external factors that trigger or worsen those feelings, you can make changes. For example, you may begin to see a pattern that indicates you feel anxious and overwhelmed on days after drinking alcohol. Cutting back on or giving up drinking could be helpful. You may find that being around certain people causes you more anxiety, or that time spent on social media is stressful. It may not be possible to eliminate everything that triggers anxiety, but you should be able to make some positive changes.
Coping With Anxiety to Live a Better Life
You don’t have to live with constant, crippling anxiety. Yes, this is a chronic condition that may resolve only to return years later, but anxiety disorder is manageable. It responds well to professional residential treatment for anxiety disorders and good coping mechanisms.
Life can be better—it can even be great again—if you seek the help you need and learn to manage anxiety. You learn to stop anxiety attacks before they get out of control, to change your life to minimize stress and anxiety, and to make healthy lifestyle choices that promote good mental health.
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