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What is Anxiety?

As I sit here staring at this blank page attempting to write my first ever blog, I think I am feeling it. Anxiety…..where to start?

Almost everyone feels anxious (or nervous) at one time or another--maybe it was when you had to give a speech at the front of the class, maybe it was getting married, maybe it was starting the new school year, starting a new job, moving—there are lots of experiences in life which are anxiety provoking. But what makes those situations and being diagnosed with anxiety different? I will attempt to explain.

Think about a time you were feeling nervous-----How did you feel? How did your body physically respond? What were the thoughts going through your mind? What did you wind up doing?

Our bodies are amazing “machines” in which our mind and body are connected. Often our thoughts affect our physical responses. Common physical responses associated with anxiety are racing heart, sweaty palms, difficulty breathing, stomach aches, tense muscles and headaches. As you thought about the last time you were feeling nervous, it is possible you had some of the same physical responses you had during the event. For individuals who suffer from anxiety, they may have those physical responses almost daily.

Additionally, remember those thoughts you were having when you felt nervous? Individuals who suffer from anxiety have daily thoughts about their anxiety and the worst part is often they can’t control it. Individuals are not able to concentrate on tasks at hand and find their days filled with intrusive (pop up) negative thoughts or worry. Often, they struggle to sleep at night. They may fall asleep with little difficulty only to be awaken in a few hours by their worries or they may not be able to fall asleep. To others, someone with anxiety appears “keyed up”. They may move around a lot or pace. Or, ironically, do just the opposite. See, all those worries, can drain all of your energy from you without you actually participating in any physical activity.

As I mentioned earlier, most people have felt nervous or anxious in their life. However, for most people after the “event”, their mood returns to normal. However, for people with anxiety that does not occur. They remain tense and “keyed up” the majority of the time. According to the DSM 5 (what clinicians use to make a diagnosis), the diagnosis of anxiety can be made after someone displays symptoms for at least 6 months. Wow----6 months----that is a long time to feel anxious almost daily. Imagine how these feelings affect your work, relationships and ability to handle “life”.

Hopefully after reading this, you have a better understanding of what anxiety is, the symptoms and how it affects your daily life. In my next blog, I will discuss some treatments for anxiety.

Thanks for reading my very first blog! Next time I stare at the blank page on my computer screen, I know I can overcome my anxiety regarding writing.

Until next time,

Kim Altstaetter, LPCCS, CDCA

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