Does Everyone Have Anxiety: What Is Normal?

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Does everyone have anxiety? Here we have the answer to that and other questions you may have about anxiety and related disorders.

RELATED: Anxiety In Moms | Why Motherhood Is A Strong Source Of Anxiety And What To Do About It

In this article:

  1. What Is Anxiety?
  2. What Is the Difference Between Normal Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder?
  3. Does Everyone Have Anxiety?
  4. What Causes Anxiety Disorder?
  5. How Long Does Anxiety Last?
  6. What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
  7. What Is Panic Disorder?
  8. What Are Phobias?
  9. What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
  10. What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
  11. What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  12. How Is Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?
  13. How Can Anxiety Disorder Be Treated?
  14. How Can You Self-Manage Your Anxiety?

Does Everyone Have Anxiety? Anxiety Disorders Explained

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the activation of the body’s fight-or-flight response in anticipation of future events. When a person senses a threat or danger, the body activates a series of changes that help fight the threat or take the flight to a safe place.

Some signs that the body has sounded the alarm include sweating, an elevated heart rate, and increased awareness of surroundings.

This natural response is necessary for humans to survive back in the old days when many imminent dangers lurked within. Nowadays, things that trigger the fight-or-flight response include work deadlines, family conflicts, and money problems.

What Is the Difference Between Normal Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders can bring a response that’s out of proportion to its main trigger. Sometimes, it happens for no reason.

For people with this disorder, the thoughts can be intrusive and can interfere with daily tasks. Even activities like getting out of bed or paying the bills bring in a feeling of dread.

Does Everyone Have Anxiety?

While people of any race, gender, age, or personality can get anxiety, certain types of people are more predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Being a woman
  • Having a family history of anxiety disorders
  • Having recent/prolonged exposure to stressful events
  • Having a history of abuse

What Causes Anxiety Disorder?

No one can pinpoint what exactly brings on an anxiety disorder. Just like other mental illnesses, they come from a combination of factors like:

How Long Does Anxiety Last?

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Normal anxiety is fleeting and settles down once time has passed and/or the stressor has been addressed.

Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, bring anxiety that is constant and ongoing. It can persist for weeks or even months.

RELATED: How To Relax Your Mind And Reduce Anxiety (15 Ways)

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the hallmark of general anxiety disorder is excessive worrying. This is worrying that’s disproportionate to its trigger, difficult to control, and persists for at least two weeks to more than six months.

It must also cause distress and impairment in the person’s daily activities, not be attributed to another substance or health condition, and have at least three of the following signs of anxiety disorder:

  • Restlessness: A person would describe this as feeling “on edge.”
  • Fatigue: Chronic worrying drains a person of his/her energy. Fatigue can follow an attack, but it can also be ongoing.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Anxiety affects the part of the brain that retains short-term information, leading to “brain fog” or gaps when trying to recall information.
  • Muscle tension on most days of the week
  • Sleep issues: Anxiety is associated with sleep problems like trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Irritability and agitation

What Is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorders are a type of anxiety that leads to recurrent panic attacks. These are periods of intense fear and apprehension that come quickly and suddenly.

A person can experience one or more of these signs and symptoms during a panic attack:

  • Trembling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Sense of doom
  • Feeling out of control

People who live with panic disorder worry about the next attack and avoid people, places, and situations they associate with panic attacks.

What Are Phobias?

Phobias are an intense aversion to or fear of specific situations and objects. While it’s normal to be afraid of something from time to time, the fear stemming from phobias are out of proportion to the actual danger.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

One type of phobia is social anxiety disorder. This disorder is the debilitating fear of social situations and public humiliation.

It can lead a person to avoid social situations altogether.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by two things:

  • Intrusive and highly distressing thoughts that recur over and over like a broken record (obsessions)
  • Rituals that attempt to get rid of these thoughts (compulsions)

Its association with cleanliness and hygiene makes it easy to conflate it with perfectionism. But the main difference is that while the perfectionist makes it clear they want orderliness in their lives, someone with OCD fights with these compulsions.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a particularly severe form of anxiety which develops in people who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events.

People with PTSD experience disturbing thoughts related to their trauma long after the event has happened. They can get flashbacks or nightmares about the incident and feel detached from other people and their surroundings.

One closely related disorder to PTSD is complex PTSD (C-PTSD). While PTSD is typically related to a single traumatic event, C-PTSD is associated with prolonged or ongoing traumatic events like abuse and armed conflict.

How Is Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

To diagnose an anxiety disorder, your primary care doctor examines you and assesses your medical history to rule out illnesses that can cause your symptoms. If they can’t find a medical explanation, they may refer you to a mental health specialist, like a psychiatrist or psychologist.

The specialist will then ask you questions about your symptoms and use various tests to see if you qualify for an anxiety disorder diagnosis. They will pay special attention to how long and intense the symptoms are and if they hinder you from doing your everyday tasks.

How Can Anxiety Disorder Be Treated?

Anxiety disorder treatment options include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective form of psychotherapy. It focuses on working with a therapist to learn the skills needed to manage and control symptoms.
  • Those who experience specific phobias can benefit from exposure therapy, a type of therapy that exposes one to the things feared in a controlled setting.
  • Medications for anxiety disorders include antidepressants, pregabalin, and benzodiazepines.

How Can You Self-Manage Your Anxiety?

Here are some steps to help manage symptoms and complement treatment plans:

Having a healthy diet and getting regular exercise may help manage your symptoms. Check out this video on some healthy hacks to start your day strong:

Does everyone have anxiety? Yes, everyone has experienced it at some point in life. But if this has escalated to the point where it’s causing you a great amount of distress and interferes with your daily functioning, it may be time to talk to your doctor or nearest mental health professional.

Have you ever experienced anxiety? How did you deal with it? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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