It is ‘normal’ to experience anxiety.
In fact, 40 million adults in the United States, or 18.1% of the population, battle against issues related to anxiety each year.
At one time or another we have all felt that nervousness, the sense of dread, that wave of depression that comes along with anxiety. There is no need to WebMD this. It is completely normal.
These battles with anxiety always have and always will come fleetingly throughout your life. However, it is when those moments linger on longer than usual and start to become commonplace, that you should begin to take note.
This is the difference between anxiety disorders vs. ‘normal’ anxiety.
To distinguish anxiety disorders and “normal” anxiety, you must be certain you understand what anxiety is in the first place.
It’s a hard thing to describe, but we know it when we feel it. Once the stress mounts, it rears its head.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress.
When you are met with a situation you are not comfortable with, your body may bring on a fleeting bout of anxiety.
Anxiety can be brought upon by:
‘Normal’ bouts of anxiety all depend on the problem at hand.
Once the deadline passes or you are off on your honeymoon, the anxiety should subside. When you are in unfamiliar waters or are going through life-changing moments, the anxiety is a realistic response to the situation at hand.
As you may have noticed, we keep putting ‘normal’ in quotes. It’s hard to distinguish what exactly is ‘normal’ because we are all individuals. However, when you suffer from anxiety, it attacks both your mental and physical well being.
You may feel some of these effects:
Mental Anxiety Effects
- Inability to let situations go
- Letting things pester you inside
- Overwhelming feeling of worry
- Restlessness; inability to relax
- Inability to make a decision
- Fear of making the wrong decision
- Always coming to a negative conclusion
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
Physical Anxiety Effects
- Increased tension in the muscles
- Constant fatigue
- Bouts of nausea
- Heavy sweating
- Chronic headaches
- Pounding heart
When you have an anxiety disorder, you probably feel most of, if not ALL of, the above symptoms.
And you likely feel them a lot. An anxiety disorder is not necessarily triggered from an event or situation that would bring unforeseen stress like “normal” bouts of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders cause these feelings to fester when you least expect it.
When there is no key stressor triggering these bouts of anxiety, it sometimes becomes bigger than you can handle.
These intense moments of extreme anxiety last longer than any ‘normal’ bout attached to a solitary event. That is what makes the difference when it comes to suffering from anxiety disorders vs. ‘normal’ anxiety.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
This is a tricky question, but many believe it’s a balance of nature (genetics) and nurture (environment). If you were brought up by parents who suffer from anxiety, or in an environment with a lot of yelling, your brain may become wired for anxiety.
There are several areas within the brain that play roles in producing anxiety.
The parts with the greatest effect are the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala is responsible for processing sensory signals when your body is under stress. Based on how the situation is handled and how it impacted you, the hippocampus will then store that reaction to that particular event into your memory banks. This will affect how you handle this sort of adversity in the future.
Therefore, anxiety disorders can be caused by a number of things. From the seasons changing to the anniversary of a loved one’s death, many of life’s unwelcomed obstacles bring upon the development of anxiety disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
If you have more than just ‘normal’ bouts of anxiety, you may fall into the category of one of these anxiety disorders:
This disorder is characterized by excessive worry over a myriad of issues such as health, work, family, money, and friends. Those with GAD are filled with a constant state of dread for no apparent reason. GAD affects 3.1% of the U.S. population, about 6.8 million adults, yet only 43.2% of them receive treatment.
Those who have a panic disorder experience panic attacks out of nowhere. Due to the spontaneous nature of these attacks, those who suffer from PD live in a constant state of fear that another attack will sneak up on them. On average, 6 million adults, which is 2.7% of the American population, are affected by PD.
Thankfully, albeit unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder has made headlines in recent years, which has resulted in more research and understanding of this disorder to come to the forefront. PTSD can negatively impact any person’s quality of life immensely by forcing them into isolation and into frequent battles of paranoia.
What brought PTSD to the forefront was the realization that many military men and women who have served their country suffer from this affliction. Other traumatizing events that are linked to PTSD including rape, child abuse, jail, and domestic abuse. 7.7 million adults, which is 3.5% of the U.S. population suffer from PTSD, with women being more likely to suffer from the disorder than men.
Social anxiety disorder is the other SAD (not the seasonal depression one). This one causes those who have it to live in overwhelming fear that they will be judged by others in social settings. It’s not a case of being shy. SAD is a crippling sense of fear that makes you not want to leave your house. This disorder affects 15 million adults, or 6% of the U.S. population.
From fear of spiders to fear of heights, many people suffer from specific phobias that impede on their everyday life. Specific phobias are very unique and can have a direct impact on how people live based on what that fear is.
For instance, those afraid of bridges cannot cross one to go to work. Those afraid of heights can’t climb to the roof of their house to clean the gutter. Heck, you can even get serious bouts of anxiety while driving. Specific phobias have an affect on 8.7% of the U.S. population, which amounts to approximately 19 million adults.
So, Which Is It? Anxiety Disorders vs. ‘Normal’ Anxiety
Now that you have a complete look at which anxiety disorders vs. “normal” anxiety, which do you think best fits how you feel?
Anxiety is inevitable in your life. However, it should come and go only when there is an outside stress causing this anxiety. That is “normal” anxiety. It’s when the bouts of anxiety are much more frequent and unexplained that you should become alarmed.
Anxiety disorders manifest over time and can alter the way your brain thinks. If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, consult a physician for a proper diagnosis.
Anxiety is unique for all.
What happens to you in these moments? Share your stories with us below!