What is anxiety?
Feelings of nervousness, apprehension, or worry are not only normal but useful in guiding behavior. Mild anxiety is what drives us to look both ways before crossing a busy street. Anxiety helps push us to study a little harder for an upcoming test or not to take lightly big decisions that impact our lives.
A little bit of anxiety is a good thing. Without it, we'd be prone to risky behaviors and more vulnerable to dangerous situations. Sometimes, though, anxiety ramps up to the point where it is no longer useful or helpful.
When Is Anxiety a Problem?
It's not always easy to tell when anxiety increases to the point of being detrimental. So, it's important to know the signs.
Anxiety may be a problem if:
It interferes with your life. You feel so anxious that you're unable to complete daily tasks.
You struggle to find calm and peace from day-to-day. You may feel in a constant state of worry or panic.
Your brain can't tell the difference between a fearful situation that's real or one that's imagined. Your mind may make up dangerous scenarios that don't require a fearful response.
Therapists or healthcare professionals undergo training in the treatment of anxiety to evaluate whether it has spiraled out of control. That can be especially important for those who have experienced past trauma and may be more vulnerable.
Anxiety and Trauma
Anxiety is a natural response to a traumatic event. When we experience physical or emotional trauma, it triggers an anxiety response in our brains. That protects you during times of danger.
Sometimes, however, the anxiety response hangs on for too long. Feelings of fear or panic persist even though the situation that triggered them has long subsided. In such cases, the brain is continuing to respond in the same way to protect you.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
When anxiety becomes so intense that it's debilitating, a person is said to have an anxiety disorder. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders. Treatment for an anxiety disorder depends on its root cause, as well as in how it manifests, so it often varies by individual.
It's hard to know what causes anxiety to develop to the point that it becomes a disorder. Recent studies suggest that social media may play a significant role. Excessive use of social media can fuel stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. Social media also can cause people to feel alone in their anxiety, as many people present themselves on social media as being happy and carefree all the time. That can cause those who struggle with anxiety to feel as if their experiences are outside of the norm.
While it's natural to experience feelings of anxiety in day-to-day life, when those feelings start to interfere with your ability to complete everyday tasks, it is time to seek help.