Normal vs. Abnormal Anxiety

Normal vs. Abnormal Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion that involves feelings of fear, uneasiness, stress, and nervousness. Like any emotion, feelings of anxiety have their time and place. Likewise, it is essential to understand that anxiety is not always an inherently negative emotion. After all, it can motivate us to enhance our performance or, more appropriately, judge the risks that could result from a particular situation. 

But when anxiety begins to interfere with our ability to function normally in our daily life, it should be addressed seriously. Unfortunately, we live in a world where anxiety seems more prevalent than ever. However, that does not mean chronic or persistent anxiety is healthy or normal. With that, knowing how to identify abnormal anxiety if or when it surfaces in yourself and others throughout your life is essential. 

Normal Anxiety

Anxiety is an all-encompassing survival mechanism. In other words, it is a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state of being. So naturally, this state is induced in animals and humans when we experience a threat to our well-being and survival. When our body is anxious, it is trying to best adapt and cope with an adverse or otherwise unexpected event. 

Every person experiences different symptoms of anxiety; however, there are a variety of symptoms that many individuals share. Typically, these symptoms include:

  • Activation of the sympathetic nervous system — the body’s fight-or-flight response — which results in;
    • Heightened arousal
    • Expectancy
    • Increased vulnerability
    • Uneasiness
    • Apprehension

In short, anxiety is meant to keep us safe. For example, we may experience anxiety when crossing a busy street. In the same way, we may feel anxiety as we attempt to respond to loss in our lives. 

Anxiety Disorders

It can be helpful to understand that anxiety exists on a spectrum. Opposite to normal anxiety lies anxiety-related disorders. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, each characterized by unique symptoms. Nearly 20% of adults in the United States struggle with anxiety disorders annually. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental health disorders. Nearly six percent of adults will experience GAD throughout their lives. 

This condition is characterized by persistent feelings of worry that interfere with one’s ability to function normally in daily life. Often, these symptoms will last for months, well into years. 

Symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Persistent exhaustion
  • Issues with concentration
  • Increased irritability
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep issues

Panic Disorder

Frequent and unexpected panic attacks characterize panic disorder. Panic attacks are sudden and intense episodes of fear, discomfort, and a sense of lost control. These episodes can occur with or without an obvious trigger. 

People who struggle with panic disorder experience intense worry about when their next panic attack will occur. As a result, they will often attempt to avoid places and situations that could potentially trigger them. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by persistent fear of judgment from others. This fear may be so intense that it causes an individual to fear attending school, working, or completing other everyday tasks. 

During social situations, individuals with SAD may experience:

  • Trembling
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • Experiencing stomachaches
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Rigid body posture
  • Little to no social interaction

Phobia-related Disorders

A phobia is an intense fear of a particular stimulus or situation. However, when someone has a phobia-related disorder, their fear of a specific object or thing is so severe that it interferes with their daily life. 

Individuals who have phobias may:

  • Have irrational and excessive worry about encountering the stimuli
  • Take preventative measures to ensure that they will not encounter the stimuli
  • Experience immediate and crippling fear when they encounter the stimuli

When Does Anxiety Become Abnormal?

It can be challenging to determine if and when someone’s anxiety is becoming abnormal. This is especially apparent for those that may have learned to live with their abnormally anxious symptoms. Fortunately, a mental health professional can help diagnose abnormal anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Online resources, such as anxiety self-tests, can help individuals better understand their anxiety.

In general, anxiety becomes a disorder when it’s either irrational, excessive, or interferes with an individual’s ability to function normally in their daily life. It may affect one’s ability to cope with life’s stressors appropriately or is disproportionate to the severity of a seemingly-threatening stimulus. 

Treatment for Anxiety

It is vital to understand that treatment and support for anxiety are available. Likewise, recovery from anxiety disorders is possible. Every treatment facility utilizes unique approaches to treat anxiety. Most use a combination of evidence-based practices and holistic interventions. 

A few treatment modalities that facilities may use to treat anxiety and anxiety-related disorders include:

  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Holistic therapy

When abnormal anxiety is left unresolved, it can lead to many mental and physical health problems. To heal from the long-lasting effects of anxiety, it is crucial to receive treatment from a facility that supports and empowers clients. 

Anxiety is often a healthy and regular part of life. However, when it becomes irrational, excessive, or interferes with one’s daily life, it may develop into an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, treatment is available, and recovery is possible. At SoCal Mental Health, we know that anxiety can often be destructive. Therefore, we offer a wide range of treatment modalities for individuals seeking to overcome their anxiety and related symptoms. We will create an individualized treatment plan for you based on your unique needs and goals for recovery. This may include modalities such as medication, psychotherapy, and holistic therapies. To learn more about our treatment facility and programs, call us today at (949) 502-2041.

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