Chronic anxiety affects millions of Americans and millions more around the world. Chronic anxiety is a serious problem - anxiety makes it difficult to focus and find happiness in the world around you, leading to a less than high-quality life.
"Chronic" anxiety is more of an informal term to describe any type of anxiety that doesn't seem to go away and isn't prompted by events around you. This article will explore the idea behind chronic anxiety and delve deeper into what it means to live with this type of mental health problem.
Stop "Managing" Chronic Anxiety - CURE It.
Chronic anxiety is the type of disorder that can be managed. Most people are still able to go to work, talk on the phone with family, watch TV, etc. But they're still living with anxiety every day. Why manage chronic anxiety when you can cure it forever? Find out how with my free 7-minute anxiety test.
Chronic Anxiety Disorders
When someone suffers from "chronic" anxiety, they're most often suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are diagnoses provided by psychologists and psychiatrists that indicate the type of chronic anxiety you're suffering from. They include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Phobia
- General Phobia
If you haven't yet, a great place to start is my anxiety test. It looks at your symptoms and explains what your anxiety is. It's also important to note that it's possible to suffer from anxiety that doesn't necessarily qualify for a diagnosis but may be worth addressing anyway because it impacts your quality of life.
Living With Chronic Anxiety
While the disorders differ, chronic anxiety is best described as anxiety that you experience every day or almost every day, with nothing apparently triggering it. Someone that works in a dangerous part of town and has to walk home alone at night isn't experiencing chronic anxiety because it has a trigger (walking in a scary area). Someone that gets nervous every once in a while when they talk to strangers isn't experiencing chronic anxiety because it doesn't happen very often.
Chronic anxiety is more like an illness. It's something that weighs on your mind and thoughts often and doesn't require any obvious outside trigger. Those with chronic anxiety often experience both physical and mental symptoms:
- Mental: Excessive worries, such as worrying about someone getting hurt, worrying about social situations, worrying about worst case scenarios, or even worrying about their own anxiety.
- Physical: Shaking, nausea, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, leg weakness and tingling, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and more.
You may experience some or all of the above symptoms, depending on your personality and the type of anxiety you're suffering from. Those with generalized anxiety disorder are more prone to worrying thoughts. Those with panic disorder are more prone to physical symptoms. But there is a lot of overlap between all of these disorders.
Assessing Your Chronic Anxiety and Addressing the Symptoms
Chronic anxiety is generally not something that goes away on its own. Anxiety can change your brain. It alters thought patterns and makes you more prone to negative thinking, disaster thinking, over-sensitivity to health and physical sensations, and more. The longer you live with anxiety, the more anxiety is all you know. Some people even become addicted to it without realizing it.
That's why it's so hard to cure without some type of strategy and considerable commitment. You can't wish anxiety away, and those that depend on some type of "quick fix" are going to be sorely disappointed. You CAN cure anxiety, but you need to make sure that you're at a point in your life where you're willing to make life changes to ensure your anxiety doesn't come back. The first step is always accepting that you want anxiety changed.
There are a lot of strategies people use to combat anxiety. The more common include:
- Therapy Therapy is, by far, one of the most effective ways to cure anxiety. It's expensive, and many people struggle to find a therapist they trust in their area, but cognitive behavioral therapy is the only method that has received considerable research and is under strict oversight to work. Never discard therapy just because you're skeptical of the benefits. Those that use it often find that it works.
- Medications Anxiety drugs, on the other hand, are only partially beneficial and not highly recommended. This is not because anxiety drugs "don't" work like a lot of new age writers claim. Rather, they work, but they don't do what you want. No medication can cure anxiety. They can only dull it, and if you stop taking medicine your anxiety will come back. Also, psychiatric medicines have a lot of disruptive side effects. It's an option for those with severe anxiety, but it should only be used in combination with something better.
- Herbs There are several herbal medicines that may be used for anxiety as well. Kava, passionflower, and valerian root are the most popular. Of those three, only kava appears to have significant research in its favor. It carries some side effect risk, however, and like prescription medicines, it needs to be used in conjunction with long-term treatment.
- Exercise Exercise is the only surefire anxiety reduction strategy, and while rare, some people find that exercise cures their anxiety completely. Exercise is valuable for your mental health, and it's the only strategy that you should be using from day one.
There are several "alternative" therapies and anxiety reduction techniques as well. Some work better than others, and some people find that they have more success with one than others will. For example, hypnosis has been known to work, but it tends to work poorly for those that don't believe in it.
For any treatment to work, it needs to be based on your symptoms, and it needs to involve proven strategies that will help you cope with anxiety over the remainder of your life - not simply dull it away and prevent you from learning to cope on your own.
I've helped thousands of people with chronic anxiety problems. Start with my free 7-minute anxiety test. It will look at your symptoms and devise a solution to treat them that is effective for your type of chronic anxiety.
Cloninger, C. Robert. A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states. Psychiatric developments 4.3 (1986): 167.
Sanderson, William C., and Scott Wetzler. Chronic anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder: Issues in comorbidity. (1991).
Shekhar, Anantha, et al. Role of stress, corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) and amygdala plasticity in chronic anxiety. Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress 8.4 (2005): 209-219.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 29, 2017.