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Chronic Anxiety - Causes and Options for Treatment

Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS
Chronic Anxiety - Causes and Options for Treatment

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.

Chronic Anxiety Disorders

When someone suffers from "chronic" anxiety, they're most often suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are diagnoses provided by mental health professionals that indicate the type of chronic anxiety you're suffering from. They include:

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 most days without a clear and reasonable trigger. 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 such as:

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, catastrophic  thinking, over-sensitivity to health and physical sensations, and more. The longer you live with anxiety, the more anxiety may consume your thoughts. 

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 likely going to be sorely disappointed. You CAN effectively treat 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.

There are a lot of strategies people use to combat anxiety. The more common include:

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.

Article Resources
  1. Cloninger, C. Robert. A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states. Psychiatric developments 4.3 (1986): 167.
  2. Sanderson, William C., and Scott Wetzler. Chronic anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder: Issues in comorbidity. (1991).
  3. 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.
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