When To See A Mental Health Professional For Stress Or Anxiety
If simple changes in lifestyle don’t alleviate the symptoms of anxiety or stress, you might want to visit a mental health professional to see if you might have an underlying anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by the mind often going blank, feeling on edge for no specific reason, and having trouble either getting to sleep or staying asleep. You might also have a panic disorder, in which panic attacks come on unexpectedly, resulting in shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations or an accelerated heart rate, sweating, and a feeling of being out of control. Other anxiety disorders include certain phobias like a fear of heights or crowded spaces, or even social anxiety disorder, which causes people to avoid social situations out of fear of what others might think of them .
Fortunately, a mental health professional can help you deal with these feelings through medications, simple talk therapy, and even cognitive behavior therapy, which teaches people to think differently and therefore react to anxiety-producing situations differently, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
How Anxiety Disorders Affect People
For people dealing with anxiety disorders, symptoms can feel strange and confusing at first. For some, the physical sensations can be strong and upsetting. For others, feelings of doom or fear that can happen for no apparent reason can make them feel scared, unprotected, and on guard. Constant worries can make a person feel overwhelmed by every little thing. All this can affect someone’s concentration, confidence, sleep, appetite, and outlook.
People with anxiety disorders might avoid talking about their worries, thinking that others might not understand. They may fear being unfairly judged, or considered weak or scared. Although anxiety disorders are common, people who have them may feel misunderstood or alone.
Some people with anxiety disorders might blame themselves. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, or mistakenly think that anxiety is a weakness or a personal failing. Anxiety can keep people from going places or doing things they enjoy.
The good news is, doctors today understand anxiety disorders better than ever before and, with treatment, a person can feel better.
Stress Vs Anxiety: How To Tell The Difference
While the terms stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, and while theres some overlap in the symptoms, they actually dont mean the same thing. Anxiety disorders affect nearly 5% of the household population, while stress is much more common. And the differences dont stop there. Heres how to tell one from the other.
DISCLOSURE: This advice is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner. Always seek medical advice that is specific to you and your situation.
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Did You Know: You Can Experience Anxiety Symptoms When You’re Not Feeling Anxious
There is an issue known as limited symptom panic attacks. These are when your body has less than 4 of the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack, and they may occur even when you’re not suffering from anxiety.
Those that get panic attacks are prone to these limited symptom attacks and experience issues like chest pain and shortness of breath without any triggers – often leading to future worries about their own health. It’s hard to know if you have limited symptom attacks without knowing your anxiety.
These Are The Key Differences Between Stress And Anxiety
While there’s much about stress and anxiety that overlap, the key way to tell the difference is what triggers each feeling. Stress is caused by external triggers, according to the American Psychological Association. Those triggers might be short-term and include work deadlines, a fight with a family member or someone you care about, while more long-term triggers include the inability to work and chronic illness. Meanwhile, anxiety doesn’t seem to have any outside triggers, but you still feel haunted by constant worrying that doesn’t seem to recede and often doesn’t seem to have any logical reasons.
Stress can lead to insomnia, digestive issues, anger, muscle pain, and fatigue, while anxiety can also lead to difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, digestive issues, and difficulty concentrating. The symptoms can even be relieved with the same methods, including physical activity, excellent sleep hygiene, and nutritious eating habits .
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Signs And Symptoms Of Stress Overload
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You dont notice how much its affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. Thats why its important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits
Monitor Your Heart To Detect Anxiety Or Atrial Fibrillation
The best way to truly understand whether anxiety causes a fast heart rate, or if a fast heart rate causes anxiety, is to monitor your heart.
A heart monitor records your heart rhythm day and night. Some automatically record all heart rhythms others require you to push a button when you feel heart symptoms. When you dont have symptoms, heart monitors may not provide the information needed for a diagnosis. For that reason, I have patients use them for two to four weeks to increase my chances of capturing the event.
Over the past two years, more people are using their smartphones to keep track of their activity and heart rate, but each device has limitations. What’s important, however, is your daily trend.
Your heart rate varies throughout the day by a few beats per minute up to 10 bpm, even when doing very little activity or experiencing infrequent stress. When exercising, the variation may be more pronounced and change more quickly, which allows us to quickly adapt to different situations and challenges. When you look at the daily trend, you will quickly find your normal. This normal will have the lowest heart rates at night, and then change predictably during the day while at work and rest, and during exercise.
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Techniques To Manage Stress And Anxiety
Its normal to experience stress and anxiety from time to time, and there are strategies you can use to make them more manageable. Pay attention to how your body and mind respond to stressful and anxiety-producing situations. Next time a stressful experience occurs, youll be able to anticipate your reaction and it may be less disruptive.
Lets Talk About Stress
For one, stress is typically defined as a response to an external trigger, and can either be acute or chronic . In an ideal world, the duration of the stress response corresponds with its trigger: Once a stressor has been dealt with, the body can return to its natural baseline state.
Acute stress. Remember the pit in your stomach from before? Thats an example of the stress response, which you might know better as fight-or-flight. When youre triggered by something stressful, your brain floods your body with hormones that push you to react: Blood moves away from digestive organs and into your limbs, allowing you to move more efficiently and quickly. Your heart beats faster and breathing speeds up, bringing more oxygen into the bloodstream.
Stress evolved as a survival mechanism, designed to make it easier for us to fight or flee from life-threatening triggers. Today, even though unreasonable emails do not warrant the same urgency as a hungry tiger on the savannah, our bodies dont know the difference. While stress might not feel great in the moment, it can still be helpful by motivating us to stay alert and take action when we need to.
In fact, the Yerkes-Dodson law in psychology proposes that moderate levels of stress are optimal for peak performance. We tend to talk about this state as being in the zone or in flow. Too little stress leads to low level performance, whereas too much is a recipe for needless fight-or-flight.
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Supporting Someone With Anxiety Or Depression
There are ways that you can help someone with anxiety or depression. It may be helpful to:
- let them know if youve noticed a change in their behaviour
- spend time talking about their experiences and let them know youre there to listen without being judgmental
- help them to get information from a website, library or community health centre
- suggest they go to a doctor or health professional, and help them to make an appointment
- offer to go with them to their appointment and follow up with them afterwards
- encourage them to get enough sleep, to exercise and to eat well
- encourage family and friends to invite them out and keep in touch, but dont pressure them to participate in activities
- contact a doctor or hospital if they become a threat to themselves or others.
It is unhelpful to:
- put pressure on them by telling them to snap out of it or get their act together
- stay away or avoid them
- tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more
- pressure them to party more or wipe out how theyre feeling with drugs and alcohol
- assume the problem will just go away.
If you or someone you know needs support, talk to a doctor or other health professional about getting appropriate treatment.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders
We dont fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety.
Genetics. Some people seem to be born more anxious than others. You may get anxiety through your genes.
Life experience. This could be bad experiences such as being abused or losing a loved one. It could also include big changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.
Drugs. Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs can also have an effect.
Circumstances. Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your anxiety.
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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Cholesterol
Whether or not youre stressed, its smart to see your primary care physician once a year for a complete exam, including a check of blood pressure, heart rate, weight, cholesterol, and thyroid hormones. And dont let a doctor brush off your stress.
When women have heart palpitations, doctors are more likely to think that theyre either experiencing stress or anxiety, or that theyre hysterical in some way. As a result, women tend to be underdiagnosed with heart disease, says Dr. Haythe. And this happens despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. A good rule of thumb: If unusual symptoms persist for more than a week or two, see your physician.
Is Anxiety And Depression Considered A Disability
If your anxiety or depression disability claim was brought about by a workplace injury, you may be eligible for an Alberta or Saskatchewan WCB claim. You may be able to claim for pain and suffering, past wage loss, and/or loss of future earning capacity if your depression or anxiety were caused by a car accident.
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When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress
Talk to your doctor about stress if you are feeling overwhelmed, are reliant on drugs or alcohol to cope with the feelings of stress, have thoughts of hurting yourself, or are experiencing other related conditions, like anxiety or depression. Your doctor can provide advice for better managing your stress, prescribe medication, or refer you to a mental health professional for further diagnosis and treatment.
The National Institute of Mental Health . 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Child Mind Disorder. Acute Stress Disorder Basics. Accessed 4/11/2021.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, National Center for PTSD. Acute Stress Disorder. Accessed 4/11/2021.
Whats The Difference Between Stress And Anxiety
Knowing the difference can ensure you get the help you need.
Whats the difference between stress and anxiety?
Theres a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one or long-term, such as being unable to work, discrimination, or chronic illness. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that dont go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety leads to a nearly identical set of symptoms as stress: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
Both mild stress and mild anxiety respond well to similar coping mechanisms. Physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are a good starting point, but there are other .
Anxiety disorders are common. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of Americans over the age of 18 had an anxiety disorder in the past year, and 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetimes.
Tips For Men Coping With Anxiety And Depression
There are lots of things you can do to look after your health and wellbeing, so find an approach that best suits you. For example, try to stay active and make plans for the day they dont have to be grand plans, just small things like going for a run or talking to a mate.
Try to include activities or hobbies that you specifically enjoy. At first, you may not enjoy them as much as you did before, but if you keep active and persist, the enjoyment should eventually return.
Its important to look after your body by staying physically active, eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep. Try not to drink alcohol or take other drugs to block out how youre feeling and what is happening. This is not a positive long-term solution and can make the anxiety or depression worse.
The important thing is to find the right options and the right health professionals that suit you.
Do You Have Normal Anxiety Or A Disorder
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Anxiety is a general, unpleasant feeling of apprehension. When you’re anxious, you may feel restless and experience physical reactions such as a headache, sweating, palpitations, chest tightness, and upset stomach.
Anxiety is a normal human experience. In fact, it can be a potentially beneficial response in anticipation of dangerous situations. The physical symptoms of anxiety are coming from your autonomic nervous system response. It is different from but related to the fear, which is a natural reaction to a clear and present danger.
While anxiety normal and common, it can become maladaptive. So, when is anxiety normal and when is it an anxiety disorder?