If you feel the burden of anxiety most days, know that you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a staggering 40 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common form of anxiety. NIH describes GAD as, “feel[ing] extremely worried or nervous about [things like health, money, or family problems] and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.” The difference between GAD and feelings of anxiousness is the inability to move forward. With GAD, anxiety is debilitating and all-consuming. Most often, it negatively affects a person’s day-to-day life.
Causes of Anxiety
When it comes to GAD and other anxiety disorders, there’s a slew of causes and triggers. Over the last few decades, the medical community has gained so much understanding and knowledge about the root causes of anxiety, which gives us strong hope for the future. But when it comes to managing and healing anxiety right now, understanding and being aware of your anxiety triggers is key.
Causes of anxiety can be broken down into 2 main categories: environmental and physiological. Environmental causes are often external, while physiological imbalances are internal. The good news is: once you determine the causes of your anxiety, there are ways to help you cope and heal.
Environmental causes, including:
- Emotional or physical trauma
- Toxic relationships
- Abuse or abandonment
- Financial burden
- Isolation or loneliness
- A diet high in processed foods
- Excess alcohol or caffeine
- Certain medications
In addition, physiological imbalances can trigger feelings of anxiety:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Metabolic disease
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
While these lists are a great start, they certainly aren’t exhaustive. Anxiety is highly bio-individual. Meaning, causes and treatment will greatly depend on the individual. There is no one-fits-all approach to cause or treatment.
That said, “The American Way” of life is certainly no help in the case of anxiety. As a society, we have a “bigger and better” mentality, which always pushes us to do and be better. Whether we realize it or not, this insane amount of pressure and stress takes its toll. Not to mention the feelings of isolation, comparison, and discontentment driven by social media. It’s no wonder anxiety statistics are continuing to rise in America, today.
Treatment Methods for Anxiety
In a world ridden with anxiety, there is hope! Today, we have many effective ways to treat anxiety at the source and provide relief to those who need it.
Personally, as a doctor and medical professional, I believe we are often too quick to prescribe medications for anxiety. This does not mean there are never circumstances when medication is necessary and helpful, because there are. However, many alternative approaches to treating anxiety can be tried first. Here is a comprehensive list of approaches to anxiety treatment:
- Therapy and Coping Mechanisms- Therapy should always be the first plan of attack for anyone battling anxiety. Therapy teaches healthy coping mechanisms to prevent and address anxiety attacks, while working through past traumas and experiences. There is no shame in the therapy game!
- Address Physiological Imbalances- Identifying and addressing physiological imbalances can have a drastic impact on anxiety. Work with your healthcare professional to test for nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, autoimmunity, and more.
- Medications- Various kinds of medications are available to treat anxiety, including SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, and more. In my professional opinion, medication should be a last resort (in MOST cases). Daily long-acting medications are the best option, as compared to benzodiazepines, which offer help in the shorter term (panic attacks) but can be highly addictive and cause physical side effects.
Although anxiety disorders are on the rise in America, I believe we can work together to reduce anxiety and other mental illnesses. By spreading awareness, the causes and treatments of anxiety can be used to heal those suffering from battles with anxiety.