Many things can make us anxious; politics, work, social media, family tension, a 24-hour news cycle. Occasional mild anxiety is healthy and can even sometimes be motivating. A little bit of anxiety can keep us on our toes, by getting us out of bed in the morning, making us wary of danger and reminding us of our responsibilities but what happens when this stress and anxiety begins to interfere with multiple aspects of our daily life? What happens when we can no longer perform our work tasks without worrying or can no longer drive the kids to school without being stressed out about traffic accidents? The defining characteristic between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder is: anxiety becomes a disorder when it gets in the way of your life, preventing you from doing the things you need or want to do on an everyday basis.

Stress versus anxiety

Stress is a normal defense mechanism for survival. Anxiety is often thought of the anticipation of future threats. Anxiety is excessive fear. It manifests behaviorally. It is normal to feel anxious and stressed out before a job interview, a big test or a big trip or move but when you begin to feel stressed about everyday tasks to the point that this stress is interfering with your job and/or your personal life, then this stress is starting to turn into behavioral manifestations. Anxiety can create physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, body aches, diarrhea, chest pain, problems sleeping, loss of appetite, and a slew of other signs and symptoms that can be disrupting to an individual’s lifestyle.

Anxiety disorders defined

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Anxiety disorders range from generalized anxiety and social anxiety to panic attacks and specific phobias. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder were once considered anxiety disorders but now they are listed under their categories in the DSM-V however both of these disorders do portray signs and symptoms that are seen in many anxiety disorders. One of the significant red flags that you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder is the inability to take care of yourself or your home. Unable to keep up with household chores, neglecting your exercise routine, forgetting to pay bills, are all red flags that your anxious thoughts and worries may be taking over your life to the point that you are unable to complete your daily tasks.

Anxiety-producing triggers

  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Childhood trauma
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Family history
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Bullying
  • Over the counter medications
  • Herbal medications
  • Financial stress
  • The loss of a loved one

Why me?

Anxiety disorders are not your fault. Many factors are entirely out of your hands. However, there are coping mechanisms that can help prevent anxiety signs and symptoms but everyone is affected by anxiety in a different capacity, and therefore different coping mechanisms work for different individuals. Additionally, if you grew up in a stressful environment as a child, you may be more prone to anxiety compared to someone who grew up in a stable household. Your childhood, genetics, and past traumas are not your fault, and neither is the mental health disorders that developed from unwanted triggers.