For people with anxiety disorder, even the smallest task can feel like a nightmare. Tasks that many of us take for granted, like going to the grocery store, going to the doctor, or even just going to work, can trigger serious anxiety issues. Not all is lost, however, for anxiety sufferers. By learning new coping skills, many anxiety sufferers are able to function fairly normal on a day to day basis.
Breathing exercises are one of the most common and effective anxiety coping methods used today. This is likely because of the connection that the nervous system has with the respiratory system. Think about it, anytime you are stressed, breathing increases, naturally. By learning how to slow your breathing down, you can slow down your nervous system. Since everyone is different, there are different breathing methods. Some methods work better than others, depending on the preference of the individual.
Don’t Go it Alone
Before taking on your anxiety disorder, you should know that anxiety is best dealt with under the care of a physician and/or therapist. They can help you come up with a complete treatment plan that gives you the best chance at success. Generally, anxiety sufferers need more than one type of treatment, initially. Then, once coping skills are learned and exposure becomes easier, things like medication and therapy appointments can be reduced. In some cases, medication can be completely removed, after a period of time.
The important part is to remember is that you don’t have to face your anxiety alone. You can ask for help and are likely to be more successful if you do. Even if you are embarrassed by your anxiety and feel that you are abnormal, know that this is an issue that therapists and physicians deal with every day. Their goal is to help you succeed in beating your anxiety so that you can live a normal, happy life.
Starting With Your Core
Most breathing exercises for anxiety start within the abdomen. This is because, to be able to breathe from your abdomen, you must take deeper breaths. This requires you to slow down your breathing. When you breathe with your abdomen, your stomach should inflate when you inhale and deflate when you exhale. You may even feel tightening of the stomach muscles when you exhale. It can take time to learn this technique, if you have never used it before. So, be patient with yourself. Try practicing your breathing when you are calm so that, when you are stressed, it will be easier to do.
Your posture is another crucial element in breathing exercises. When doing your breathing exercises, your shoulder blades should be aligned with your lower back. Your head should also be in line with your shoulders. The sides of your shoulders should also be in line with your hips. These posture guidelines apply whether you are standing or sitting during your breathing exercises.
Changing Your Focus
For many anxiety sufferers, the stimulus is external and often visual. During breathing exercises, you may want to either close your eyes completely or partially. This can keep you from focusing on visual stimuli that may be triggering your anxiety. If, however, you find that the stimulus surrounding you is still too distracting, try relocating, just slightly, without removing yourself completely from the situation. This will keep you from giving in to the avoidance behaviors but help you ease into your coping skills, allowing you to improve before you face your fears head on.
Most breathing exercises for anxiety suggest that you breathe through your nose. This is because it is more difficult to breathe rapidly through your nose. However, there are specific exercises that suggest breathing through alternating nostrils. These types of exercises are most commonly found in yoga and are supposed to be good for the nervous system.
To do this type of breathing, tuck in your first and middle finger. Extend your right hand up to your nose with your thumb facing your right nostril and your ring and pinkie fingers facing your left nostril. Now, use your thumb to close off your right nostril. Breathe through your left nostril for four seconds and then exhale. Now use your ring and pinkie fingers to close your left nostril and breathe through your right nostril for four seconds and then exhale. You can repeat this technique as long as you like.
Using Yoga Principles
Most types of breathing exercises are based in yoga. This is why many anxiety sufferers start taking yoga classes. Yoga positions and classes are claimed to be good for the mind, the body, and the spirit. In addition to any techniques you are working with your doctor or therapist on, you may want to check into yoga classes or yoga instructional DVDs.
Separation anxiety is a normal developmental condition that generally begins around 7 months of age. It often peaks during the early toddler years and is considered normal up until age 3. In normal separation anxiety, the child is likely to become extremely distressed when they are left by someone that they are attached to. The child may cry, scream, and cling to the person that is leaving them and they may continue to have feelings of anxiety for several minutes to hours after the adult leaves.
Generally, separation anxiety fades after age three. The child learns that the adult will return and that they are safe in the absence of the adult. However, some children continue separation anxiety on into adolescence.
When Does Separation Anxiety Become a Problem?
When separation anxiety begins to interfere with the child’s life, long after what is considered the normal age for separation, there may be a need for concern. It is estimated that somewhere between 4-5% of children and adolescents suffer from separation anxiety disorder. Generally, children with separation anxiety will refuse to go to school on a regular basis.
Children with severe anxiety may also have unrealistic fears about being left or that harm will happen to the adult while they are gone. The child may even experience nightmares or refuse to be separated from the adult, even to go to bed. Headaches or stomach aches may also occur when separation happens or is expected to happen.
To be diagnosed with SAD, the child must display at least three of the separation anxiety symptoms. The symptoms must also be present for at least a month and must interfere with social relationships. Symptoms, however, cannot be accompanied by other mental conditions like social phobia or schizophrenia.
What Causes SAD?
According to researchers, SAD is most likely caused by a number of factors, not just any one factor. Trauma that occurs while with or separated from parents or the trusted adult can cause unrealistic fears and promote separation anxiety disorder. Loss of parents can also create separation anxiety disorder. These situations are rather extreme, however.
Simple situations can also create a predisposal for separation anxiety disorder. Researchers believe that a big factor could be genetic tendency. Parents who have anxiety disorder are more likely to have children with anxiety disorder. However, this may be more than just a genetic issue.
How a parent deals with their child’s separation anxiety can make it more difficult for the child to overcome it. Additionally, observing a parent’s lack of coping skills and the parent’s inability to teach coping skills to their child may add to the problem. Another possible risk can be stress felt by the mother during the pregnancy.
Treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder
Behavioral therapy is generally the preferred method for treating separation anxiety disorder in children. While medication can be used if the situation is severe, it is generally discouraged. This is because anxiety medications can lead to severe dependency. Additionally, anxiety medication is not a cure for anxiety. It is simply a method that can help suppress anxiety symptoms.
Behavioral therapy is used to actually address the condition, not the symptom. The focus is placed upon responding positively when the child responds positively to separation, even if the response is small. This is a complete contrast to chastising a child for failing to use coping skills during separation. Instead, failures are not recognized and accomplishments are rewarded.
Failure to treat separation anxiety disorder can lead to more serious conditions in adulthood. This can include, but is not limited to anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. Additionally, the earlier symptoms are treated, the easier it will be to help the child reach recovery.
What to do if Your Child has Separation Anxiety Disorder
The worst thing you can do if your child displays symptoms of separation anxiety disorder is to punish them for their fears. This can make the condition worse and make healing much more difficult. Instead, if you suspect that your child has separation anxiety disorder, try being more patient with your child’s fears.
The next thing you need to do is make an appointment with your child’s doctor. Discuss the symptoms with them. This may require you to spend some time observing when and why the separation symptoms occur before you actually attend the appointment. Many parents find that keeping a diary can help them keep track the symptoms and how long they occur.
Follow the instructions of your child’s doctor. This can help you help your child. Above all else, be patient and understanding. Learn to recognize when your child is struggling and avoid making them feel bad when they do.
Shortness of breath is one of the most commonly reported symptoms experienced with anxiety. Generally, when this occurs, you are having what is known as an anxiety attack. Symptoms can last for extended periods of time, often more than ten minutes. If shortness of breath continues, it can even lead to other symptoms, like chest pain.
Understanding the Connection
When our bodies become stressed, our bodies tend to react accordingly. Often, this reaction comes in faster, shallower breathing. If your breathing becomes too rapid, you may become frightened or alarmed. This can elevate the situation even further.
It truly is a vicious cycle. It can be very hard to change and can be very frightening to go through. As a result, many anxiety sufferers will start to avoid the situations that trigger feelings of fear or anxiety. Depending on the trigger, you can end up avoiding situations that may be needed for everyday life, like the grocery store or work.
Learning how to recognize the symptoms, why they occur, and how you can resolve them can help you get your life back. This is something that many anxiety sufferers truly need. They have lost their lives to their condition. The longer you avoid the situation, the harder it can be to turn things right side up again. So, if you are struggling with shortness of breath from anxiety, there is no time like the present to start moving forward.
Where Shortness of Breath Begins
The first step to getting your life back is learning where the problem begins. Like all anxiety symptoms, anxiety-related shortness of breath begins in your brain. Feelings of stress, worry, embarrassment, or fear trigger a release of adrenaline in your brain. This is a natural chemical that is produced when your body, mind, or spirit are in imminent danger. Originally, the body used it to protect the body from life or death situations. However, today, the triggering situations do not have to be life or death. If you perceive the situation as large or serious, then your brain perceives it as life or death.
Once the chemicals are released into the body, the body starts to react accordingly. Your muscles get tense. Your heart starts beating faster. Your breathing starts to get more rapid and shallow. You may start to feel dizzy because of a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can cause stronger feelings of anxiety, causing your breathing to become more rapid and shallow. All of this can occur within just moments of your negative thoughts.
Other Complications From Shortness of Breath
Depending on the length of time that you experience shortness of breath, you are likely to experience other symptoms. You may start to hyperventilate which can cause dizziness and chest pain. You may start to have body tremors and are likely to feel like you have to escape from whatever situation is causing your negative feelings. You may even feel like you are going to pass out or are having a heart attack.
There are many cases of people that visit the emergency room every year because of anxiety attacks. They don’t understand what caused their pain. They didn’t know they were under stress. For whatever reason, they didn’t associate their pain and shortness of breath with anxiety. It is not until a large number of tests are performed and no cause is found that they learn that the cause of their pain was an anxiety attack. They also often learn that, because they have had one, they are more likely to have more.
Changing the Cycle
There are a number of ways that you can treat anxiety. And, depending on why you are experiencing anxiety, you are likely to find that some methods work better than others. In some cases, exposure to the situation after practicing relaxation techniques may be best. In others, cognitive behavioral therapy that works on changing the way you react to particular situations may be the answer. Finding what works for you will probably take some trial and error, but most of all, it will take time.
Retraining Your Breathing
While you are learning how to cope with your anxiety problems, you are likely to need a way to help you deal with the shortness of breath problems. One of the most effective ways of dealing with anxiety-related shortness of breath is through retraining your breathing with deep breathing.
Deep breathing requires you to take slower, deeper breaths. When performing deep breathing, your stomach should expand. You should also breathe through your nose because rapid breathing is much harder to do through your nose. To help you utilize this technique during times of stress and anxiety, you may want to practice it regularly when you are calm.
Anxiety can happen to anyone, at any time. It doesn’t matter if you have never had anxiety problems before or if it is a regular part of your everyday life, when it happens, it can bring on physical symptoms. Often, individuals with general anxiety disorder are able to recognize the symptoms, after they have suffered from the condition for a long period of time. However, those that have never had anxiety issues can sometimes be alarmed by the physical symptoms that anxiety causes.
Anxiety is Not Just for General Anxiety Sufferers
What a lot of people fail to realize is that anxiety can happen to anyone under stress. It is actually a normal condition that helps to indicate to the body that harm or danger is near. And, while there may not always be bodily, life or death danger, the body can send life or death messages from the brain to the body when stress levels get too high.
Anxiety can occur after any number of issues. Sometimes, there aren’t even triggers that can be identified. Car accidents, death of a loved one, extreme fatigue, rape, or any other situation that can cause stress to the body can trigger anxiety reactions within the brain.
You Can’t Checklist the Symptoms
There really is no checklist of symptoms for anxiety. There are definitely symptoms that are more common than others. However, every person experiences anxiety differently. This means that symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next. Additionally, severity of symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next and from one situation to the next. This can make pinning down your anxiety rather difficult at times.
Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic attacks are a form of anxiety that can happen abruptly. There is rarely any warning that a panic attack is coming. They can happen to people who have never had problems with anxiety and they can happen frequently to people that suffer from general anxiety disorder.
Individuals that have never had problems with anxiety often wind up going to the emergency room when they experience their first anxiety attack. The symptoms can be extremely severe and very alarming. They can include tingling or numbness in the hands, chills, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, hot flashes, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, upset stomach, lightheadedness, shaking, nervousness, terror, perceptual distortion, and a serious need to escape.
Generally, the symptoms of an anxiety attack last for at least ten minutes. Certain health conditions or medical conditions can actually trigger an anxiety attack. Other speculations point to certain food dyes and additives but there is no supporting evidence. Once you have had an anxiety attack, you are more likely to experience another than someone who has never had one. Additionally, if you continue to experience them on a regular basis, you may be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder.
Physical Symptoms of General Anxiety
Anxiety does not always make its presence known in the form of an anxiety attack. In fact, many people live with the symptoms of anxiety in their day-to-day life without even realizing it. Since anxiety’s purpose is to warn the body of stress or harm, ignoring the symptoms of anxiety can lead to other, more serious health conditions. Additionally, continuing to ignoring the symptoms can eventually lead to panic attacks.
Probably one of the most commonly felt – and commonly ignored- symptom of anxiety is muscle tension. This is often felt in the jaw and muscles in the back, shoulders, and neck. It can also be displayed through a clenched jaw or grinding teeth. Muscle relaxation therapy is often very effective at relieving the muscle tension felt. However, it is important to realize that the muscle tension is a symptom, not a condition. You must deal with the anxiety so that the muscle tension will subside.
Digestive problems are also a common anxiety symptom. This can occur in the form of constipation, diarrhea, nausea, a change in appetite, or general abdominal discomfort. This symptom can end up causing other problems within the body, especially if the problem persists for long periods of time.
Sleeping changes can also occur in individuals that are experiencing anxiety. In most cases, it happens in the form of insomnia. This is because the body is under too much stress to rest. However, others will experience extreme fatigue and sleeping more than usual. This is because the body is under constant stress and is worn out.
If you think that you are experiencing a problem with anxiety and it doesn’t seem to go away, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Without proper treatment, your body will continue to live under constant stress. This can take a serious toll on your body and is very dangerous.
Anxiety, under normal conditions, can help to protect you from harm. However, when anxiety persists for long periods of time and affects your day-to-day life, it has gone beyond the point of protection. It has now transformed into a condition known as anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorder can cause you to avoid situations in life. It can make you feel like you are in a constant state of panic. It can even erode your personal and intimate relationships, causing you to feel isolated and alone. Living with anxiety in your day-to-day life can actually create health problems and other mental illnesses, like depression.
Learning new coping skills and facing your anxiety head on is the only way you can ever learn to live a normal life again. Of course, this is a very difficult journey. It is one that requires persistence and hard work. Depending on the level of anxiety you are dealing with and the amount of impact it has on your everyday life, you may need a variety of different types of treatment to help you in learning how to control your anxiety.
For those with debilitating anxiety issues, medication may be used to help you cope. However, it is important to realize that medication, in no way, cures your anxiety problems. Instead, it helps you keep calm so that you can learn new coping skills with less stress. Without other types of treatment, medication can eventually become ineffective, requiring you to continually increase dosage or change medication.
You should also know that, like all prescription drugs, anxiety medication has side effects. These side effects can vary, depending on the drug and can range anywhere from moderately uncomfortable to severe or even life threatening. You and your doctor should carefully discuss the potential side effects of your anxiety medication. You should also discuss the other forms of treatment that you will receive so that you can eventually stop taking medication.
Psychotherapy is generally done with a therapist or psychologist. A diagnostic assessment will be performed to determine the type and severity of anxiety you are dealing with. This can help your therapist design the very best treatment plan for your needs.
Most types of psychotherapy treatment involve what is known as cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is used to address the emotions, behaviors, and cognitions involved with anxiety disorder. It is a goal-oriented type of therapy that takes a very systematic procedure and is based upon extensive behavioral and cognitive research.
Relaxation techniques, addressing unrealistic fears, and exposure therapy, which requires facing situations that are generally avoided by those with anxiety are just some of the techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy. The idea is to help the individual take risks that might cause embarrassment. While this may be extremely scary, it is generally very effective.
It is important that anyone taking cognitive behavioral therapy continues treatment until they are released. Therapy should take place regularly and according to the therapist’s instructions. This is the best way to ensure successful treatment.
Dealing With the Past
In some cases, anxiety disorder is a result of trauma, which can include situations like rape, natural disaster, abuse, and military combat. This type of trauma is most commonly found in conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Feelings of intense fear, avoidance, and re-experiencing the traumatic event are very common with post-traumatic stress disorder. The individual may also have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and be easily startled.
In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, the therapist may request that you deal with the traumatic event in a normal and healthy way. To overcome your fear, you must process it in a healthier way. This can be very difficult to do at the time of trauma. However, after the traumatic event is over, you can talk about the situation and learn how to cope with the feelings and fears that occurred.
Learning New Coping Skills
The reason that cognitive behavioral therapy is so effective is that it teaches you how to implement new coping skills. What would normally trigger an anxiety attack will eventually seem like a normal part of life again. Where most patients struggle is realizing that cognitive behavioral therapy takes time and lots of practice.
The first time that you attempt to face your fears, you might struggle tremendously. You might even have an anxiety attack. However, with the help of your therapist, you will learn techniques that can help you deal with the situation that normally causes fear. Eventually, you will start to notice that the situations that were once too scary to deal with at all become just a little bit easier. This doesn’t mean that you will never experience anxiety again. It simply means that you will have a new way of handling it when it does.
Anxiety can happen to anyone, at any given time. In fact, most people have experienced anxiety a time or two during the course of their life. Generally, anxiety is caused fear, worry, or stress. Under normal conditions, anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to stress.
Under normally stressful or dangerous conditions, anxiety can be an emotion that indicates a problem or negative situation that needs to be dealt with. It can also indicate a situation that should be avoided or fled from because of potential danger. Normal conditions can include a car accident, dangerous driving conditions, death of a loved one, or any other situation that could bring harm physically or emotionally to the individual. It can, however, lack an identifiable trigger.
What is Anxiety?
The root meaning of the word anxiety is ‘to vex or trouble.’ A person that is experiencing anxiety can have physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include sweating, rapid breathing, feeling weak, or increased heart rate. An individual who is experiencing anxiety may also feel very apprehensive or have a sense of powerlessness.
Researchers have spent a great deal of time, trying to determine what exactly causes anxiety and where it actually comes from. After years of testing on a wide variety of individuals with a wide variety of tests, researchers have developed a few theories about anxiety.
PET scans revealed to researchers that neurological changes occur within the brain after being introduced to dangerous stimuli. An increased blood flow was found within the amygdala, even in individuals that stated the stimulus created only a mild sense of anxiety. This has led researchers to believe that anxiety is not a disease but a protective mechanism within the body. They believe that anxiety is present to keep the individual from engaging in or being exposed to dangerous situations and behaviors.
It is unknown why some individuals experience more anxiety than others. However, there is evidence that indicates a genetic tendency for anxiety. Additionally, individuals that have experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives tend to be more susceptible to anxiety problems.
When is Anxiety a Problem?
Anxiety should never be a regular issue. It should not occur on a daily basis for extended periods of time. Additionally, anxiety should not be the dominating feeling in a person’s life. If this occurs, anxiety is considered to be excessive. Anxiety of this magnitude is often diagnosed as general anxiety disorder.
In excessive anxiety, or anxiety disorder, anxiety can create serious problems for the sufferer. Chronic fear and even difficulty functioning in day to day life can become a serious problem for chronic anxiety sufferers. They may experience insomnia, anxiousness, unrealistic fears, and serious tension. For some, anxiety can become so debilitative that even simple tasks, like going to the grocery store, going to work, or interacting can seem too difficult. Generally, individuals that have anxiety of this magnitude also experience what is known as anxiety attacks.
An anxiety attack can be extremely scary. During an anxiety attack, an individual may feel that they are being smothered. They may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and chest pains. There is often an overwhelming sense of fear or impending doom. While anxiety attacks may not give any warning, an individual may be able to recognize situations that can trigger an anxiety attack.
Types of Anxiety
There are many different types of anxiety. They range from mild in nature to severe. Agoraphobia can cause the individual to avoid situations, people, and places that may trigger an anxiety attack. Post-traumatic stress disorder, most often found in individuals that have experienced a traumatic event, can cause a person to frequently relive or re-experience the event emotionally. Triggers can include certain people, sounds, and smells. Social anxiety, one of the more common types of anxiety, causes the individual to become very anxious around new people, during social gatherings, or in large crowds.
What to Do if Anxiety is a Problem
As mentioned earlier, anxiety is a normal reaction to a stressor. However, when anxiety starts to become the predominating feeling in your life, it may be time to do something about it. This is especially true when anxiety problems last for long periods of time.
For many, long periods of anxiety can start to breed feelings of depression. Lack of social interaction because of anxiety may also play a part in the depression. Many anxiety sufferers will start to have feelings of worthlessness. Relationships may deteriorate. Alcohol or drug abuse may occur. An individual may even start to have thought of suicide.
If you are experiencing anxiety that just doesn’t seem to go away, it may be time to talk to a doctor. You and your doctor can work together on a treatment plan that can help you get back to your life. Treating it early may also make it easier to treat the condition.
Anxiety can plague the life of sufferers to the point that life loses all joy, meaning, and purpose. Simple tasks can seem impossible. Fear can run every single aspect of their lives. Relationships may even deteriorate. Life can seem hopeless and it may seem that things will never get better.
This type of thinking can often cause serious depression. Thoughts of suicide may even occur if anxiety lasts for long periods of time. However, addressing the problem early on can often lead to an increased chance of curing the condition.
Is There a Cure?
The answer to this question is often up for debate, depending on who you talk to. However, most professionals will agree that there is, indeed a cure. While anxiety may plague you from time to time, it is important to realize that anxiety is actually a normal reaction to stress. It can help protect you from dangerous situations that could cause harm to your physical, emotional, or mental well-being.
The problem with anxiety occurs when it becomes the dominating emotion in a person’s life or lasts for long periods of time. When it begins to interfere with life, anxiety is an issue. However, occasional anxiety should be an indication that you need to stop and take care of yourself for a while and find out what the source of your negative feelings are.
Medication is Not a Cure
Don’t ever let anyone fool you into thinking that medication is a cure for anxiety. Anxiety medication does not treat the condition. It treats the symptoms. As a result, if you were to stop taking your anxiety medication before learning how to handle your anxiety, you are likely to have your anxiety symptoms return. However, using medication until you can learn new coping skills can help you eventually reduce the need for medication, allowing you to recover from your anxiety disorder.
There are No Miracles
You need to be realistic about your anxiety disorder. Nothing will cure you overnight. There are no miracles that will make it just go away. Curing your anxiety will take a great deal of work, determination, and dedication. But, if you stick with it, there really is hope.
While working towards your goal, it can be hard to stay motivated at times. However, there are a few tricks that others have used to keep them on course. Keeping a diary or log can give you something to look back on. Be honest with your struggles, and your accomplishments. This may help to give you a little motivation when you need it. Just remember, if you believe in your healing, anything is possible.
Four Steps to Curing Anxiety
There are four basic steps to curing your anxiety. And, while they sound simple, realize that you are likely to have to repeat the steps multiple times. Be patient with yourself and your anxiety as you work through these steps. If you give yourself a hard time about your healing process, you are likely to experience a longer healing time than necessary.
To start the healing process, you will first have to face your symptoms. Identify your triggers and how you react to them. Accept them and recognize that they are there. Embrace the symptoms of your anxiety, while still recognizing that they are not here to stay.
You will next need to practice some coping skills. For many people, the best way to practice is during a time that anxiety is not present. Coping skills can include breathing techniques, tapping, and self-talk. You might also find that combining the different techniques can help you deal with different situations. This will help you be ready for the next step.
You next need to face your fears – whatever they are. Don’t let the fear of an anxiety attack keep you away from your healing. Instead, embrace the idea that the attack may come but know that you will survive and that you will get through it.
Next, document your experience. Keep a journal, make a video, do whatever will be most helpful to you. Document how you felt, how you dealt with it, and how you felt afterwards. You may even want to document the specific technique you used to deal with the situation as well as how long it took you to feel relaxed again. This type of documentation could be extremely motivating when you feel like giving up.
Continue to repeat these steps, over and over. Talk to your therapist and your doctor about your progress. Reward yourself when you make a big accomplishment and be gentle with yourself when things don’t go as well as you had planned. With time, you will find that your anxiety gets easier and easier to deal with.