Dr. William Kuzbyt
Depending on your source, anxiety occurs in approximately 20% of the population at any given time. That’s one out of every five people. During the pandemic, studies have shown that there has been an increase somewhere between 25 and 50% in the prevalence of anxiety. So that would mean that at any point in time in the past two years, about two or three out of five people were suffering with symptoms of anxiety.
While we can agree that this is a significant number, some people are still confused about anxiety and what it might look like or feel like. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that anxiety appears in many ways. Another factor is anxiety is described by mental health professionals with several different diagnosis. So, we may be talking about the same thing, however, we refer to it in different terms.
In general, anxiety is a term that encompasses feelings of stress, worry, and fear, to name a few. Anxiety can be experienced through identifiable physical symptoms, which can make us uncomfortable to an extreme where we experience debilitating fear. Symptoms can be acute, meaning they come and go quickly. Other times, the symptoms are chronic. In other words, they last for long periods of time, or they frequently return.
The symptoms can also differ in terms of intensity. Some of us have low levels of anxiety that appear to bubble up occasionally and do not pose much stress to us. Many people, however, have experiences with anxiety and may not even recognize the symptoms as related to anxiety.
Have you ever felt tense and didn’t recognize why? Have you ever had dry mouth and started sweating when not in a warm room or when you were not exercising? How about ever felt your muscles get tense and just feel uncomfortable? Have you ever felt jumpy or easily startled? Does this sound at all familiar?
What about a loss of appetite for what seems like no reason? Ever experience stomach issues or nausea and cannot explain why? What about sleep difficulties, either you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep through the night? Do you ever have racing thoughts, thoughts you cannot seem to stop when you are trying to fall asleep? Loss of sleep or disturbed sleep can result in fatigue or even exhaustion. When that occurs, do you feel frustrated, or maybe agitated? Do you ever struggle to concentrate when working on tasks? All of these could be symptoms of anxiety. The number of symptoms you experience and the severity of them are indicators of how much anxiety may be affecting your daily life.
It is important that you understand these symptoms and address them. They do not need to be the most severe — like feeling shortness of breath or feeling panic so strong that you feel paralyzed — before you treat them. Clearly, these high-level symptoms require immediate treatment. The low-level symptoms of anxiety that are infrequent and less intense should be investigated as well. You should seek out the cause and clearly identify coping strategies to reduce or perhaps even eliminate the anxiety. It’s important that you do not ignore these symptoms as most of the time they linger or return, if not appropriately addressed. You or a loved one does not have to suffer with the symptoms of anxiety any longer!