Have you ever felt anxious? Certainly, we all have encountered feelings of unease with associated nervousness and excessive worry. Typically these feelings are regarding an upcoming event, or about something with an uncertain outcome.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), when these symptoms occur most days of the week for at least 6 months with significant disruption to daily life, it may be characterized as generalized anxiety disorder.
How many people are affected by anxiety?
According to Results from the 2005 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, lifetime occurrence of generalized anxiety disorder is nearly 5%. Amongst those affected, females are twice as likely to experience symptoms as males.
In the primary care setting, roughly 8% of diagnosed conditions are associated with generalized anxiety disorder. Your family doctor should ask screening questions during your annual exam, or whenever there is a concern to determine if your symptoms may be due to anxiety or related disorders.
Risk factors associated with increased likelihood of anxiety disorders
Intolerance for uncertainty
High neuroticism, one of the "Big 5" personality traits, is typically defined as a tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative feelings.
Family history of GAD
History of physical/emotional trauma
How is anxiety treated?
There are many different approaches that are considered to be evidence based when dealing with anxiety treatment. Under the supervision of your primary care physician, you have options for management.
Medications such as Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, improve the hormones associated with mood and contentment. These hormones play a role with feelings of anxiety and depression.
Other forms of management could be done with collaboration of a mental health therapist. Cognitive-behavioral treatment, for example, focuses on worry-proneness, overvaluation of worry, and dealing with uncertainty. These therapies appear to be as effective as drug treatment, have lower attrition, and may be more durable in adults, children and adolescents.
What are some alternative treatments to anxiety?
There are many ways we can approach symptoms of anxiety. Research shows that ongoing massage therapy was very beneficial to some patients with muscle tension associated with stress. In fact, the effect of massage therapy was comparable to a course of psychotherapy.
Evidence also suggests that exercise and relaxation training, such as yoga or meditation, have demonstrated effectiveness against generalized anxiety disorder.
Although there is limited evidence in effectiveness, some patients benefit greatly from therapeutic touch, also known as "laying on of hands". This ancient technique is used to correct or balance energy fields within our body.
How to stop overthinking
We sometimes have difficulty controlling our racing thoughts. This can lead to a vicious cycle of unease and stress. It is important to understand how these thoughts can affect our overall mental health. Here are some ways we can focus on improving the symptoms associated with overthinking:
Understand your thought pattern.
In order to truly understand when your thoughts are turning towards a negative pattern, you need to take a step back and analyze your thought process. If you notice that you are spiraling in your thoughts, try and catch yourself before they get out of hand. Become familiar with patterns that lead to repetitive overthinking about an uncertain outcome. Intellectualize your thought process rather than focusing on the "what if."
Accepting that you may have anxiety.
The first step to improving your symptoms, is to acknowledge that you are having difficulties. It is completely normal to feel some anxiety, but once these feelings negatively impact our days, it is recommended to seek professional help. Your primary care physician is trained to help you navigate these thoughts. In fact, we look forward to serving your mental health needs, and can provide the tools you need to help improve your symptoms.
Meditate, relax and take a deep breath
We are living in a high demand, high stress society. The cost of living continues to rise, the evolution of technology keeps us plugged into media outlets, and we spend most of our days stuck to our phones. Make a conscious effort to unplug, destress and take some personal time to reset. Meditation focuses on deep breathing exercises to help ground ourselves and rejuvenate our mental health. Music can help you relax as well, just make sure we are choosing tunes that help ease our thoughts instead of explicit content to subconsciously keep us anxious.
Take a hike
That's right, getting some sunshine, while experiencing nature can lead to improved mood. Release those endorphins to help ease your thoughts. It doesn't have to be for extended periods of time either. Research shows that even short walks during the day in natural sunlight is associated with many health benefits including improving our mental health.
Avoid the drama
We are often fed what we want to see by the algorithms of social media companies. If you have a tendency to search controversial topics, or perhaps have a group of peers who may engage in negative topics, then this will play a role in your thought process. You are the company you keep, and if you are surrounded by negativity, then when will you have the time to mentally heal? Limit screen time, gossip and surround yourself with positivity to avoid unnecessary stressors in your day.
Focus on what you have control over
Obviously, we have limitations to what we can and can't control. It is important to understand these limitations so that you can prevent feeling uneasy about an uncertain outcome. For example, many students feel anxious about their grades, and can't control what questions will be asked from them during their examinations. They can however, study the course material, stay consistent in attendance and work hard to prepare for their exams. This will give them some control of their outcome. Feeling prepared will ease uncertainty and help with their school performance. We can apply this example to many aspects in our day to help alleviate the anxiety associated with overthinking.
Seek help and support
You aren't in this alone, support exists, and can be vital in your mental health outcomes. Start with family and friends. Work on yourself and speak about your concerns with your primary care physician. That is why we are here.
We at Florida Advanced Medicine, look forward to serving our community. Feel free to give us a call and schedule a visit to discuss any concerns you may have.