Anxiety is hardwired into our brains. It is part of the body's fight-or-flight response, which prepares us to act quickly in the face of danger. It is a normal response to uncertainty, trouble, or feeling unprepared. However, if common everyday events bring on severe and persistent anxiety or panic that interferes with life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
|Occasional worry about circumstantial events, such as an exam or breakup, that may leave you upset.||Constant, chronic, and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress, disturbs your social life, and interferes with classes and work.|
|Embarrassment or self-consciousness in the face of an uncomfortable social situation.||Avoidance of common social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated.|
|Random cases of "nerves" or jitters; dizziness or sweating over an exam, presentation, or other important event.||Repeated, random panic attacks or persistent worry and anticipation of another panic attack and feelings of terror or impending doom.|
|Realistic fear of a threatening object, place, or situation.||Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or situation that poses little or no threat of danger.|
|Wanting to feel confident that you are healthy and living in a safe, hazard-free environment.||Performing uncontrollable, repetitive actions, such as washing your hands repeatedly or checking things over and over.|
|Anxiety, sadness, or difficulty sleeping immediately following a traumatic event.||Ongoing and recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing relating to a traumatic event in your life that occurred several months or years ago.|
Exercise. Physical activity helps your body and mind. Go to the gym. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Play Frisbee. Just get moving!
Eat a balanced diet. Don't skip meals. Try to eat from all of the food groups, and try to stay away from caffeine (minimize soda, energy drinks, and coffee). Caffeine can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.
Limit alcohol and stay away from illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs aggravate anxiety and can cause panic attacks.
Get involved. Being active in your community creates a support network and gives you a break from your everyday stress.
Do your best instead of trying to be perfect. We all know perfection isn't possible, so be proud of however close you get.
Take a time-out. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Stepping back from a problem lets you clear your head. Do yoga. Meditate. Get a massage. Learn relaxation techniques. Listen to music.
Put things in perspective. Think about your situation. Ask yourself whether it's really as bad as you think it is or if you may be focusing on limited information or evidence.
Talk to someone. Don't bottle up emotions to the verge of explosion. Reach out to your friends, roommate, partner, family, or a counselor when you're feeling overwhelmed.
Find out what triggers your anxiety. Take notes or write in a journal when you're feeling anxious or stressed, and then look for patterns.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to life-changing events. While we all get stressed out or anxious at times, most of us bounce back. But anxiety that is so frequent, intense, and uncontrollable that it hinders daily routines may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Take the time to figure out whether the anxiety you are experiencing is the same anxiety we all have occasionally, or whether it is so persistent and severe that it may be an anxiety disorder. Take a self-test at http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings, or talk to a professional at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center or other health care provider.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive, uncontrollable worry about everyday issues, including school, work, money, friends, and health.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Avoidance of everyday social situations due to extreme anxiety about being judged by others or about behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule.
Panic Disorder: Severe attacks of terror, which may feel like you're having a heart attack or going crazy, for no apparent reason.
Specific Phobias: Intense fear reaction that leads to avoiding an object, place, or situation such as riding in elevators or driving on bridges. Those with specific phobias typically recognize that the fear is irrational and inappropriate for the circumstance.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears and manifest as repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions); for example, the uncontrollable need to scrub hands repeatedly or the insistence on absolute neatness and order.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Avoidance, detachment, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and reliving a traumatic event or experience several months or years after it has occurred.
It is important to get help NOW. An untreated anxiety disorder may lead to academic problems, secondary conditions such as substance abuse or depression, and - in extreme cases - suicide. Early treatment can help prevent these problems. Visit the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) to find out about their services. If you're nervous about going alone, bring a friend to support you as you speak with the receptionist, or to sit with you in the waiting room. CMHC offers low-cost individual and group counseling sessions.
Or you may choose to see your family physician, who may be able to treat you or recommend a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, counselor, or psychiatric nurse. Regardless of where you seek treatment, it's crucial that you are comfortable with who is treating you and how you are being treated.
Learn about the disorder. Understanding what he is going through will help you give support, and keep your own worry under control. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (www.adaa.org) provides information and can help you find a therapist.
Recognize and accept stressful periods. Modify your expectations of how she should act and be sure to be extra supportive during difficult times.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Be tolerant, supportive, and nonjudgmental.
Be encouraging and don't get discouraged. Give praise for even small accomplishments. Stay positive.
Talk to someone. Being consistently supportive can be difficult, so make sure you have someone - a roommate, friend, partner, family member, or counselor - to support you.
"Got Anxiety" is based on original content developed by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. This content has been adapted by staff at The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center, with permission and support from the ADAA. http://www.adaa.org
UT's Counseling & Mental Health Center (CMHC)
Call 512-471-3515 for information on setting up an appointment with a counselor.
CMHC also offers the CMHC Crisis Line: 512-471-CALL for a telephone counselor.