Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and danger. Your heart rate increases and it can become difficult for your brain to focus on anything else other than your need to escape the situation or fight off whatever is scaring you. This type of anxiety is completely normal and usually goes away once the stressful situation has passed. It does not typically last very long, but in some cases when someone experiences chronic stress their nervous system becomes overworked and they begin to experience physical symptoms such as shaking hands or tense muscles even when there aren’t any dangerous stimuli present. This state of mind is known as a general anxiety disorder (GAD) and approximately 10% of the population struggles with it.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are a collection of mental illnesses that leave a person feeling disproportionately worried about situations and circumstances that may or may not be out of their control. This type of anxiety can manifest itself as physical symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, accelerated heart rate, sweating, shaking hands, shortness of breath, and more.
What Is Anxiety Like?
Anxiety can feel like anything that causes you to worry excessively about your physical or mental safety. For example, someone afflicted with GAD might worry about losing sleep because they’re struggling to fall asleep, even if their insomnia is just a result of racing thoughts. People may isolate themselves from others or experience panic attacks. Here are some things that anxiety sufferers say they feel daily:
Unexplainable pain in muscles
Feelings of being disconnected from your body
Feeling irritable, easily startled, or on edge
Shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat without explanation
General uneasiness and tension around those who don’t struggle with anxiety as well as those who do because you feel like you don’t belong to either group.
Anxiety appears differently for everyone but this should give you an idea as to what it can feel like when living with GAD (general anxiety disorder).
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
It’s common for anxiety sufferers to have concerns about what is causing their illness. Many factors have been studied to determine the precise reasoning behind this mental disorder.
Individuals who suffer from general anxiety disorder are often genetically predisposed to this condition, meaning it can be passed down through families. It seems as though those with close relatives who struggle with GAD are more likely to develop the same problem themselves throughout their lifetime.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls fear and panic reactions. When heightened levels of stress hormones are introduced into the body, this area of the mind becomes overactive which triggers feelings of panic and intense fear. The hippocampus (the brain’s primary memory center) is also thought to be a major factor in causing anxiety disorders due to its role in emotional reactions and emotional memories, which can lead to irrational fears and/or phobias.
Experiencing traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one, divorce or financial problems can cause lingering sadness that becomes internalized over time. It’s not uncommon for people to develop GAD after experiencing any sort of personal hardship. Interestingly enough, life-threatening injury can protect against developing an anxiety disorder later on whereas having less than four panic attacks increases one’s chances of developing social phobia.