Anxiety is a common feeling usually involving worry about the future. It can range from a vague feeling of uneasiness and discomfort to intense feeling or terror and impending doom. Anxiety produces an increase in various physiological and mental processes. That increase can motivate us to more thoroughly prepare for performance situations like examinations and athletic competitions, but it can also become so intense that it interferes with our ability to function normally in everyday activities. Such is the case when we become overly anxious during an examination and cannot recall a concept we thoroughly studied the previous evening. Constant anxiety may signal an anxiety disorder.
Common Questions About Anxiety
- What are some symptoms of anxiety?
Overall uneasiness and discomfort, worry, tension, inability to relax, sleep disturbance, frequent urination, shallow breathing, edginess, trouble concentrating, and apprehension are typical symptoms of anxiety.
- What determines when anxiety changes into an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety which persists over an extended period of time with frequent periods of high intensity is indicative of an anxiety disorder. In such a condition, anxiety is present most of the time without any apparent reason, or the anxiety is so uncomfortable that you stop some of your everyday activities, or you experience frequent bouts of anxiety which are so intense they terrify and immobilize you.
- What are some common anxiety disorders?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - excessive anxiety and worry for at least 6 months with accompanying symptoms of restlessness, feeling keyed up, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance.
Panic Disorder - intense fear or terror that strikes suddenly and repeatedly with no warning, accompanied by symptoms such as a pounding heart, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, tingling, sweating, fear of going crazy and fear of dying.
Phobias - a marked and persistent fear of specific objects or situations, or a fear of social or performance situations where we might suffer embarrassment or humiliation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - persistent unwelcome thoughts or rituals we seem driven to perform which markedly interfere with our normal daily routine.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - an emotionally debilitating condition that follows a terrifying event where we repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day.
- How is anxiety different from fear?
Fear usually involves uneasiness and apprehension directed toward some concrete, external object or situation. Also, fear is associated with events or situations that could happen. Anxiety, on the other hand, is more of a subjective state of uneasiness and apprehension in response to a vague and sometimes unrecognized danger. With anxiety, we cannot always specify what it is we are anxious about. Often, anxiety tends to be out of proportion and unrealistic.
- Is there any value in worrying?
We sometimes feel worrying about something helps us better prepare for dealing with it. What usually happens however, is that worrying increases our anxiety which in turn can interfere with daily functions like thinking clearly and making decisions. Planning, doing what we can and then placing the thing in the hands of the Lord is a better way to prepare and deal with difficult or scary situations.
- When should professional help be sought to help anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety at different times during the day or week. Most of the time those feelings appear and leave rather quickly. If our anxious feelings don't leave after an extended time, and their intensity interferes with our daily activities, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.
- At what times during the school year are we, as students, most likely to experience anxiety?
The beginning of the semester is usually a time of high anxiety as we wonder about our teachers, the amount of work for our classes, and meeting the financial strain of housing and food. The second time anxiety is likely to appear is just before midterm and final examinations, particularly if we are on the borderline of good academic standing.
- Are there any quick, easy ways to reduce anxiety?
One reliable method is to move our body and change our mind. Engaging in body movement which involves use of the large muscles is particularly effective. Changing our mind can involve reading, viewing or discussing something of interest and different from everyday topics. A number of other suggestions are given at the end of this article.
- Are there times we would want to increase our anxiety?
Anxiety can occasionally motivate us to take action on something we have been neglecting, postponing, or have little interest in. For example, increased anxiety about a good grade in a class could motivate us to better prepare for an examination, or increased anxiety about the cost of tuition could motivate us to find a part-time job.
- What resources are available on campus to help with anxiety?
The Counseling Center provides individual counseling, group counseling, workshops, and the Stress Management workshop to students experiencing problems with anxiety. These resources are available to full-time students.
To Alleviate Anxiety
- View anxiety as a normal reaction to stressful events and give yourself permission to feel anxious during difficult times.
- Realize that most decisions are neither "right" nor "wrong", but just lead to different experiences which have advantages and disadvantages.
- Think in terms of hoping for rather than expecting events to happen in a certain way.
- Plan for the future and do something about it instead of worrying about it.
- Plan for less than you can do in a particular day and make anything extra a bonus.
- Look for enjoyment in the "doing" of something rather than focusing so much on the end result.
- Speak, eat, drive and move at a more relaxed pace.
- Prepare for morning the night before.
- Arrive at your class, work, or appointment 10 minutes early.
- Go for a brisk walk or engage in some other physical activity involving large muscle movement when feeling anxious.
- Use abdominal breathing to calm anxious feelings.
- Pray for patience in dealing with anxious situations.
- Practice in your mind performing successfully before you enter a particular performance situation.
- View mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than personal failures.
- Cheer for rather than compete with others.
- Get involved with other people in worthwhile endeavors.
- Smile since smiling reduces anxiety.
- Use good thought control by telling yourself such statements as:
- Five years from now, who will care.
- I can do what I can do and that is all.
- What other ways can Iview this situation?
- I'm not going to waste my energy worrying about it.
- Getting upset will not help me deal with the situation.
- Things are usually not as bad as I anticipate them to be.
- Obtain professional help, and possible medication, if your anxiety persists and does not seem related to any changing circumstances or stressful situations in your life.
- Recognize that this list can make you more anxious if you try to implement all suggestions at once. Pick the items which are most relevant to you and only focus on one or two at a time.
READ THESE SCRIPTURES AND ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
D&C 10:4 & Mosiah 4:27 - Which is most important to the Lord, amount or consistency?
D&C 101:16 - How can I achieve a calmer acceptance of life when I worry so much about accidents, disease, calamities and death?
D&C 90:24 - Will things work out for my good if I stay close to the Lord?
Alma 40:8 - How important is the setting of deadlines to the Lord?
D&C 88:125 & John 16:33 - How can I replace my anxiety with inner peace?
Resources Which May Help With Anxiety
Benson: The Relaxation Response
Bourne: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
Clurn: Coping with Panic
Meichenbaurn: Stress Inoculation Training
National Institutes of Health (NIMH): Anxiety Disorders
Wilson: Stopping the Noise Inside your Head (see the online videos too)
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 3rd. Ed. (Bourne)
Brain Lock (Schwartz) (about OCD)
Doubting Disease (Ciarrocchi) (religious OCD/scrupulosity)
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway (Jeffers)
STOPObsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions (Foa)
Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychologist
Counseling and Psychological Services
1500 Wilkinson Student Center
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602