It’s Mental Health Awareness and National Anxiety Month, and we’re continuing to talk openly about mental health issues that affect us all.

You may not know it, but anxiety is the most common mental health condition – it’s even more common than depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety will affect up to 30% of us at some point in our lives.

We’re not talking about everyday stress and anxiety that nearly all of us go through – for example, worrying about an upcoming deadline may not mean that you have an anxiety disorder. But for some people, these worries are pervasive – they almost never go away, and they affect every area of their lives.

Anxiety is highly treatable, and people who live with anxiety disorders often lead happy, fulfilling, and successful lives. Dealing with anxiety doesn’t mean your life is over. But to start addressing anxiety, you need to be able to recognize it first.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to answer some important questions you may have about anxiety and how you can seek support. MINES & Associates offerings stress management strategies and tactics – contact us to learn more.

How do I know if I have anxiety?

One question that people often have is, “How do I know if I have anxiety? Do I have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, or am I just an anxious person?”

First of all, we would say that it may not necessarily matter if you qualify for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. If your anxiety is causing you distress or interfering with your life in any way, then you could benefit from counseling or another type of mental health support.

With that said, having an awareness of what anxiety can look like can make you more likely to seek support when you need it.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, specific phobias, and panic disorder. In addition, other mental health conditions, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can have symptoms that look similar to anxiety.

Each of these conditions has a specific set of diagnostic criteria. But, in general, you may be experiencing anxiety if:

    • You find yourself excessively worrying most of your time, nearly every day

    • It’s difficult or even impossible to quiet these worries

    • You feel jumpy or easily startled

    • You have a hard time concentrating

    • You find it very difficult to rest your mind or your body

    • You experience unexplained symptoms like muscle tension or headaches

    • You feel exhausted easily

    • You can’t fall asleep at night or you wake up during the night frequently

    • Your worries get in the way of your functioning at work or at home

    • Your worries have started to interfere with your relationships

The only way to know for sure if you live with an anxiety disorder is to visit a mental health professional and go through an assessment. Contact MINES & Associates to learn more about our stress management services.

What is at the root of anxiety?

You might wonder what has led you or someone you love to have anxiety. This is a valid question – but one that’s tricky to answer.

There is no single cause that leads to anxiety for every person. Research has shown us that there are a number of things that can raise your risk of developing anxiety. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it causes anxiety – you could live with all of these risk factors and never have anxiety, and someone else could develop anxiety when they don’t experience any of the risk factors.

However, we do think it’s important to know what these risk factors are so that you can gauge whether or not you’re at “high risk” – just like any other health condition. Be sure to contact the team at MINES & Associates to learn more about our stress management services and how they can benefit you.

Some of the most important risk factors for anxiety include:

    • Genetics – anxiety tends to run in families.

    • Personality traits such as shyness

    • Being under high stress

    • Low self-esteem or having a tendency to be overly critical of yourself

    • Experiencing a traumatic event

    • Facing racial discrimination

    • Being of the female sex

    • Medical causes, including hormonal imbalances or a chronic illness

What does anxiety feel like?

Many people notice the physical symptoms of anxiety first. For example, you might feel your heart beating faster and harder, or your breathing getting more shallow (hyperventilating). You might feel hot or sweaty, and become fatigued or even dizzy. People going through panic attacks get such severe chest pain that they think they are having a heart attack. You might even feel like you are dying during a panic attack.

Anxiety can also come along with worries and troublesome thoughts. You might find that you’re constantly assuming the worst about yourself, other people, or situations in general. For example, if someone doesn’t pick up the phone, you might automatically assume that something terrible has happened to them. The worries might feel so overwhelming at times that they’re completely distracting.

Anxiety is also highly linked with depression. If you’re experiencing both anxiety and depression, you might have feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness. You might even have thoughts of death or suicide.

If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, call 9-8-8 or visit your nearest emergency room.

Can anxiety go away on its own?

Unfortunately, anxiety is unlikely to go away on its own. But the good news is that there are so many treatments out there that can help you beat anxiety. One highly effective treatment is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, and it can help you identify thinking patterns that may be causing you to feel more anxious.

Another effective treatment is exposure therapy. It sounds scary, but avoiding the things we’re scared of often only makes the fear grow larger. In exposure therapy, you’re supported in confronting fears one at a time. This can help you break the cycle of anxiety and start learning healthier ways to cope (rather than simply avoiding triggers).

Some psychiatric medications, as well as lifestyle changes (like managing stress), can also help. But learning how to manage anxiety is a task that’s best undertaken with the support of a mental health professional. You can implement some changes on your own, but again – anxiety isn’t likely to go away without treatment.

Please contact the team at MINES & Associates and ask about our stress management services.

Do you have to tell a job you have anxiety?

One question we get asked a lot as an Employee Assistance Program is: Do I have to tell my job about my anxiety?

The answer is no: You are not obligated to tell anyone about your anxiety, including your workplace. But if you do decide to tell them, you may be entitled to certain legal protections.

For example, it is unlawful to terminate your employment or retaliate against you for disclosing to your employer that you live with anxiety. You may also be granted some reasonable accommodations through the American Disabilities Act. In order to get these accommodations, you will need to disclose your anxiety diagnosis.

The decision about whether or not to tell your job that you have anxiety is a very personal one, and something that works for one person may not work for the next. Weigh your options carefully and talk it through with someone you trust.

You can also give us a call at MINES & Associates. Our EAP offers 24/7 free and confidential counseling – we won’t disclose anything you tell us, including your employer. Contact the team at MINES & Associates to learn more about our stress management and alternative services which are available to you!

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team