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Anxiety Disorders and Finding Resiliency During the Pandemic

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — May 18, 2020 — 4 min read
Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life, but when it involves more than temporary worry or fear (about a test, upcoming decision, etc.), it can reach the levels of a disorder. This means it doesn’t go away and gets much worse over time. It also means it can interfere with completing daily life activities (work, school, and home).

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or about 18.1% of the population every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a time to reflect on the types of anxiety disorders that exist and what you can do to help reduce your anxiety now and during less uncertain times.

There are different types of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder and other phobia-related disorders.
Stess vs anxiety

Do you know the difference between Stress and Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

(GAD) involves exhibiting excessive (more than an average person) anxiety on most days for at least six months and there is no specific trigger to the feelings. They happen all the time for many different reasons.  

Panic Disorder

Involves having recurrent unexpected panic attacks that come on very quickly and reach their peak in a matter of minutes. During a panic attack, you may experience heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath and feelings of impending doom (like you are going to die or something very bad will happen). The problem is once you have one attack, you continue to worry about when the next one will occur because the first one was so horrible. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Involves having intense fear or worry toward specific social or performance situations. You may worry that your anxiety behaviors will be thought of badly by others and could lead to shame/embarrassment. 

Separation Anxiety

Means having intense fear or discomfort around being separated from those to whom you have secure attachments. The fear/worry might be that something bad will happen to that person if you are not together. 

Phobia

Means having an intense fear or aversion to something specific (objects or situations). Although the fear can be realistic, someone with a phobia feels fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger.  They may take steps to actively avoid the trigger. If they can’t avoid it, they experience immediate and intense fear when the encounter occurs. 

All anxiety disorders have some common elements that may include: panic, fear or uneasiness, sleep problems, not being able to control feelings (can’t stay calm or still), shortness of breath, nausea, tense muscles and dizziness.

Unfortunately, during our current pandemic crisis, the outbreak may be stressful for all people (those with and without pre-existing mental health conditions). The stress, fear and isolation created by the pandemic can make anxiety symptoms worse.

There is a tremendous strain placed on both us as individuals and our relationships with family, roommates, colleagues, and neighbors. These tensions can have long-lasting effects on our mental health.

The good news is that resilience is possible, but it requires more than just a positive mindset. It requires active energy being placed on doing things to decrease the effects of stress, anxiety and isolation. The definition of resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. 

A few actions one can take to increase resiliency during a pandemic include: 
  • Maintaining structure in your lives (keeping routines)
  • Finding ways to be accountable to others
  • Investing energy in your most intimate relationships
  • Reaching out and continuing to nurture your social connections
  • Strengthening different parts of your identity, whether that is taking up a new hobby or simply showing others a different side of your personality
  • Taking control of whatever you can control
  • Looking after your basic needs and taking care of your physical health
  • Thinking positive thoughts and avoiding catastrophic thinking by reading and watching content that lifts your spirits
  • Doing positive things for others, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing positive feelings and self-worth

About the Author
Amy Mock, LPC, LPCS, CEDS, a certified eating disorder specialist and the Medical Services Liaison for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare.


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