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Signs & Treatment for Anxiety & Stress (including Panic & Phobias)

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


Girl happily reading unstressed on a hanging chair
Anxiety & Stress are highly treatable - you can live a life with less worry, dread, and fear.

Symptoms of Anxiety & Stress

The symptoms of Stress and Anxiety Disorders can include:

  • mental tension,

  • a state of worry or rumination,

  • feelings of dread,

  • a sense of not being able to cope or being out of control,

  • difficulty sleeping (ie. insomnia/ nightmares) or eating well (or digestive issues/ dry mouth/ nausea),

  • trouble relaxing,

  • feeling irritable or restless,

  • feelings of faintness/ heart palpitations,

  • strange body temperature fluctuations (ie. cold or clammy hands), and/or;

  • difficulty breathing.

When is it Stress vs Anxiety?

Stress & Anxiety can be hard to distinguish, but they are different.


Stress is when you experience psychological/ physical symptoms, like worry, rumination, feeling anxious, irritable, and/or angry, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping which relate specifically to stressors (things that cause you stress) in your life.


Anxiety is when you experience these same symptoms in an ongoing way, even if stressors are not present. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that around 1/3 people in the USA will experience an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include phobias (intense feelings of dread about specific things), generalized anxiety (an overall anxious state), and/or panic disorder (panic attacks). Anxiety disorders, which often go undiagnosed and untreated, correlate with genetic disposition, environment, and chemical imbalances.


Stress and Anxiety are different from, but can co-occur with, other conditions such as ADHD, Autism, PTSD, OCD, depression, and many more.


What to do about anxiety & stress?

On their own, each of the above symptoms is a completely natural human experience. In fact, feeling anxious or angry is part of our threat response system - these feelings are built into our programming to help keep us alive so that when we need to fight or run away from a threat to survive, we have the motivation and mobility to do so. But, if you are experiencing the above symptoms, and they are getting in the way of day-to-day function, or making it seem like you don't know who you are anymore, seeking support to manage is crucial. Seeing your medical provider is an important first step, as there can be medical concerns related to all of these symptoms, and you may wish to discuss medical options for treatment. Seeing a therapist is also a great idea as Clinical Counselling and Occupational Therapy are highly effective for treating suspected or diagnosed stress and anxiety.


Most likely, the focus in therapy, for both anxiety & stress, will include auditing stressors & triggers, enhancing coping skills, increasing insight and judgement, and exploring links between what you are experiencing and how you are feeling, thinking, behaving, and living. Finding the right treatment helps with overall wellbeing and can improve quality of life, relationships, productivity. For more severe presentations with anxiety, consideration of medical intervention (ie. medication) is indicated. Therapy like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, EMDR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Occupational Therapy all have excellent results for stress and anxiety.



You can start right now to help yourself by trying some of these suggestions:

  • Practice daily Mindfulness - try apps like: Mindshift, Insights, and Calm

  • Reducing caffeine, alcohol, smoking, marijuana, and all other non-prescription medication is important.

  • Engage in active stress management - exercise at least 20 minutes a day, take breaks in your day, set boundaries, practice gratitude and positive thinking, delegate tasks out where you can, add in activities that fill your bucket, and mind your diet.

  • Ask for support - if you are stressed or anxious in relation to specific situations in your life, ask the people in your life to help.

References




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