At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced anxiety.
Maybe it was worry about a job interview or a big test. Or perhaps it was preparing for the birth of a child, getting ready for a big event that kept you up at night, or worrying about a global pandemic.
“Everyone experiences anxiety,” says Laura Koehler, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and manager of anxiety services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
Typically, anxiety involves thoughts and worries about a future event. While it may not feel good at the time, anxiety is a needed experience. It warns us of danger and can be a motivator for us to react or move on to the next step.
The physical reactions we have (like sweaty palms or butterflies in your stomach) are our body’s reaction to anxiety and the “fight or flight” mode we go into when experiencing a stressful situation, says Koehler.
“Anxiety is just looking for danger,” she explains.
For many, once the body recognizes the danger is gone, things shift back to normal. It’s when it doesn’t and we live in a constant state of fear and worry, that anxiety can become a problem.
Some of the warning signs that anxiety may be a problem include:
- Chronic sleep problems
- Chronic appetite problems, such as loss of appetite or overeating
- Avoiding work or other regular social activities
- Chronic physical symptoms such as migraines, stomach aches, muscle tension or bowel problems
If anxiety is causing any of those symptoms, you may want to seek help from a professional therapist or counselor. Treatment may involve medications or therapy to help develop coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety triggers and to help identify life values and move toward them.