10 Habits That Make Anxiety Worse (And How to Avoid Having Them)

10 Habits That Make Anxiety Worse (And How to Avoid Having Them)

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Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18 (roughly 18% of the population). Anxiety costs more than $42 billion annually in mental health bills, which shows just how widespread and severe this disorder has become.

This statistic is a considerable number of people who suffer from some form of anxiety. So what does an anxiety attack feel like? And what are some common anxiety disorders?

With so many people suffering from anxiety, it seems of utmost importance to find the triggers for this disorder and avoid them. What can we do to feel better? You’ll find the answers to this question in this article, as well as the actual habits that make anxiety worse, in general.

What Does An Anxiety Attack Feel Like?

Everyone feels anxious at some point in their life.  Normal life struggles due to work, parenting, or marriage can produce anxiety in your life. But typically, when these problems are solved, your fear subsides.

But for some people, their anxiety doesn’t go away. It grows, causing excessive fear and nervousness to the point where it interrupts life and relationships. You may start having panic attacks. These attacks can produce devastating distress that lasts for some time. Your heart may beat faster. You may sweat or have a hard time breathing.

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Anxiety attacks can come at random times. You may not know what triggers these attacks, which is stressful. This causes you to worry about having another attack, only increasing your anxiety.

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What’s the difference between anxiety and a panic attack

Anxiety disorders affect one in five adults in the United States.  Anxiety tends to make you constantly worry about things in your life, like your health, money, or family, even when things are okay. You may end up with lots of headaches, body aches, or strange pains as a result of all the worry.

Panic attacks are more sudden experiences of panic or fear that come over you. These are triggered by something. Some people even feel as if they have a heart attack or feel as if they can’t breathe. If you experience this kind of attack all of a sudden, you likely have a panic disorder. A panic disorder is just one form of anxiety disorder common today.

The many forms of anxiety

There are five common anxiety disorders. These anxiety disorders affect people to such an extent they can’t function in their work or relationships. These forms of anxiety include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias

Generalized anxiety disorder

If you suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, you will suffer from persistent nervousness and apprehension even when there isn’t any reason for it. You may worry about your health, your children, your work, or your relationships. Everything in your life will cause you extreme worry and agitation. GAD can affect the way you function at work, in your family, or in other relationships. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, GAD symptoms include:

  • Can’t relax
  • Can’t focus on something for very long
  • Insomnia
  • Constant worry and fear
  • Feeling edgy, irritable
  • Tired all the time

Panic attack disorder

If you suffer from panic attack disorder, your panic attacks seem to come out of nowhere. These attacks cause you to feel out of control. The panic will peak rapidly then finish leaving you feeling drained emotionally. Panic attacks may be triggered by a certain situation or thing you feel afraid of. During a panic attack, you may feel physical side effects such as

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hard time breathing
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Choking
  • Feeling of doom
  • Feeling out of control

If you have panic attacks, you’ll worry about when the next episode is going to hit. This anticipation increases your anxiety, and you’ll try to prevent an attack by avoiding situations that could trigger another attack.

This awareness can be difficult, especially if you do not know what caused the attack. If you know what triggers your panic attacks, that can be helpful unless it’s situations that you must be in, like work, school, or at home.

Panic disorders often run in families. But not all family members suffer from them. Studies show that your unique biology may play a part in your panic attacks. If you think you have panic attacks, visit your doctor to ensure you don’t have an outstanding physical condition causing the panic attacks.

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Here are common physical conditions that may look like anxiety or panic attacks include:

  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • Endometriosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Once you’re diagnosed with a panic disorder, your doctor may suggest medication or psychotherapy for treatment.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress, PTSD, sometimes happens if you experience an extraordinarily shocking or scary situation. This intense fear doesn’t leave you because the event was so traumatic. Doctors aren’t sure what causes PTSD, but it may happen when you have

  • A very stressful event happens in your life.
  • Family history of anxiety, depression, or mental illness
  • Your temperament is prone to PTSD
  • Brain chemicals or hormones aren’t able to respond well to stress
  • A dangerous situation occurs
  • You observe a violent crime
  • Sexual abuse
  • You get injured in an accident

Some things help you get through PTSD, such as support groups, strong family ties, and community. Also, learning some strategies to cope with your PTSD is helpful. Also, taking classes on what to do in emergencies may help you face fear.

Typical Phobias

A phobia is a strong abhorrence or fear about a thing or a circumstance. Phobias cause exaggerated reactions to everyday experiences or things.  You may avoid situations where you’ll come in contact with a sure thing, constantly worry about a specific object, or feel extreme anxiety if you’re in a specific problem or come face to face with an object. There are several common phobias, including simple phobias, social phobias, agoraphobia, and separation anxiety.

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Simple phobia

Simple phobias are overwhelming fears or anxiety about situations or objects. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of:

  • Fear of blood
  • Fear of flying
  • Fear of bugs, animals, snakes
  • Fear of heights
  • Fear of hospitals or medical procedures

Social phobias

Social phobias or social anxiety is when you experience an inordinate fear of social situations. The fear of these situations can be so intense that you worry that others will notice your anxiety causing you to avoid social interactions. Social phobias can cause their sufferers to avoid all social situations to alleviate the stress of the anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, says if you have a social phobia, you may experience these symptoms when you’re in social settings.

  • Excessive blushing or sweating in social situations
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Heart rate elevated
  • Can’t think, feel as if your mind is empty
  • Nausea, stomach-churning
  • Can’t look people in the eye
  • Speaking too softly
  • Speaking too loudly
  • Extreme fear and embarrassment
  • Fear of being judged

 Agoraphobia

If you have agoraphobia, you will be anxious about at least two or more conditions. Riding trains, buses, or airplanes

  • Open spaces
  • Closed spaces
  • Crowds
  • Being alone

 Separation anxiety

Many people think that only kids suffer from separation anxiety, but adults can suffer from it, too. Separation anxiety causes you to worry about saying goodbye or being away from specific people you feel very connected to. You fear something bad will happen to them or you if you get separated. You may have nightmares about being away from these people. Sometimes those who suffer from separation anxiety also have physical symptoms like nausea or heart palpitations from separation.

With so many suffering from anxiety, the question remains: what can we do about it? Here are ten habits that make anxiety worse and how to avoid them.

10 Habits That Make Anxiety Worse (And How to Avoid Having Them)

1. Overthinking

Overthinking creates problems that don’t exist. Sometimes, they might exist, but dwelling on the issues will not provide answers. You will only make the problems worse, and therefore make your anxiety worse.

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How to avoid it: If possible, have time set aside each day for ‘worrying.’ This might sound counterproductive to anxiety, but having a specific window of time allocated to overthinking will allow you to get out all your thoughts and feelings and move on. This way, you’ll have more energy throughout the day to devote to other things. You might also try a mindfulness practice such as meditation or yoga to help you quiet your thoughts.

2. Obsessive behaviors

Just like overthinking, obsessing, and fixating on issues does nothing to solve the actual problem. Though it is essential to come to a solution, you won’t get there by overanalyzing. We spend so much time in today’s world solving problems and using critical thinking, and obsessing over answers. What if we just escaped all of that obsessive behavior and just lived? To overcome anxiety, you need to find a quiet place in your mind and delve into it often.

How to avoid it: Basically, just let the thoughts flow through you, but don’t attach yourself to them. Only focus on the things you can change and forget about the things you can’t. If something doesn’t feel right in your life, either release it or confront the problem directly to find peace of mind.

3. Setting Unreasonable expectations

Many people with anxiety have a great fear of the unknown. They want to have expectations for everything, so it makes the future seem less scary. People with anxiety can sometimes have unreasonable expectations, and when they aren’t met, this makes the anxiety worse. Expectations usually lead to disappointments, so stop trying to predict the future. Usually, life happens much differently than we expect, and trying to foresee events in the future will only lead to more significant anxiety when the event doesn’t happen. Not to mention, you’ll obsess over the perceived event until it happens, making it impossible to live in the present.

How to avoid it: Focus on living in the now. Make your life so exceptional that you have no time to worry about the future. Make your life your greatest joy so that those pesky expectations don’t come back to haunt you later. You create your reality, so make it what you want rather than expecting things just to come your way.

4. Avoidance of your problems

Avoiding anxiety might seem like the answer, but in reality, this makes anxiety worse. You’ll have to deal with the repressed emotions later and in much greater magnitude. Getting help for your disorder and recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Avoidance can also be thought of differently – that of avoiding what scares us so that we don’t have to deal with the consequences. However, this will not encourage growth, and avoiding what brings you to fear will only magnify it in your mind.

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How to avoid it: First of all, you need to accept that you have anxiety. Then, it would be best if you worked on getting help in whatever way you see fit. Don’t just wait for someone to help you; sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands if you want to move forward in life. Also, don’t avoid situations, people, or places just because they seem scary. Confront your fears head-on, and this will make them shrink once you see that your mind created this fear based on perceptions, not reality.

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5. Denial

Similar to avoidance, denial will also wreak havoc on your anxiety. You can’t just go through life with your head in the sand and not confront your issues head-on. If you choose to take this route, you’ll have to fight a much more powerful beast, later on, so taming your demons now will serve you well.

How to avoid it: Stop denying your anxiety, and gently accept that you might need help. However, please don’t beat yourself up over it; we all have issues, and we’ve all needed help at certain times in our lives. Once you accept that anxiety does control your life to some extent, you can go about overcoming it.

6. Relying too heavily on medications

Of course, the medication should never be ruled out for treatment. Still, when you use medication as the only source of relief from anxiety, you’re cheating yourself out of true healing and recovery. You see, we all have the power within to heal, but we have to access it. Medication can help to some extent, but other forms of healing are just as, if not more, effective.

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