Stress has a bad reputation — but it’s only partially deserved. In small doses, it serves a very important purpose. It alerts you to danger and gives you a sense of urgency, which is commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. But if it’s continuous and left unchecked, stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
The symptoms of normal stress mimic those of a more serious condition called an anxiety disorder. So how do you tell the difference between the two; what’s normal and what’s not?
Dr. Ronald P. Winfield and our expert team of licensed psychotherapists, and other medical and mental health care professionals at Greater Lowell Psychiatric Associates specialize in helping you navigate the complicated terrain of anxiety and all the different types and levels that could affect you.
If you’ve been experiencing excessive, persistent anxiety and wonder if you should seek medical attention, ask yourself this: Is it affecting your ability or desire to do the things you need to do and like to do? If your answer is yes, it’s time to seek help. If you’re not sure if you’ve reached this point yet, here are some examples.
You cancel plans
Making checklists and taking care of details are signs of good organizational skills. But when worrying about things overwhelms you and you start backing out of social engagements, travel plans, and other activities you once enjoyed, you may benefit from professional help.
You’re tired all the time
Worrying takes a toll on your body. If you’re worrying to the point of exhaustion and find that you can’t function as you once did at work, in class, or in your daily activities, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
You have panic attacks
Panic attacks are sudden episodes that seem to hit you out of nowhere. You feel a sense of impending danger or doom and have an immediate physical response, such as a rapid increase in heart rate, difficulty breathing, nausea, fear, and trembling, to name just a few possible symptoms. You may even believe you’re having a heart attack and end up in the ER. If they say there’s nothing wrong with your heart, it may have been a panic attack.
You feel isolated
Anxiety disorder tends to make you feel like you’re on the outside looking in on your own life. You may feel detached from people you work and live with. This is called social anxiety. Fear of being judged, meeting new people, or being observed can make you start to avoid people and social situations.
You don’t speak your mind anymore
Conflict causes a fair amount of stress for most people, but if you have an anxiety disorder, it could prevent you from voicing your opinion about even the most benign topics for fear of triggering any conflict or undue attention.
You’re becoming a shut-in
Fear of leaving the house, also known as agoraphobia, can result from your anxiety disorder or panic attacks. If you’re worried about if and when you’ll have a panic episode in public, or you’re so worried about what’s happening in your life and in the world that you can bear facing it “out there,” it’s time to get help.
If you’re anxious, there’s hope
Whether you’re feeling one, two, or several of the above symptoms, the good news is that anxiety is treatable. As with most medical and psychological conditions, the sooner you get started on a treatment plan, the better.
Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed. Millions of people experience anxiety disorders, and you’re not alone. Our team here at Greater Lowell Psychiatric Associates understands what you’re going through and can help you get back to the life and people you love.
Once we evaluate your symptoms and hear your story, we customize a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your anxiety and helps you overcome it. This might include psychotherapy or counseling, exposure therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Depending on your unique needs, we may even prescribe medication or suggest helpful dietary or lifestyle changes.
If you think your tendency to worry has crossed a line and is beginning to interfere with your life and activities, call us today or request an appointment online.