March 5, 2012

The Impact of Anxiety

What separates common anxiety from an anxiety disorder is generally the amount of distress that is felt and the extent to which it interferes with a person’s life. All anxiety disorders have been found to significantly lower quality of life, cause significant problems in relationships, and reduce work productivity and achievement. Anxiety is a natural emotion that is necessary and helpful when serious threats exist. However, anxiety can also be painful and exhausting. Anxiety becomes a problem when people feel anxious too often, experience fear that is out of proportion compared to the situation, or have difficulty controlling anxiety. Many people who have an anxiety disorder often realize they should not be as scared as they are, but this does little to make the fear go away.

Subjective Distress

The amount of distress that results from anxiety can indicate a possible disorder. Anxiety can get in the way of being able to live life fully. Perhaps people with anxiety worry more often than the people in their life, or feel fear or anxiety more strongly. People with anxiety often report feeling scared or panicked, and even though they can conceptually understand they’re over-reacting, they can’t control those feelings. Sometimes, it can make them worry about the same concerns over and over, keeping them on edge and unable to immerse themselves in life. All told, anxiety problems can stop many people from really enjoying their lives the way that others in their lives do. Part of the problem with anxiety is that it is unpleasant; anxiety itself feels uncomfortable, and the more intense the anxiety, the more uncomfortable people may feel. Living with a severe anxiety disorder can cause less life satisfaction because so much time and energy are spent feeling fearful, panicked, or uncomfortable.

Social Impairment

Treatment sometimes takes place because feelings of anxiety are preventing people from developing or enjoying their social relationships to the fullest. Perhaps anxiety kicks in around new people or in social settings, or perhaps it’s hard to date successfully when feeling impairing anxiety. Others experience the actual fear of having an anxiety attack, making it difficult to engage in the activities they’d like to. Anxiety can also be hard on those in people’s lives, causing problems in social relationships. Additionally, anxiety is linked to marital distress and a decline in relationship satisfaction. Fear can make it difficult to spend time in social relationships, and to initiate or deepen connections with others. Sometimes the way people cope with anxiety can negatively impact the people closest to them by creating dependency, such as asking others to reassure them that they safe or to change or curtail their lives, to reduce their own anxiety.

Occupational Impairment

Anxiety disorders can seriously impact academic and occupational achievement. Research has found that people suffering from certain anxiety disorders fail to attain their educational goals, frequently dropping out of classes or school, avoiding classes that require performance, or deciding not to pursue their desired degree. Additionally, anxiety disorders have been shown to predict longer periods of unemployment, less days of work, more disability days, lower average rates of pay, and reduced work productivity and achievement.

People often come in to ATCA for treatment when their anxiety starts getting in the way of their career. They might find they are focusing more on anxiety and less on their schoolwork or the daily tasks of their jobs. Sometimes they have anxiety when speaking in front of others or with the boss, and this can affect employers’ perceptions of their capability. It is common for people who experience anxiety to avoid the situations that make them feel anxious, but this only slows down someone’s ability to progress in their career. Specialized anxiety treatment can help people conquer these feelings and live up to their potential in school and career settings.