March 5, 2012

The Impact of Anxiety

What separates common anxiety from an anxiety disorder is generally the amount of distress you feel and the extent to which it interferes with your life. All anxiety disorders have been found to significantly lower quality of life, cause problems in significant relationships, and reduce work productivity and achievement. Anxiety is a natural emotion and very helpful when serious threats exist. However, anxiety is also painful and exhausting. Problems exist when we’re anxious too often, experience fear that is out of proportion to the situation, or have difficulty controlling it. In anxiety disorders, anxiety is often triggered in the absence of realistic threats. For many disorders, people actually realize that they should not be as scared as they are, but this does little to make the fear go away.

Subjective Distress

The sheer amount of distress coming out of anxiety can indicate possible disorder. Anxiety can get in the way of your ability to live your life fully, the way you want to. Perhaps you worry more often than those around you, or feel fear or anxiety more strongly. People often report that they feel scared or panicked, and even though they know they’re over-reacting, they can’t get rid of those feelings. Sometimes we worry about the same things over and over again, keeping us on edge and unable to truly immerse ourselves in life. All told, anxiety problems can stop us from really enjoying our lives the way that others do. Part of the problem with anxiety is that it is an unpleasant emotion. Anxiety itself feels uncomfortable, and more intense anxiety feels more intensely uncomfortable. Those with anxiety disorders can feel less life satisfaction because they spend so much time feeling fearful, panicked, or uncomfortable. Sometimes it can feel like they can never relax, and simply enjoy life.

Social Impairment

People come in for treatment sometimes because feelings of anxiety are preventing them from developing or enjoying their social relationships to the fullest. Perhaps anxiety kicks in around new people or in social settings, perhaps it’s hard to date successfully when you’re feeling anxious. Perhaps fear of an anxiety attack means you can’t engage in all the activities that you want to. Anxiety can also be hard on those around us, and it’s linked with marital distress and a decline in relationship satisfaction. Anxiety disorders also frequently cause problems in social relationships. For instance, fear can make it difficult to spend time in social relationships, attempt to initiate or deepen connections with others. Sometimes the way we cope with anxiety can negatively impact the people we’re closest to, like when we ask others to reassure us that we will be safe, or we ask them to change or curtail their lives to reduce our anxiety.

Occupational Impairment

Anxiety disorders can seriously impact academic and occupational achievement. Research has found that people suffering from some 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 certain desired degrees. 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 see us 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 talking in front of others, or talking with the boss, and this means you can’t really show how capable you are. Perhaps you avoid the situations that make you feel anxious, but this only slows down your ability to progress in your career. Specialized anxiety treatment can allow you to conquer these feelings and live up to your potential at work, and in your social relationships with others.