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A racing heartbeat, that tightness in your chest, your restless mind replaying your worries in a loop. Everyone can recognize themselves experiencing anxiety. However, have you ever wondered: “Are my anxiety levels unhealthy?” or “Do I have an anxiety disorder?”.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost one-third of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. So, if you are worried about having an anxiety disorder, know you are not alone.

While anxiety is a normal response to stressful events, if it starts to persist and interfere with your life it could be a warning sign. Understanding the difference between day-to-day anxiety and an anxiety disorder can help you move forward and seek professional help.

Is all Anxiety bad?

Not at all. Anxiety is actually a protective response, our build-in warning system. Without anxiety to alert us about threats our ancestors would have ignored predators or eaten poisoned fruits. Which in today’s times would be equivalent to sleeping with our doors unlocked or eating the leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge for the past 3 weeks.

Photo of a female athlete with a big smile running in a competition. This representes how some anxiety can help motivates us and prepare us for the challenges ahead.Contrary to what you might think, anxiety can even be a good thing. Some degree of anxiety can warn you that something is not quite right and push you to make changes. Also, in certain situations anxiety can help you better prepare for the challenges ahead and feel motivated.

Research indicates that some anxiety can improve athletes’ performance in competitive sports. Even if you are not an athlete, your anxiety can prompt you to go the extra mile in your job and personal relationships, anticipate possible side-backs and move you closer to your goals.

When does Anxiety become a problem?

In our society, anxiety is mainly perceived as a defect, something that we have to remove entirely. As we have already seen, given the positive effects we can gather from a certain degree of anxiety, that is not necessarily true. So, how do you know when anxiety it’s becoming a problem?

Photo of a man worrying and thinking to himself while his partner looks at him also worried. This represents how excessive and recurrent worry can impact your daily life and relationships.In face of danger, our brain releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Usually, once the threatening situation ceases our body returns to normal. However, if the anxiety persists long after the situation is resolved it can be problematic.

That intense and long-lasting anxiety may feel impossible to manage and push you to avoid going to places, meeting people, or doing things that you believe can trigger anxiety symptoms. When anxiety becomes so crushing that gets in the way of your daily routine and your life, that can mean the onset of an anxiety disorder.

What Does an Anxiety Disorder Feel Like?

Anxiety is a broad term that comprises several disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder (which involves recurrent panic attacks), Social Anxiety, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, and other specific phobias.

Photo of a BIPOC woman in the park doing breathing exercises and mindfulness. This represents how seeking a therapist for your anxiety disorder can help you learn coping skills and feel better.While all anxiety disorders share some symptoms, others are specific to a condition. For example, a panic attack is often described as the sensation you are going to die. You feel your heart pounding, have trouble breathing and break into a sweat. These intense experience lasts about 10 minutes and can occur more than one time a day.

However, every person is different and so each experience of anxiety is unique. That is why finding a therapist that can help you understand your symptoms of anxiety is crucial to working out your own set of healthy coping strategies.

Do I have an Anxiety Disorder? 

Over time, untreated anxiety disorders can profoundly damage our health. In fact, people who spend years suffering from anxiety have a higher risk for depression, substance use, and suicide. In addition, severe anxiety can hasten cardiovascular problems, obesity, and other serious health concerns.

So, don’t wait until anxiety wrecks your life. If you have been experiencing anxiety for quite some time and you answer affirmatively to most of the following questions, it might be a good time to seek help:

  1. Are you constantly nervous, worried, or on edge?
  2. Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or relationships?
  3. Are you haunted by fears and worries you can’t get rid of?
  4. Do you feel something bad is going to happen if you don’t do things a certain way?
  5. Do you avoid situations, activities, or people because they cause you anxiety?
  6. Have you experienced panic attacks?
  7. Do you fear something really bad could happen to you or a loved one?

Anxiety Treatment in Baltimore, MD

Photo of a Black man smiling and relaxing while resting outside. This represents how anxiety treatment with our therapist at New Connections, Baltimore can help you feel calmer and connected with yourself.Do your fear your anxiety has been escalating out of your control? Have you been wondering if you have an anxiety disorder? If you feel anxiety is running your life, taking up more and more space in your day, you should consider anxiety treatment.

Keep in mind that having an anxiety disorder is not the only reason to seek professional help. If you want to learn how to manage your everyday anxiety, our therapists at New Connections can help you develop the coping skills to feel calmer, more balanced, and connected with yourself. Reach out to us to know more!

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About the Author:

Cathy Sullivan-Windt

Psychologist (Ph.D.) & Owner

Cathy is a licensed counseling psychologist with almost 20 years of experience. She specializes in women’s counseling, anxiety treatment, sexual assault recovery, life transitions, and relationship issues.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, reading, and being with her family and friends.