Types of Anxiety in Utah Beyond Anxiety Disorders

Types of Anxiety in Utah Beyond Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is universal to the human condition, and it’s a major symptom in many types of mental illness beyond just anxiety disorders. As our understanding of human behavior has grown increasingly nuanced, trauma, obsessive-compulsive, and eating disorders are now considered separate from anxiety disorders. Yet, anxiety is one of the most dominant and easily recognizable symptoms associated with these mental disorders. By understanding how different types of anxiety are likely to interact with other aspects of your mental health, you can learn how to better manage your anxiety level.

Anxiety and PTSD

The constant expectation of an explosion, a car collision, a gunshot, a blow to the head, or the loss of a loved one can send almost anybody’s anxiety levels off the charts. And yet, in the grips of PTSD, it may be difficult to even register the source of one’s anxiety. Instead, the physical symptoms—the stomach pains, headaches, joint and muscle stiffness, general fatigue—may dominate the attention of those afflicted with post-traumatic stress.

Left untreated, individuals may become so dissociated with the present moment that they act on their fears, and with dangerous consequences. The behaviors that are possible under this type of stress may result in shame which then exacerbates the individual’s psychological distress. The good news is that there are effective treatments for PTSD. Often, the biggest deciding factor is recognizing and seeking therapy in a timely fashion.

Anxiety and Eating Disorders

The most obvious connection between anxiety and eating disorders is the intense anxiety and fear of gaining weight that’s felt by those with anorexia. Utah is for from unique in this regard, but striving for perfection and an expectation to conform with cultural norms are a big part of the state’s culture. The act of self-starvation, binge-eating, and/or purging behaviors make these disorders relatively easy to distinguish from other types of anxiety.

On the other hand, that’s assuming the individual isn’t successful in hiding their eating disorder. The things we do to avoid anxiety often lead to intense feelings of shame after the fact. This can make even otherwise “open-and-honest” people reticent to talk about their problems and to seek help from a professional.

It’s also revealing that, by a large margin, more women than men suffering from eating disorders. On this point, many mental health professionals point to the fact that culture puts more pressure on women than men to internalize their negative emotions. Thus, a lot of men with anxiety become violent and end up in the criminal justice system. Men are also more likely to fall victim to substance abuse.

Anxiety and OCD

Rather than feeling anxious about being exposed to potential threats, obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to make a person feel anxious about NOT engaging in a specific—and often highly ritualized—behavior. Thus, much like eating disorders, OCD is most likely experienced and diagnosed not by the constant presence of anxiety, but rather by the behaviors that are used to avoid anxiety. And, again, by the shame that results from compulsively engaging in these behaviors.

Many types of compulsions, though certainly not all of them, take on a religious meaning. Hand-washing and praying (or chanting) are among the most common types of compulsions. These behaviors can be particularly torturous for members of the LDS faith, as well as other individuals with highly religious backgrounds.

Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Abuse

Anxiety and depression are more like cousins in the larger family known as mood disorders. The relationship between these two moods is multi-faceted and can take on a variety of behavioral expressions. At Mountain Mental Health, we like to talk about the difference anxious depression and depressive anxiety. We encourage you to read more about the relationship between anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and substance abuse paint a similarly muddled picture. With chronic substance abuse and/or when the drug abuse starts at an early age, it may be essentially impossible to determine whether an underling anxiety disorder was present before the substance addiction.

How to Get Help for All Types of Anxiety

Everybody experiences anxiety. It helps motivate us and focus our attention. It heightens our senses and enables us to better respond to potential threats. It activates our imagination and problem-solving. Just because anxious feelings are unpleasant in the short-term doesn’t mean that the individual has a serious mental health condition. And yet, anxiety can become persistent to the point where worry and fear are nearly constant. But here’s the thing: This doesn’t mean you’re helpless, either. Even if you can’t control your anxiety, you can still control whether you ask for help. It’s never too early to get help for psychological distress. Talk to an experienced Utah therapist about your troubles, and discover that improvement is possible.

Marcus Pickett

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