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Neuropsych

10 things you may not know about anxiety

Cold hands and feet? Maybe it's your anxiety.

Credit: Antonioguillem / Adobe Stock

Key Takeaways
  • When we feel anxious, the brain's fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the blood flow is redirected from your extremities towards the torso and vital organs.
  • According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have an anxiety diagnosis.
  • Anxiety disorders will impact 31% of Americans at some point in their lives.

    Overcome anxiety: Articulate your rationale, quell your doubts | Jordan Peterson | Big Thinkwww.youtube.com

    There’s a fine line between stress and anxiety – and many people don’t know what the difference is.

    Both stress and anxiety are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger and can be short-term (a looming deadline at work, for example). People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, insomnia, and headache.

    Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined as a persistent, excessive worry. Even in the absence of the thing that triggered it, anxiety lingers. It can lead to a nearly identical set of symptoms, which is why they are often confused. Feelings of anxiety then differ from an anxiety disorder – an anxiety disorder means your anxiety typically persists for months and negatively impacts your daily functioning.

    There are five major types of anxiety disorders:

    1. Generalized anxiety (GAD) is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
    2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (or obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
    3. Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and/or abdominal distress.
    4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is also an anxiety disorder, and it can develop after exposure to a terrifying event in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include things like personal assaults, natural and/or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
    5. Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as ‘social phobia’) is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

    Anxiety disorders can impact 31 percent of Americans at some point in their life.

    According to the American Psychological Association, 19 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have had an anxiety disorder in the past year and 31 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

    Anxiety may be genetic.

    According to HealthLine, anxiety may be genetic but can also be influenced by environmental factors. It’s possible to have anxiety without it running in your family, however, there is speculated to be some genetic component that makes anxiety more prevalent in some individuals. Research has indicated some link between genetics and anxiety, though much more research is required in this area.

    Anxiety often begins in childhood.

    According to the CDC, 7.1 percent of children between the ages of 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have an anxiety diagnosis. Six in ten children (59.3 percent) between the ages of 3-17 have received anxiety therapy or treatment.

    Having an anxiety disorder can increase your risk of other physical health complications.

    According to research from Harvard Medical School, anxiety has been indicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, and more.

    Cold hands and feet? Anxiety may be the reason.

    If you’re someone who constantly struggles with having cold hands or feet, it could be a result of your anxiety. When we feel anxious, the brain’s fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the blood flow is redirected from your extremities towards the torso and vital organs.

    Anxiety can be related to anger issues and memory loss.

    A lesser-known side effect of anxiety is anger. When you feel powerless over a situation, expressing anger is a natural way to feel as though you have some kind of control. With chronic sufferers of anxiety, depression is the most common issue to develop, but anger is close behind. As Discovery Mood explains, “anxiety is often connected with overstimulation from a stressful environment or threat, combined with the perceived inability to deal with that threat. In contrast, anger is often tied to frustration. When anxiety is left unacknowledged or unexpressed, it can turn into frustration which then easily leads to anger.”

    Anxiety can also cause memory problems.

    According to Mayo Clinic, stress, anxiety, or depression can often cause forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. VeryWellMind explains further, “memories can be affected when you are under periods of stress or experience some sort of disturbance in mood. Having a significant anxiety disorder like GAD can create some of these problems routinely, leaving you operating below your normal level of memory functioning.”

    Anxiety can even impact your sense of smell.

    People who struggle with anxiety may be more likely to label natural smells as bad smells, according to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience. When processing smells, typically it’s only the olfactory system that is activated. However, in people with high anxiety levels, the emotional system can become intertwined with the olfactory system, which can slightly alter our perception of smells.


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