Understanding Anxiety And Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of the human condition. While stress is normal, even beneficial in many aspects, if not properly recognized and managed, persistent, high levels of stress can lead to both physical and emotional problems. Stress becomes a problem when we fail to recognize unhealthy levels of stress and ignore our body’s warning signs.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS AND ANXIETY DISORDERS
When we talk about stress and its relationship to anxiety disorders, we are really referring to two different kinds of stress. External stress is generated or caused by something tangible and real. It could be brought on by something as traumatic as someone trying to physically hurt you. It could be brought on by something as simple as watching a disturbing television program. Marriage, career change or having a baby are all good examples of external stress. In other words, there is a valid reason for the stress. However, you can control your response to the stressor.
Internal stress is generated by your concern about the external stressor and the way it is making you feel. It is self-imposed stress; you only experience this stress if you choose to. Internal stress is based on our emotional response to the external stress and includes our self-talk, anger and obsessive, scary thinking. Normal, everyday stress can bring on body symptoms — racing heart, dizziness, trembling, etc. What the anxiety prone individual will do at this time is add internally generated stress on top of an already uncomfortable situation. He or she begins with self-talk like, “What’s wrong with me? Am I going to faint? I’m so dumb, why did I let this happen?”
It is internal stress that gets us into trouble. It’s from this internally generated anxiety that we get obsessive and carried away, scaring ourselves with untrue thoughts and imagined scenarios, which only add to our uncomfortable symptoms. This is the reality of the anxiety sufferer. Anxiety disorders commonly include: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
People suffering from anxiety, panic, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder often complain of the following:
_____ strong anxiety episodes
_____ racing heart/chest discomfort
_____ hot and cold flashes
_____ feelings of unreality and disorientation
_____ scary, uncontrollable thoughts
_____ depressed feelings
_____ feelings of helplessness
_____ panic episodes
_____ muscle tension
_____ migraine headaches
_____ numbness in various parts of the body
_____ strange aches or pains
People suffering from anxiety, panic, agoraphobia and/or post-traumatic stress disorder often have extreme apprehensions about the following:
_____ having a heart attack
_____ losing their breath
_____ going “insane”
_____ losing control
_____ hurting themselves or someone else
_____ in front of others
While anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications are often prescribed for anxiety and related disorders, learning to manage internally generated stress is at the heart of complete recovery. Medications help with the symptoms of anxiety, but they do nothing to affect the cause of the distress, which stems from the thought and behavioral habits of the sufferer.
Through cognitive behavorial therapies, the anxiety sufferer can learn to recognize the unrealistic thoughts that serve as cues for his or her maladaptive behavior and strengthen their coping skills and feelings of control over their own lives.
YOUR OEA IS HERE TO HELP
If you or a family member is suffering from excessive or chronic stress or anxiety, the Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) can help you. Remember, all OEA services are strictly confidential, as mandated by law. Why not call an OEAP professional for help today?
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