Anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans. Anxiety is common to us, and can be a good thing as it can help us to get out of harm's way. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it interferes with functioning in 2 or more areas of life (work, relationships, school, home).
Anxiety. The verdict is not in on the exact cause of these life-changing and unpredictable feelings.
The fancy word used to describe the cause is "multifactorial," meaning there are many causes. In other words, it's not 100% known. Psychiatry is still a young science, and much of what we do know is built on hypotheses that, while they appear to hold true through multiple tests, have yet to be proven.
1. History of trauma
2. Family history of anxiety
3. Drug or alcohol use
4. Serious illness
5. Limited ability to deal with emotions
6. Type A personality
It is a good idea to have a thorough medical workup, as anxiety can feel just like several medical illnesses, some of which are potentially deadly (like heart attacks, high blood pressure) and others are easily treatable (like getting enough sleep).
Anxiety can be caused by hormonal imbalances, respiratory diseases (like COPD), thyroid problems, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems (like IBS) or even medication side effects. Anxiety is a common symptom of withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines (nerve pills). Reasons to suspect that the underlying cause is physiologic (physical) include the following:
1. No history of anxiety disorders in the family
2. No personal history of anxiety in childhood
3. Sudden onset with no identifiable stressors or life events.
1. Get a medical checkup with labs. Treat any underlying medical problems.
2. If anxiety has run in the family, you need to examine why. Sometimes, it is genetic, and other times it is learned behavior. Think about it: we learn our coping skills from those who raised us. For families that struggle with addiction, anxiety is usually present as well.
Another part may likely be a component of generational sin, which is passed from generation to generation down to the fourth generation. ("The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected--even children in the third and fourth generations." Num 14:18 NIV)
3. Review your life and your inner circle with God and a couple of wise people in your life. Read Psalm 139, paying special attention to verses 23-24: "Search me, God, and know my heart! Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ask God to show you any offensive ways in you. (We all have them, just FYI, as we are people and therefore, not perfect! Be honest with yourself!) This includes evaluating who you spend your time with, as your inner circle can really influence your thoughts and feelings.
4. Start reviewing how you cope with things, including stressors, losses, and happiness. The way you deal with feelings may be a part of the problem. You will likely be shocked, but don't be afraid! This is part of the process! Some common ways people use to numb or avoid feelings are: social media, books, movies, porn, food, drugs, alcohol, chaotic relationships, shopping, video games, to name a few!
5. Learn how to deal with thoughts and feelings (coming soon--my book goes into great detail on this). You may realize you need to see a therapist to help you learn how to change your thinking.
In fact, anxiety and worry are mentioned throughout the Bible as Jesus loves us and knows that, as a whole, we are prone to worry. That's why He told us that "In this world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." And He tells us essentially, worrying won't help us, as it can't change anything for the better.
What you think about changes YOU! For better...or for worse...
What are your thoughts doing for YOU?
© 2018 Jen Wisdom-Schepers, MD. All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer: Jen Wisdom-Schepers, MD is licensed to practice medicine in the State of Tennessee. While Jen Wisdom-Schepers, MD may provide remote coaching and information products that are available outside Tennessee, such are not intended to be and may not be used for treatment purposes. Any information made available by Dr. Schepers on this website or through remote services outside of Tennessee are expressly and exclusively for education. If as a result of exposure to these resources, you are driven to seek psychotherapy, you are encouraged to do so promptly and locally.