With so many demands on our everyday lives, it’s normal to experience anxiety sometimes. However, if you are constantly worrying about work, school, finances, or family responsibilities to the extent that it begins to disrupt your life and sleep habits, you may have an anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States every year.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness that can be triggered by a number of environmental factors, including excessive stress and trauma. It could also be triggered by medical problems such as cancer, diabetes or another life-threatening condition. If left untreated, constant anxiety can take a toll on your mental health and quality of life.

Signs of Anxiety

  • Excessive worrying
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Fearfulness

Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center psychiatrist Marissa Leslie, MD, says most people who have anxiety brush it off as a normal part of life. “Unfortunately, symptoms often get more debilitating as individuals get older because their perspective on what causes the anxious feelings seem to intensify and they are unable to process their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way,” says Dr. Leslie.

Children who have anxiety may have trouble concentrating in school, show anger, withdraw from social activity and have difficulty making friends. Anxiety symptoms may peak during particularly stressful times such as exams or back-to-school season.

Adults with an anxiety disorder may have trouble focusing at work, organizing their thoughts, and exercising good judgment due to irrational thoughts or fears. Anxiety may also lead to constant feelings of insecurity, which may affect their ability to establish and maintain relationships with others.

Prevention & Wellness Tips

In recognition of Mental Health Month this May, Dr. Leslie offers the following tips to help reduce stress and anxiety and stay mentally well:

  • Practice prayer and/or meditation exercises
  • Stop and take a few deep breaths whenever you feel overwhelmed. This is a calming exercise to help you refocus on the task at hand.
  • Talk to a mental health professional, family member, trusted friend or clergy member about your thoughts and feelings
  • Maintain a healthy work and life balance
  • Do not overcommit to activities or stretch yourself behind your financial means
  • Simplify your life and living space as much as possible.
  • Plan ahead
  • Stay organized

If you are struggling with feelings of prolonged anxiety, hopelessness and sadness, take our free online screening tool to see if you are at risk for depression.