Anxiety disorders can make it hard for the people that suffer from them to lead normal lives. Their constant feelings of anxiety may make it hard for them to focus, and chronic stress can lead to other health problems.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from an anxiety disorder don’t only have an anxiety disorder, they have or develop coexisting conditions. In addition to the unique problems that they present, these coexisting conditions can change the ways in which anxiety disorders manifest themselves.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders are often seen as opposed to depression, but the two often occur together. In anxiety disorders, a person suffers from a near constant fear, sometimes of real possibilities and sometimes of things that aren’t likely to happen. In depression, a person suffers from an inability to carry out tasks, often due to perceived lack of energy. Unfortunately, these seemingly different conditions can trigger one another. Someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder may experience feelings of helplessness or uselessness in the face of their symptoms that trigger feelings of depression. Alternatively, someone suffering from depression may be unable to keep up with work or school and so have feelings of anxiety due to their falling behind on grades or bills.
Of course, anxiety disorders and depression don’t need to cause each other in order to occur at the same time, as they can be caused by unrelated things. For example, Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause depression due to lack of sunlight or changes in the amounts of sunlight that can prevent your body from working like it’s supposed to. A person that suffers from anxiety year-round may also be impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder , or “PTSD,” isn’t usually considered one of the anxiety disorders but it is closely related. This condition, suffered by people who undergo traumatic events, is characterized by both depression and anxiety. The good news is that this condition is usually temporary, though it may last for months or years.
Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from anxiety disorders and related conditions also develop substance abuse problems, often in an attempt to manage their symptoms without the help of a healthcare provider. This may be because they do not have access to a healthcare provider, because they are afraid of undergoing proper treatment, or for any number of other reasons. Substance abuse problems carry their own dangers, but they also may worsen rather than improve symptoms of anxiety disorders and related conditions.
Many people with anxiety disorders take up smoking because the nicotine in tobacco products makes them feel better for a short time, though it also makes it harder for them to breath, which can trigger or complicate panic attacks. Similarly, alcohol may help them to feel better though it has been linked to depression. It can also make symptoms of depression worse for people who have depression or who have PTSD.
Even those who don’t want to take medication or help for their anxiety disorder or related condition should try to work with healthcare providers or community organizations to quit or cut back on these substances, especially if they think that their use of these substances is making their symptoms worse.
Anxiety and Physical Disorders
Anxiety disorders and related conditions increase the level of stress in people’s lives. Stress, however, is not just a feeling but a physical process. During what is called the “stress response,” the body is flooded with chemical messengers that change the way that it operates. This is fine to time to time, but in cases of chronic stress it can cause other problems.
One of these is called “Irritable Bowl Syndrome,” or “IBS.” Characterized by frequent stomach aches and other symptoms, this painful condition can be caused by and can cause anxiety.
A potentially more serious condition occurs when panic attacks cause regular spikes in blood pressure. These spikes can wear out blood vessels increasing the chances of a more serious cardiac event in the future.
In some cases, as is the case with anxiety and depression, two co existing conditions can occur for different reasons, though finding relief for one can bring relief of the other. In other instances, as is the case with anxiety and IBS or substance abuse, managing anxiety better can prove to cure the other condition.
While many people do try to manage their anxiety disorders on their own or through their own support networks, if you believe that your anxiety disorder has lead to or has worsened a coexisting condition, it is time to reconsider seeking the help of a healthcare provider to find a way to better manage your anxiety disorder.
At Citizen Counselling and Coaching a number of our counsellors and coaches can provide support around anxiety. This can include identifying the obstacles to being less anxious, creating practical plans and advice through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others.
Our ‘My Anxiety Coach’ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to increase their confidence and make a positive change in their lives.
Our Overcoming Anxiety page can explain more