Anxiety, fears & anxiety disorders: What you can do

September 5, 2023

Anxiety and worries accompany us in our everyday lives. They motivate us and hold us back in certain situations. But when do everyday worries turn into anxiety disorders that we should take care of? And how can we best help ourselves?

Likeminded Editorial Team

Table of Content

What are the causes of our fears and worries?

Fears and worries can have various causes. Factors that could promote generalized anxiety disorder or are involved in its development can be, for example, the following:

  • Traumatic childhood experiences
  • Unfavorable parenting styles
  • Past or currently stressful life events
  • Long-lasting and stressful burdens
  • Biological and hereditary factors
  • Other existing mental or physical illnesses

Often, factors that could promote generalized anxiety disorder have been dormant in a person for some time until their symptoms are triggered by a specific event (trigger).

Uncertainty and loss of control: This is how crises and fear of the future can make us sick

Many people remain alone with their fears. Times of crisis can put even people who were previously psychologically stable and healthy into states of fear, worry, and panic. But it is not only crises that create fear. Quite a few people are also plagued with fears about the future.

If these get out of hand, such worries and fears can have a strong influence on the everyday life of those affected and can limit their quality of life.

For some sufferers, for example, anxiety causes them to call in sick more often. Many also try to hide their anxiety and therefore withdraw from other people.

Furthermore, in addition to the perceived symptoms, constant anxiety can also lead to exhaustion, concentration disorders, and sleep disorders.

Anxiety vs. fear

Fear is a response to a specific threat in the present. It is a natural and immediate emotional response to a real or perceived threat. It's a specific reaction to something that is happening or about to happen, and it often triggers the fight-or-flight response, preparing the body to confront or escape from the danger.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a more generalized and prolonged feeling of unease  about future or uncertain events. It doesn't necessarily have a specific trigger or imminent threat, and it can persist over time, causing chronic worry and tension.

What is a generalized anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders are various psychological disorders that have an exaggerated sense of fear in common. Those who are affected experience fear reactions in situations that are actually harmless – their psychologically or physically experienced fear is therefore not in proportion to an actual threat. At the same time, those affected experience the fear very intensively.

A generalized anxiety disorder is said to exist if the excessive anxiety occurs over a period of at least 6 months and various physical and psychological symptoms are present, such as severe palpitations, nervousness, dizziness, trembling, or sweating.

Fears and worries in generalized anxiety disorder

By definition, the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder show up throughout the day and at all times in the form of diffuse anxiety, panic, and physical complaints. This means that feelings of anxiety, worry, and physical symptoms are constantly present in an anxiety disorder and do not come in episodes, such as panic attacks in panic disorder.

In addition to constant worry, anxiety, and a sense of foreboding, physical symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include severe tension, sweating, trembling, and sometimes nausea. Calm sleep is impossible for many sufferers, and they often experience restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and increased irritability.

It becomes a real vicious circle when the so-called meta-worries are added. Those affected worry about the consequences of their many worries.

How do I recognize symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder can cause sufferers to put off or avoid doing things and tasks – out of fear that something terrible might happen to themselves, their loved ones, or all of humanity.

It is therefore difficult to distinguish from depression or may seem like social anxiety disorder to those who suffer from it. Generalized anxiety disorder can also occur in addition to or as a result of depression. Without treatment or therapy, the combination of symptoms can be extremely stressful for sufferers and can interfere with their daily lives to the point of being absolutely unbearable.

Everyone has anxiety at one time or another and worries about the future are well-known to most of us, especially in times of crisis. But those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder are haunted by their fears for a long time and incessantly. This is only one of the criteria for the actual diagnosis of such an anxiety disorder.

Other important warning signs are:

  • The uncontrollability of fears and worries,
  • the interference of fears and worries with everyday life,
  • the presence of at least three of the physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension in the back, gastrointestinal complaints, palpitations,…)

Such a diagnosis is very complex. Therefore, it should always be made by an expert. Isolated panic attacks, for example, do not mean generalized anxiety disorder. Before you cause yourself even more headaches with a hasty self-diagnosis, vigilance and self-reflection are called for here. It is therefore better to seek professional help and advice in good time.

Types of anxiety disorders

There are various different kinds of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Agoraphobia: In agoraphobia, fear-inducing situations are avoided e.g., being in crowds because a panic attack or similar strong reaction would make it difficult or uncomfortable to leave the particular place
  • Panic disorders: In panic disorder, people experience sudden and repeated extreme anxiety, called a panic attack. It is usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath.
  • Social phobia: People with a social phobia are afraid of embarrassing themselves in the company of others.
  • Specific phobias are characterized by an inappropriately strong fear of certain things e.g. spiders or darknessGeneralized anxiety disorder are not tied to objects or situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is said to occur when the exaggerated sense of fear occurs over a period of at least 6 months and various physical and psychological symptoms are present, such as severe palpitations, nervousness, dizziness, trembling, or sweating.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that occurs after a traumatic event, such as a sudden death or accident, and is characterized by intense flashbacks, nightmares, and persistent anxiety.
  • In obsessive-compulsive disorder, sufferers have recurring, unwanted thoughts and feel compelled to repeat certain behaviors over and over again, such as washing their hands very frequently

Overcoming fears: Tips

Therefore, it is important to find an individual way of dealing with these fears and worries and to reduce them. This is the only way to come out of the crisis mentally intact.

However, there are some self-help methods to learn how to successfully deal with your fears and worries. We present some tips on how you can make your everyday life as anxiety-free as possible during these times. These can also be useful for sufferers of (generalized) anxiety disorders to let go of chronic fears and worries.

Creating a routine

The loss of personal daily structure can have traumatic and debilitating effects on people. Therefore, it is important to maintain a daily routine and stability despite the state of emergency.

This means keeping regular sleep schedules, using to-do lists to create a plan of what you want to do during the coming week, finding new rituals, and doing them regularly. This can be very satisfying and gives us the opportunity to get long-postponed things done. It keeps us from sinking into anxiety, worry, and lethargy.

Staying active

Stress, anxiety, and worry are relieved through physical activity. In addition to common options such as sports classes, gyms, walking, or hiking, there are also countless opportunities for workouts or yoga classes at home.

Maybe it’s enough to start small: does someone in the neighborhood perhaps need help with their groceries? Such occasions are also a good reason to get out of the house. Regular physical activity, especially in the fresh air, also helps maintain a structured daily routine.

Reducing and filtering news consumption

While it’s important to stay informed, too much input from the news and social media can drive us insane. Media overload gradually consumes our thinking – not to mention that fake news and questionable statements and prophecies are always mixed in with this stream of news and opinions.

To avoid being taken in and unsettled by this, it is advisable to minimize your news consumption to a certain time frame per day and to filter especially carefully whose posts and broadcasts you decide to watch.

Likeminded newsletter

Professional help for fears and worries

Although these self-help tips can be amazingly effective, they cannot intercept all the fears and worries that plague us. Especially to conquer the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, professional support and therapy are needed in many cases.

Finding the courage to confide in others

A first step in overcoming or learning to cope with generalized anxiety disorder is always to share your experiences with others. This can take some courage.

But sharing your fears and symptoms of an anxiety disorder with others has a truly healing effect. On the one hand, confiding in others can give you peace of mind. On the other hand, it reminds you that other people also struggle with fears and anxiety, that you are not imagining your symptoms, and that you can support each other.

Self-help groups: A protected forum for overcoming fears and worries

If you can’t or don’t want to confide in the people around you, you can find a safe haven and place to go in self-help groups. By talking to other affected people and experts, you can learn what helps with generalized anxiety disorder, get help for self-help, and perspectives on therapy.

The healing of an anxiety disorder is a long process, which you should not go through alone. If you experience persistent symptoms and can no longer help yourself, you should not hesitate to seek professional help and support from an external source.

You are not alone: Getting professional help

In some cases, however, self-help is not enough. That’s when it’s important to get professional help.

No one needs to or can overcome generalized anxiety disorder alone. Anxiety disorders can be treated effectively with psychotherapy or medication. It is important not to avoid anxiety-provoking situations, but to face them. Your first point of contact when seeking professional help can also be your family doctor.

Your employer may also be able to provide support. Your HR contact or the intranet can quickly provide information about such offers. As a rule, the costs are even borne by the employer.

Share article

Your cookie settings

We take good care of you and your data. We use cookies to improve user experience. Choose what cookies you allow us to use.

Always active