My friends and I are always freaking out about something.
It can be as silly as figuring out how to talk to the hot new guy in the office or whether our dresses make us look like we have secretary butt.
At times, however, it’s more serious than that.
Terrible family drama, problems at work and body image qualms can make us feel incredibly unsettled.
Sometimes, these feelings linger and can lead to crippling anxiety.
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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million adults in the US aged 18 and over have anxiety. Unfortunately, only a third of those cases actually get treated.
I got in touch with emotional health expert and psychotherapist Katherine Schafler to ask all the questions we're usually too afraid to ask about anxiety. Schafler has a private practice in New York City and serves as in-house therapist at Google.
If you’re experiencing a sudden clusterf*ck of feelings and have no idea why, read on.
How do I know if I'm having a panic attack?
Schafler stresses the importance of knowing exactly what to look for when you think you might be having an attack.
It's natural to be curious about how anxiety manifests itself in the body. Beyond curious, it's smart to be informed on what look for and what to do if you're experiencing a panic attack.
Triggers vary from person to person. But, according to the ADAA, a panic attack usually manifests itself in sweating, an accelerated heart rate, a choking feeling and shortness of breath.
Additionally, you might feel like you’re losing control, dying or losing your grasp on reality.
Can headaches or backaches be anxiety-related?
During an especially awful day, I feel like I have a physical weight on my shoulders. After it finally goes away, I feel like I can breathe again.
Turns out, Schafler is often asked if similar symptoms are related to anxiety.
Schafler stresses that your body often tries to tell you what your mind might not have had the time to fully process.
Don’t be afraid to bring it up to a doc, either.
Doctors are well aware of the empirically backed research connecting the mind and body, so there's no need to feel shy about broaching this topic.
How do you know when you need a therapist?
In the past, I went to the gym religiously in order to "find myself." But recently, I made it a point to actually spend time thinking about my days, my goals and my setbacks.
At some point, I realized I needed the help of a therapist. It was the best decision I could’ve made.
Unfortunately, Schafler believes not everyone can assess when it's time to seek professional help.
It's often the healthiest people that seek out support and go to therapy. The people that need to go the most usually don't even think about going. A good doctor will encourage you to connect to any support you feel would make it easier to live your best life.
As long as my best life involves wine and plenty of fluffy cats, I’m down.
What’s the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy amount of anxiety?
Schafler says a doctor can assess how much your anxiety impacts your daily functioning.
For example, are you showing up late to work most days because you're waking up each night from stress dreams and can't fall back to sleep? Are you experiencing performance review issues at work because you're so anxious you can't get focused enough to start or finish projects?
Sometimes, it could just be a sh*tty week. Other times, however, it’s a little more complicated than that.