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What Is the Connection between Stress and Anxiety Disorders?

There are numerous connections between stress and anxiety disorders. In many cases, one begets the other, or can certainly worsen the other. Some people find that experiencing a very stressful, traumatic event, or even prolonged stress over a period of time, can contribute to anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or panic disorder, among others. On the other hand, people who experience anxiety disorders often find that they experience more stress in their lives as a result of it. Due to this, it can be difficult to separate stress and anxiety disorders, and determine which is causing the other.

One of the ways in which stress and anxiety disorders are connected, as mentioned above, is that persistent or acute stress can cause anxiety, which can progress to an actual disorder. A traumatic event often leads to an anxiety disorder; however, a specific event is not always necessary. People who experience stress consistently in their lives, whether it comes from work, home, or interpersonal relationships, among other sources, will often experience anxiety with that stress. Over time, the frequent feelings of anxiety can certainly progress to an actual anxiety disorder that may require treatment by a mental health professional.

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When considering stress and anxiety disorders, however, it is important to keep in mind that the opposite may also be true. Someone who already has an anxiety disorder will often find that it leads to increased stress in every day life. The disorder may make it less likely that the individual can handle stressful situations without becoming more upset or anxious. Stress and anxiety disorders are, unfortunately, inextricably linked. Often, a therapist will be able to provide stress management techniques along with any other treatment for anxiety disorders.

Treatment for stress and anxiety disorders can vary depending on the type of disorder, and any potential triggers or causes that could make it worse. Some people find they need anti-anxiety medication, while others may simply need talk therapy in order to process and move past traumatic events. A therapist may be able to provide strategies for minimizing the stress that causes flare ups of the anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks. Some people find that getting some exercise, or practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques, can also help them to reduce the frequency of their stress and anxiety. Lifestyle changes may be necessary to truly deal with the source of the stress.

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