What is Chronic Anxiety?

R. Britton

Chronic anxiety consists of a variety of mental health conditions involving long term stress and panic over any aspect of daily life. Catastrophic thought patterns, ritualistic behaviors, and physical symptoms are very common. Symptoms, triggers, and objects of anxiety vary with each individual case. Chronic anxiety treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy.

Long term stress may result in chronic anxiety.
Long term stress may result in chronic anxiety.

A sufferer can worry about anything at all — from completing simple daily tasks, or not being punctual, to contracting a terrible disease or infection, dying, or being buried alive. While some sufferers focus on just one element of life to panic over, another may worry about literally everything. This condition can become all consuming and negatively affect every aspect of daily living. This condition can lead to other mental health issues.

Chronic anxiety usually results in insomnia.
Chronic anxiety usually results in insomnia.

Someone suffering from chronic anxiety obsessively worries over a particular issue and gets trapped inside a destructive thought cycle that gets progressively worse. This is known as catastrophizing and is one of the most common mental symptoms of chronic anxiety. That is, the sufferer enters into a chain of thoughts which begin as rational and end as illogical and often bizarre.

Hyperventilation and excessive sweating are signs of chronic anxiety.
Hyperventilation and excessive sweating are signs of chronic anxiety.

For example, suppose a sufferer has to complete a ten-minute car journey. The catastrophic thought cycle begins with worry over whether the car will start or whether there will be a train at the crossing. These thoughts spin out of control and end with fear of an accident, being carjacked, or abducted by aliens. In a normal mental state, he or she knows how irrational these thoughts are; when trapped in these harmful thought patterns, however, the fears seem very real. Aside from the physical symptoms associated with anxiety, this example would likely end with the sufferer spending most of the day in a state of extremely high anxiety and leaving three hours early to complete the short trip.

Frequent headaches may be a symptom of chronic anxiety.
Frequent headaches may be a symptom of chronic anxiety.

Symptoms of chronic anxiety can include hyperventilation, vomiting, excessive sweating, and conscious or unconscious self harming. General feelings of being unwell or frequent headaches are also among the symptoms. Inattention to personal hygiene, lack of motivation, and an inability to concentrate or focus on simple tasks such as reading and watching television are also common.

A person suffering from chronic anxiety may worry about literally everything.
A person suffering from chronic anxiety may worry about literally everything.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for chronic anxiety, particularly where a sufferer engages in ritualistic behavior, self harming, or avoidance. CBT combines gradually exposing the sufferer to things which cause anxiety and teaching him or her to recognize the beginnings of catastrophic thought chains. If the harmful patterns can be identified early in the cycle, the sufferer can practice the techniques learned in therapy to stop, calm down, and prevent the thoughts from worsening. Other therapies include identifying and working through any underlying issues which may have caused the onset of the disorder, gardening, exercise, and anything else that can distract someone from irrational fears.

A person dealing with chronic anxiety should try to set aside time to relax with friends and family.
A person dealing with chronic anxiety should try to set aside time to relax with friends and family.

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