Everyone gets worried about things they care about –health, family and friends, work, the state of the world. Usually, people are able to contain that worry and find helpful ways of addressing it. However, some people find that they worry for too much of the day. These people may start to feel the worry in their bodies – feeling tired, irritable, or tense. When people worry about life so much that they are unable to control the worry for several months, we may say they are clinically anxious.
Anxiety is a condition that must be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional. Just because you said "yes" to some of these questions does not mean you have an anxiety disorder. However, if you find that your worries have persisted so long that they are affecting your health, wellbeing, or relationships with others, then you may want to speak to someone about how you feel.
Anxiety is focused on the "what ifs" of life – what if something terrible happens to my family; what if I am embarrassed when I go out; what if I have a GI issue on the way there. Very often, people are not focused on what is actually happening, but instead living in a world of worries with its own rules that are stacked against you. The inability to control worry characterizes anxiety, and is often the focus of therapy.
When your GI symptoms flare up, you might feel worried that something is wrong with you, or that something bad may happen. You may worry that other people think negatively of you, or that your healthcare provider does not take you seriously. Your GI health is a serious matter, so it makes sense to be worried at times. But when these worries get out of hand, you might start to feel it physically. People can literally worry themselves sick!
People who worry exclusively about their GI symptoms are experiencing something we call Visceral anxiety – visceral means it is in your body. However, some people will feel worried about things beyond their GI symptoms – not just health, but about other people and the world at large, too. We say that these people have General Anxiety, and these feelings do not always go away with proper diet or medication. These people need help with controlling their worries as much as they need help controlling their GI symptoms. Therapy for anxiety can provide help – testing the worries that are controlling a person’s life, and allowing that person to regain control.
For people who are severely anxious, a combination of medication and "talk" therapy is often best. Again, you need to see a healthcare professional if you think you are severely anxious. It may produce its own set of worries, but it is a courageous first step to seek help for yourself. For more ideas check out My Quality of Life (MyQOL) Toolbox.