By Candace Schoner, Producer and Host of Speaking Candidly with Candace
Most people experience anxiety on occasion. You know the feeling: Your chest tightens, your breathing shallows, and your mind starts racing with worst-case scenarios. No matter how hard you try, you can’t calm down.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older … yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."
As someone who has lived a relatively stressful life as an entrepreneur and freelance writer, I have personally experienced the physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension, abdominal pain and nausea) commonly associated with generalized anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is when the intensity of the worry is out of proportion to the likelihood of the anticipated event. The excessive worry or anxiety occurs more days than not for a period of at least six months. (psychcom.net)
Like many children growing up, I worried unnecessarily about many things such as: the boogeyman under my bed, getting good grades, my first sleepover, and being struck by lightning.
According to psychologists, fear can appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often extremely stressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe. “Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to either anxiety or depression”. (CDC.gov).
Anxiety may present as fear, but can also cause children to be irritable and angry.
This is also true for adults. Other anxiety symptoms may include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea. In some cases, individuals may even break out in hives.
What you may not know about stress is that it’s not all bad. In fact, anyone can experience eustress or positive stress.
Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese explains, eustress is a chemical response in the body which can be brought on when faced with a fun challenge.
“Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life,” he says. (Healthline.com)
When a child fails to outgrow ‘normal’ age-related fears which interfere with school, home, or play activities, it is time to seek advice from a mental health professional.
Unrelenting feelings of doom are often the result of biochemical root causes, just like diabetes or heart disease. Thus, those exhibiting longer than ‘normal’ bouts of anxiety may find relief through behavioral changes, talk therapy or medications.
Physical activity, a healthy diet, regular sleep, and meditation may reduce feelings of anxiety. Experts also recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for managing symptoms. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do to keep my anxiety in check was give up coffee. Now, even if I have just one cup of Joe, I can feel my anxiety levels starting to rise.
You are probably tired of hearing how exercise is the cure for everything that ails you. Well, don’t blame the messenger. According to the Mayo clinic, “doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.”
Meditation can help lower stress by helping individuals pay closer attention to their emotions and provide the means to relax before things get worse. (Heathline.com)
To learn more about treatment options for anxiety such as diet and prescription medications, talk to your doctor.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no apparent cause or immediate danger. Panic attacks can be extremely frightening, and you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
Panic attacks may occur with or without a known trigger. According to the Mayo Clinic, many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes. But if your panic attacks are recurring and you are in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.
Although panic attacks themselves are not life-threatening, they can have a significant effect on your quality of life. In order to be diagnosed with a panic disorder, symptoms must not be related to substance use or another illness. If you have at least 4 (or more) of the following symptoms, you may have a panic disorder and should seek medical help.
Panic Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Living with anxiety and panic attacks is more common than you may think. According to the latest mental illness statistics, 40 million American adults have a panic disorder.
In 2014, professional soccer player David Beckham went public with his own struggle with panic attacks and said that playing with Legos calms him down when he is feeling anxious. Other celebrities including Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, and Nicole Kidman, have admitted to suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.
Mental health research has shown that people who have been diagnosed with panic disorder can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Treatment for Panic Disorders
Medications for panic disorders typically fall into two categories: antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
When first introduced in the 1950s, antidepressants were primarily used to treat mood disorders. However, today, these medications are known to effectively help reduce anxiety, lessen the symptoms of panic, and decrease the intensity and frequency of panic attacks.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft are frequently prescribed to treat panic disorders, anxiety, and panic attacks. This class of medication has been proven to decrease the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and can make a huge difference for a person who has become afraid of leaving the home or has difficulty engaging in other necessary activities.
Expert psychologists recommend that anyone who is struggling with an anxiety disorder try cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as the first-line of treatment. One of the main goals of CBT is to develop coping skills by changing negative thinking patterns and unhealthy behaviors found in persons diagnosed with panic disorder.
Another popular treatment for panic disorder is panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (PFPP). This form of therapy aims to uncover past experiences and emotional issues that may have influenced the person’s development of panic and anxiety. Psychotherapists believe that by coming to terms with emotional turmoil, the client can then overcome their issues with panic disorder.
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