fill the bowl without making eye contact with him. I glance at my “to do” list and my heart begins to race. I turn away and walk into the living room. I reach for the remote and turn on the TV. I tell myself I’ll just sit for a few minutes and then I’ll feel better and go get dressed. Today I will go to the grocery store and buy something to make a nice dinner for us tonight. My husband will be so happy and proud of me. I wonder what he’s doing now? I wonder who he’s talking to? I send him a text message. My heart pounds faster and I need the TV off. I decide to go back to bed until this feeling passes. Then I’ll get dressed and go to the store. I know I can do it. I used to do it all the time. I want to do it. What is wrong with me?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders affect more than 25 million Americans. The most common types of anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Between
50-90% of people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder also have other problems, such as, depression, eating disorders, alcoholism, or some other form of substance abuse.
Symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, problems sleeping, irritability, and physical symptoms that appear to be heart problems, respiratory illness, digestive problems and sexual dysfunction.
Anxiety causes the brain to release the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases the heart rate and blood pressure. It suppresses the functions we wouldn’t need in time of threat, such as, reproduction, digestion, and our immune response. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause damage to the hippocampus in the brain, which affects our memory, concentration, and learning. It also affects our mood, which is why depression often is seen with anxiety.
If you look at the symptoms of anxiety and the affects of elevated cortisol, it is easy to see the negative effects in the workplace. Sleep deprivation, troubles concentrating and learning, poor memory, and physical
illness will interfere with a person’s ability to properly perform, focus on work, or even come into work. In addition to physical deficits, anxiety can leave a person with low self-esteem, negative and critical thinking or paranoia. These characteristics lead to interpersonal problems with co-workers.
These are also characteristics that lead to problems in personal relationships. Even the best of relationships can’t withstand feelings of insecurity, criticism, low self-esteem, and accusations for very long. A highly
anxious person may also be paralyzed to do simple daily functions, such as, getting dressed and getting outside the house. They may be unable to drive, keep a job, or take care of children. Not being able to do the things they want to do leads to further anxiety.
The exact cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not known, but some people may have an inherited tendency to develop the problem. Sometimes anxiety is a familiar feeling a person has lived with all their life, but it may be a misinterpretation of other, more difficult feelings, such as grief, emotional pain, and disappointment.
The best way to treat anxiety is by looking at all the treatment options and customizing it to fit the individual. This might mean a combination of psychotherapy, self-care, and medication. Within each of those categories is a list of possible options.
Psychotherapy has a number of techniques that may be helpful. Cognitive Behavioral therapy can help a person look at their thought processes and understand where they came from and how to change them.
Person Centered therapy would include self-exploration and acceptance. Solution Focused therapy would focus more on the present and finding ways to move forward without going too deep into the past. Psychotherapists also use many “tools” to help individuals. Some of the more common techniques are hypnosis, Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), and Emotional Freedom Technique
Self-care includes exercise, eating healthy, yoga, meditation, relaxation exercises, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, journaling, limiting stress, creating healthy boundaries in relationships, simplifying your life, learning to be present and in the moment, facing fears, having hobbies, and seeking support from others. Self-care is very personalized to each individual and what works best for them.
Medication might be an antidepressant such as Prozac or Zoloft. Or it might be an antianxiety drug like Xanax or Klonopin, which can bring quick relief compared to antidepressants that may take several weeks to begin to work. A person may even require both types of medications. A doctor will work with the individual to determine the best course of treatment and monitor the effects. For best results, medication should be used with Psychotherapy.
The most important part is in taking action and not waiting until you feel better. So even if your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and you feel light-headed, call your doctor and make an appointment, call a therapist and make an appointment, and call your best friend and go walk the dog together.