Health Notes: Anxiety
● Published by Aimee Cormier
by Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. We all live with stress. Some people function better at higher or lower stress levels than others. Anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to be out of control and disrupts your life. Anxiety can present itself in different ways. One is that of an ongoing worry or fear that is not related to a particular event or situation and is out of proportion to what you might expect. Panic disorder is another presentation of anxiety which occurs when you have repeated periods of extreme panic. This is often accompanied by a feeling of chest tightness, palpitations, dizziness or faint feelings. Feeling as though you may choke, trembling, nausea and numbness in the hands or feet are also symptoms of a panic attack. Often persons describe a panic attack as a feeling of doom. These attacks usually last from 5-30 minutes.
A third type of anxiety is a phobia. This is an extreme, unreasonable fear to something specific such as crowds, bridges, snakes, spiders or open spaces.
Anxiety disorders can be treated. If you suffer from uncontrolled anxiety or have panic attacks discuss it with your doctor. Learn how to control your worries by setting aside a time and place that you can think about your concerns and make a plan of how you can deal with each worry. Try not to dwell on what might happen but only on what is really happening. Spend only about 30 minutes per day and then let go of your worries and go on with your day. Relaxation exercises and breathing exercises also give a sense of well-being. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep by going to bed at the same time every night and awakening at the same time every morning, avoid abusing alcohol or drugs and avoiding caffeine are also helpful. Confront the things that make you anxious, first in your mind and then in reality. Consider counseling.
Medication can be helpful. Discuss this with your doctor. Studies have shown that counseling and medication together work best. Some anti-anxiety medication can be addictive and should not be taken on a long term basis while others are safe to use long term. Take action. Anxiety can be controlled.