We live in anxious times. Media reports bring us news of a poor economy, joblessness, people losing homes, international problems, high crime rates and more.
In addition, there are our own personal issues to deal with, such as poor health, relationship difficulties, financial problems and high-pressure jobs.
Even everyday annoyances stress us out, such as being stuck in traffic, computer problems and too many appointments and obligations.
More than 40 million people suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can begin in childhood, but it most commonly affects the middle-aged and even the elderly. Twice as many women as men have anxiety. Other similar disorders include social phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Some of the more common manifestations of anxiety are:
– Constant worrying and obsessing over big or small problems.
– Feelings of impending doom or worthlessness.
– Fatigue or trouble sleeping.
– Restlessness and feeling uptight.
– Difficulty concentrating and irritability.
– Sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate.
When a patient is evaluated by a doctor for anxiety, physical causes — thyroid problems, heart or lung disease, even dietary problems — need to be ruled out. Once that is done, there are several options for treatment.
By working with a trained therapist, patients can focus on working out underlying life stresses and concerns and making behavior changes.
This may be done through cognitive behavioral therapy, which is one of the more common types of psychotherapy. It involves learning to identify unhealthy negative beliefs and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and then teaches how to replace them with positive, healthy beliefs.
These treatments can give a person the tools necessary to deal with responses to life’s many problems and can help one gain control, especially by changing the way one responds to situations.
For the short term, anxiety can be treated with benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Ativan. These can work quickly and effectively, but they can be habit forming. For the longer term, antidepressants, such as Zoloft or Celexa, can be used.
Close medical supervision is important for drug therapy.
People who feel anxious can also treat themselves with exercise; healthy diet; avoidance of alcohol; relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation; and adequate sleep.
If you think you suffer from anxiety, see your doctor. With evaluation and a personalized treatment plan, your anxiety can be brought under control.