To start this resource guide off, let’s define anxiety.
Anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
In mental health disorders, anxiety is “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”
We have all felt anxious about upcoming events, tests, employee reviews, and similar things. Even happy events can cause some anxious thoughts, for example having a baby or getting married.
So how do you know if what you’re experiencing is “normal” anxiety or too much anxiety? The following article can help you decide. https://www.verywellmind.com/anxiety-how-much-is-too-much-1393146
Anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms, too.
“Physical signs and symptoms may include:
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy
- Being easily startled
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
- Memory problems”
Anxiety can lead to compulsive behaviors. “Compulsive behaviors are actions that are engaged in repeatedly—often, even when the individual wishes they could stop—despite the fact that the act triggers negative outcomes, leads to interpersonal conflicts, or damages mental health.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/compulsive-behaviors
Any behavior can become compulsive, for example: hand washing, shopping, drinking, eating, sex, hoarding, skin picking, hair twirling, and checking and rechecking door locks.
The first step to take when you feel that your anxiety is running your life, is to see your doctor to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing your anxiety. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “When anxiety surfaces for the first time in adulthood, an underlying medical problem may be the cause.”
So see your doctor first. If medical causes are ruled out your healthcare provider will be able to tell you what to do next. Just in case they don’t tell you, ask for a recommendation to a mental health provider in your area.
In the US, when you call to make an appointment, you need to make sure that your provider can bill your health insurance. So ask the office staff if they take your insurance before you even make an appointment. If you don’t have insurance, many mental health providers offer a sliding-fee scale based on your income.
If your anxiety has gotten so bad that you are unable to work, you may qualify for assistance from your local county assistance office. Ask a loved one to help you apply if needed. I believe most applications can be done online today, so there is no need to go to their office.
It often takes a long time to get an initial intake appointment. It could be weeks or months for that particular provider. If you are having a crisis please don’t wait for that appointment. You can call a local crisis hotline number.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in the US is 1-800-273-TALK
They also have a chat service at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
For service in Canada, https://thelifelinecanada.ca/lifeline-canada-foundation/lifeline-app/
For help in the UK, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/
You can, alternately, go to a local emergency department for immediate assistance.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Next, I’ll cover treatment for anxiety. According to the University of Texas website, “Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses, and they are also the most treatable.”… “Most patients respond well to treatment, and the success rates among those who receive treatment are usually very high, allowing patients to return to productive, fulfilling lives.” So, there is hope for you and your loved ones.
The first treatment that may be ordered is medication. Treating anxiety usually requires both medication, and talk therapy in order to become manageable. Medications help calm the symptoms down enough that one can participate in the talk therapy successfully. Medications are especially needed, if your symptoms are moderate to severe.
Often medication doses can be lowered or stopped later on in treatment. They really can get you through a crisis. However, it can take some trial and error to figure out which medication, and dose works for you. We’re all individuals who respond differently to the same drugs. This process takes patience. Hang in there. Better days are coming.
After your anxiety is being treated with medication, you can benefit from talk therapy. “Psychotherapy” is the medical word for talk therapy. Your mental health care provider will discuss with you the plan of treatment, and involve you in creating one. A plan of treatment is made up of goals you decide to work on with your therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short), is “a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.” (Google dictionary)
If your anxiety is more specific to a particular object or situation, Exposure Therapy can help to lessen your anxiety about that object/situation for you.
Good therapists are sensitive to your needs, and will not cause unnecessary stress, by insisting that you talk about difficult subjects. Instead they listen to what you want to talk about and ask questions to help give a different point of view or perspective to our thinking. Therapy can bring up unpleasant topics. Unfortunately, stuffing emotions and not discussing distressing events has led to our anxiety. So talking about these things is necessary. Go at your own pace. Even getting into the therapist’s office is a win for you! You can do this!
It may also take some trial and error to find the right therapist for you. Please don’t give up. The therapist I had before my current one was not a good match for me. The one I have now is excellent.
Wrap-Up of Part 1
Finally, that concludes the basics of what anxiety is and its treatment. In part 2, I’ll cover other resources that will help you in your healing journey. Click here to read part 2. If you have questions or comments, I’d love to read them.
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Till next time, Kathy