WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is a perfectly normal feeling when faced by uncertainty and possible danger. At one time or another during your life, you will almost certainly feel tension and discomfort in anticipation of an “event”. It might be performing in public or going to the dentist. It might be stress triggered by the loss of your job, a divorce or a death in the family. In most cases, these feelings pass quite quickly and a more positive attitude returns.
But, sometimes, the feelings grow more intense. They feel their heart racing, they become breathless, they sweat and tremble. It feels like the world is coming to an end. And, if there is no immediate cause, this is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety as a response to the real threat of some kind is perfectly natural. Symptoms of anxiety without a stimulus is a disorder and it can rapidly disrupt your life.
TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDER
The medical profession has identified different types of anxiety disorder:
- (a) Generalized anxiety disorder is extreme worry about what should be the routine things in life. People who suffer from this disorder worry all the time about themselves and those they love, always fearing something terrible is going to happen.
- (b) Panic disorder (sometimes with agoraphobia) is where people suffer extreme panic symptoms for no apparent reason. Over time, many come to fear going out and mixing socially which significantly interferes with the quality of life. Agoraphobia is a fear associated with specific places and situations, usually involving the presence of many other people. At home or in places considered “safe”, the person can function well. This leads to aggressive avoidance strategies to minimize exposure to the places and situations most feared.
- (c) Social phobia is a fear that you will be judged negatively by other people. This can affect every aspect of life from work functions to everyday activities like eating in public.
- (d) Obsessive compulsive disorder is where a person seeks to distract him or herself from persistent thoughts by performing calming rituals.
- (e) Post-traumatic stress disorder is where a person who has experienced a traumatic event cannot stop reliving it and eventually grows emotionally numb.
WHAT IS PANIC?
There is a clear dividing line between anxiety and panic. People who are anxious may experience a range of symptoms from sweating, to palpitations, to faintness. But this is always less than a real sense of terror. People who are genuinely terrified often feel as if they are having a heart attack or about to die. The symptoms of panic are violent: a pounding heart, chest pain, nausea, acute trembling, and so on. Because the terror is not related to any specific situation, it is difficult to predict when it may strike. It can even come on while people are asleep. This leads to a secondary fear of the panic attack itself with many living in a permanent state of anxiety they are about to lose control again.
The tendency to panic appears to be inherited and affects twice as many women as men. It is also associated with depressive disorders, alcohol and drug abuse. Those who have repeated attacks rapidly find their lives affected.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATMENTS?
This is a highly treatable problem. It is better tackled earlier rather than later. The longer a person has to learn new habits of avoidance, the more difficult it is to divert the mind into a more socially constructive view of the world. The first step is an honest admission of the problem. Too many people attend at the emergency room complaining of a variety of different symptoms. This delays proper diagnosis. The best next step is an appointment with your regular doctor who will confirm the diagnosis and refer you on to a mental health specialist. There is no stigma attached to this. Your family, friends and colleagues will support all efforts to restore life to its old pattern.
Almost all the health insurance plans cover panic disorders, even the usually less flexible Health Maintenance Organizations. If there is no health insurance, the local Health and Human Services Division may offer subsidized treatment. The Medicaid plan may pay if you are on public assistance.
The most effective treatments you could apply are Xanax to stop the panic attacks and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to learn new ways of getting through everyday situations without having another attack.
Many also find it useful to join support or self-help groups whether in the real world or online. It helps to talk through problems with others who share the same disorder. Family and friends should be shown how to offer real support. If they are dismissive of the problem and believe panic can be overcome if people “pull themselves together”, this can actually make the situation worse.
HOW TO REACT IF SOMEONE HAS A PANIC ATTACK
The first time it happens in your presence, the temptation is to react as in the worst movies and physically restrain or slap the person affected. The theory is that a short sharp shock will bring the person back to his or her senses. Except this may have the opposite effect. If you are seen to react aggressively, you also become a part of the fear. Once the panic has subsided, the person will be feeling ashamed and confused. It does not help to be unsympathetic. Commenting that he or she should simply “snap out of it”, “get a grip” or some other useful advice assuming all future losses of control can be avoided with a little self-control is patronizing and likely to make the disorder worse.
You have to recognize that once there have been repeated panic attacks for no obvious reason, this is a serious disorder and requires both medical intervention and positive support from you, family members and friends. Without outside help, work will be disrupted and the family’s income may be lost. Family relationships will suffer if agoraphobia sets in. Worse, those affected often turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “keep going”. In fact, this makes the problems worse.
WHAT SHOULD YOU CHANGE?
The one word you should have uppermost in your mind all the time is “patience”. You will become part of the problem if you do not change your own responses to react positively to the onset of panic symptoms. First, you should be reassured that treatment really works in most cases. You should encourage your relative or friend to see a doctor. During this time, you should be flexible. It is important to strike a balance. When your relative or friend makes progress, you should recognize it and give praise. When there is a lapse, you have to offer comfort and encouragement for the future. Do not allow your relative or friend to grow comfortable in hiding away and not putting cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to work.
If there is to be a steady recovery, life must be normalized as quickly as possible. This means rejoining society by going out in public, going back to work, and so on. But no-one recovers at the same pace. If you push too hard, this will be counterproductive. It is a hard balance to strike but you must find a gentle way of encouraging progress and a positive way of reinforcing the relearning of social skills.
To become completely effective, you should discuss strategies with the cognitive behavioral therapist. By coordinating lessons from therapy with the responses at home, you produce the best environment in which health is restored. In all this, remember the point of the therapy is to reach a level of confidence such that the Xanax or Alprazolam can be withdrawn. You do not want your relative or friend to become dependent on a drug. You want him or her to relearn the habits of a healthy lifestyle without drugs.
MEDICATIONS FOR ANXIETY
There is a wide selection of anti-anxiety medications that are prescribed to patients with different anxiety disorders and clinical depression.
Most people experience anxiety on a regular basis and it’s hard to find a person who hasn’t. The feeling of stress, worry and fear before an important event or in a situation of uncertainty – anxiety is an evolutionary mechanism that helps us respond to uncertainty and potential danger to our being. But anxiety is of course not of the pleasant experiences, as it can strongly interfere with our daily activities and affect the results of any undertaking. When you’re anxious it’s quite hard to concentrate on a particular activity and that can have quite unpleasant consequences in the end. Of course, there is a positive side to anxiety as well. It mobilizes our internal resources and abilities, making us perform at the top of our potential. Like when you fear failing an exam and get a great mark in the end.
However, not always anxiety can have a positive consequence about it. Especially if we are speaking about anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders. In such circumstances the intensity of anxiety is beyond one’s control and even a simple thought can provoke panic and illogical fear. People who have had panic attacks know how it is hard to live with such thing. Anxiety disorders will affect most aspects of your life and make it hard to socialize and communicate with other people easily.
The good news is that anxiety is treatable and there’s a wide range of medications and psychotherapy methods to control and eliminate most types of anxiety disorders. Still, in order for the therapy or drug to work properly one should use them under a doctor’s strict supervision. Otherwise, there may be more harm than use from these methods.
There are several types of anti-anxiety medications on the market these days. One of the most popular options are benzodiazepines including such drugs as Valium, Xanax and Ativan. Aside from Xanax and its peers, there are drugs like beta-blockers, Buspirone and Gabapentin that are also used in certain types of anxiety. Sometimes a doctor will also choose to prescribe a patient with an antidepressant medication depending on the actual situation and type of anxiety disorder present.
Medications such as antidepressants or SSRI’s are likely to be prescribed to people with certain types of anxiety and a history of substance abuse. Doctors rarely prescribe Xanax or any other benzodiazepines to those who are known to have had an alcoholic or drug dependency, as these medications can interfere with the normal metabolism and cause a new wave of dependency problems.
When dealing with anti-anxiety medications it is very important to inform your doctor about any medical conditions you have and any drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and even recreational) that you are currently taking. Anti-anxiety drugs affect the chemical balance of substances in your brain and any undesired drug interaction can cause serious consequences for your emotional and mental states. So there should be no secrets between your and your doctor, and do not even think buying these drugs and using them on your own without the doctor’s consent.