Learning to Live with an Anxiety Disorder

An anxiety disorder is a mental disorder characterized by worry or fear of present or future events. Anxiety disorders are much more serious than given credit for. How often has someone nonchalantly told you to “not have a panic attack”? The cause of anxiety disorder is unknown but is largely genetic and due to environmental stresses. However, anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable mental health disorders according to therapists and psychiatrists in the mental health field. A few of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder include

  • Increased feelings of fear.
  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle spasms or muscle tension.
  • Feelings of Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Increased heart rate.

There are three different types of anxiety disorders; social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Unfortunately, many people that suffer from anxiety will turn to drugs and alcohol as a tool to help take the edge off the symptoms they’re experiencing. If used long enough, a drug or alcohol addiction will become inevitable. With that said, it’s critical that individuals suffering from anxiety disorders seek a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recognized as the most effective treatment method for anxiety disorders. CBT has the ability to treat a variety of other mental disorders as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to improve an individual’s thinking patterns and help them think more positively. The most effective medications used to treat anxiety disorders are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), antidepressants as well as benzos like Xanax or valium.

When enrolled in treatment, therapists will aim to help you better understand how your negative thinking patterns fuel your anxiety. Cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy are also important components of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive restructuring helps patients think more logically. Exposure therapy helps the patient confront their fears in a safe and realistic way. Dialectical behavior therapy, a modified version of CBT, could also help clients struggling with anxiety disorders. Dialectical behavior therapy, originally created for patients with borderline personality disorder, aims to help clients better regulate their emotions.

Learning to practice mindfulness is also an excellent tool in helping treat anxiety. Mindfulness means to live in the moment and to not dread on the future or relive painful memories of the past. Other activities that can help relieve anxiety include

  • Exercise. – Exercise produces endorphins that have been proven to help combat depression and anxiety.
  • Yoga. – Yoga requires meditation which helps improve thinking patterns and it also relieves the mind and body of whatever stresses it may be experiencing.
  • Talk therapy. – Simply talking with family and friends about what you’re feeling can help you make more sense of your thinking patterns whether they be logical or illogical.
  • Eating foods rich in Omega 3s. – Foods rich in Omega 3s help reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that are rich in Omega 3s include nuts, fish and spinach.
  • Acupuncture. – Acupuncture helps the body produce painkilling chemicals. It also stimulates the area of the brain that regulates our emotions.
  • Massage therapy. – Frequent massages can produce relaxation which can improve your mood and help lower blood pressure. Massages can also help increase the body’s levels of oxytocin and serotonin.

It’s very important to understand that like so many other mental disorders, anxiety can be treated but not cured. A little less than 20% of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety disorders making it one of the most common mental disorders in the nation. If yourself or someone you know is struggling with an anxiety disorder, don’t waste another day without seeking help. There are plenty of resources and clinicians out there that can help you create a higher quality of life for yourself.

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