someone with anxietyAnxiety is an everyday occurrence. A little anxiety is actually good as it can be a huge motivation booster. Anxiety over a new job leads to one putting more effort. Anxiety over driving in heavy traffic pushes someone to be a better driver. Apprehension over an exam causes one to study harder leading to a passing grade. However, when feelings of fear and worry become overwhelming and prevent someone from functioning normally, it is no longer normal anxiety but rather an anxiety disorder.

By definition, an anxiety disorder is a mental illness characterized by intense feelings of worry about the future and guttural fearful reactions towards current events, places and situations.

The cause of Anxiety Disorder

Experts and scientists agree that an anxiety disorder is mainly caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

  • Genetics: Studies done on various families established that in cases where a family had a history of anxiety disorder; the likelihood of subsequent generations suffering from the same was high.
  • Environmental factors: Childhood abuse, severe trauma for instance rape and prolonged exposure to trauma are examples of environmental factors that cause anxiety disorders.

Furthermore, drug abuse and certain medical conditions can also lead to anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Though there are seven major types of anxiety disorder each with its set of unique symptoms, there are certain key symptoms that anyone suffering from an anxiety disorder is bound to exhibit:

  • A headache
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle spasms and tension
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Constant feelings of dread and fear
  • High level of stress
  • Jumpiness and hyper-awareness

Major types of Anxiety Disorders

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Characterized by excessive worrying over everyday life.
  2. Phobias – Characterized by a strong reaction of fear to places, events, and situations.
  3. Panic Disorder – Characterized by short bursts of intense terror and apprehension.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder – Characterized by intense fear and awkwardness in social situations.
  5. Agoraphobia – Characterized by fear of enclosed spaces.
  6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Anxiety due to a traumatic event.
  7. Separation Anxiety – Characterized by fear of being separated from a person or place.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders, 18% of the United States population equivalent to about 40 million adults suffer from Anxiety disorders. A study commissioned by ADAA ” The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders” found that the U.S spends more than $42 billion a year on anxiety disorders. Clearly, Anxiety disorder is an illness that is here to stay and it needs to be tackled.

Though anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only a small percentage of those suffering seek and receive treatment. This is mostly due to the stigma, unbelief and shame commonly associated with anxiety disorders. This article is aimed at expounding five proven ways of dealing with an anxiety disorder. The information herein will start you on your journey towards mental health and well-being.

1. Reach out
Though it sounds simple, this might be the most difficult yet important step in learning how to deal with anxiety disorder. A mother of 3 in Idaho spent 15 years ravaged by panic attacks unable to even take her children to hospital when hurt because she could not leave the house. One day completely tired of her situation, she picked up a phone and called the No Panic helpline. She was introduced to a telephone help group. That was the beginning of a three-year journey.She is now completely free from panic attacks.

Reaching out cannot be emphasized enough.

a) Reaching out means you recognize your need for help and that is the first step towards recovery.

b) Reaching out opens up more avenues for obtaining help.

c) Reaching out connects you with like-minded individuals who encourage and challenge you.

Whatever you do, reach out, whether to a friend, clergy, professional or even an anonymous chat group, simply reach out.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is the most widely recognized method of dealing with anxiety disorders. The key thing, therefore, is finding a trusted therapist who is patient and willing to take you through the therapy with as many sessions as needed for complete recovery.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the practice experts use to treat anxiety disorders. It focuses on developing coping strategies that confront a particular anxiety. It may involve a confrontation with the source of fear that causes the excess anxiety. For example, a person with fear of a certain place might be taken to the place over and over again until the fear is dealt with.

3. Support Groups
The biggest hindrance to recovery by people suffering from an anxiety disorder is the shame and stigma associated with mental illness.

Support groups by their very nature provide support, acceptance and encouragement. It is always easier to defeat an adversary as a team instead of an individual.

Soldiers have reported big strides in their effort to deal with PTSD as a result of joining a support group. Joining a support group is, therefore, a must in one’s endeavor to deal with an anxiety disorder.

4. Medication
Medication is often used as an initial treatment when dealing with anxiety disorder. Though medication on its own cannot cure anxiety disorder, it treats the physical symptoms. Research has proven that a combination of medication and therapy often produces the best results when dealing with anxiety disorders.

Only a certified medical doctor, e.g., a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. Therefore, it is important to consult one’s primary caregiver who will either prescribe the medication or refer you to a trusted psychiatrist.

The medication often used to treat anxiety disorder include; anti-anxiety medications e.g. benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers e.g. atenolol.

5. Lifestyle changes and stress management strategies
Caffeine and illicit drugs exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and therefore avoiding them should go a long way towards helping deal with anxiety disorders.

Strategies such as yoga and exercise that calm the body and reduce stress can also be used in conjunction with therapy to deal with anxiety disorders.

An anxiety disorder can sneak in and completely derail your life. It can drive you insane, and frustrate you to the point of giving up. The thing to remember amidst all the pain and fear is that it is beatable.

Persistence is the word. Find the treatment option that works for you and persist until you beat the disorder. It is possible and doable.

How to Deal with Anxiety Disorder: 5 Key Treatment Options

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