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Microsoft word - do you suffer from an anxiety disorder.doc
Do you suffer from an anxiety disorder? If so, you're not alone
In the United States alone, there are more than 40 million Americans who
are suffering from some form of anxiety disorder.
We all have anxiety-based
feelings as a natural "fight or flight" response, but when these feelings pop up
in a situation that wouldn't otherwise provoke them, they're confusing,
frightening and are often linked to a mental illness. Anxiety disorders are also
expensive for the American health care system, which is estimated to be
spending over $40 billion dollars a year to treat anxiety-related illnesses. The
Anxiety Disorders Association of America estimates that only about a third of
people with an anxiety disorder ever seek out treatment.
Let's discuss some of the most common disorders and a few specific
treatment options. No self-diagnosis, please; the best advice is to talk to your
doctor. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder often begins during stressful circumstances,
affecting close to 7 million Americans. Unlike other anxiety disorders, GAD is
defined by worrying that isn't specifically based on panic attack fears, phobias
and embarrassment, which are common in other disorders. The worrying in
GAD continues for months on end (usually for more than six months at a time)
with job issues and academic performance being the most common catalysts.
While we all worry, GAD worriers can't control it and have a great deal of
difficulty stopping it, leading to increased sleeping difficulties and bad
concentration with headaches and dizziness to go along with it. An example
could be someone at a new job and the contributing factors of work stress, a
new environment and new co-workers creating a constant sense of worry that
doesn't seem to get better when they're off the job.
Fortunately, there are treatment options for people dealing with GAD, with some
of the most common ones being SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake
Inhibitors) medications (better known as Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro). SSRIs are
antidepressants that change brain chemistry by altering how the brain re-
absorbs serotonin, a prime factor in moods and anxiety. The idea is that
serotonin changes will make us feel less anxious.
A more natural alternative to SSRIs is Kava, a root that offers temporary
relaxation without SSRI's potential withdrawal symptoms (sexual dysfunction,
diarrhea, etc.). Medication still won't address the fundamental issues of the
disorder, which can be addressed through cognitive therapy. The goal of
therapy is to replace negative worries with positive thinking and make day-to-
day living significantly better. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Howie Mandel suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which is
commonly associated with intrusive thoughts, obsessions and compulsive
activities. Currently, OCD remains under-diagnosed due to stigma and some
people's unawareness that they even have it. Even though it reportedly affects
about 2% of the U.S. population, the actual number is higher.
OCD cycles begin with irrational and disturbing thoughts that can be fears (like
contamination or sexual insecurities) that go beyond the real of common
anxiety. OCD sufferers know that their fears are irrational, but they still feel
compelled to perform specific actions to try and diffuse these thoughts and
ease their stress. An example would be someone who has a fear of germs and
then goes to great lengths to avoid shaking hands, which is thought to be the
case in Mandel's situation.
Like GAD, OCD is also treated frequently with medicine and therapy. We've
talked about SSRI medications, but when they are used in OCD cases, they
must be taken in higher doses. In addition, medication takes much longer to
work (sometimes a few months) and it often doesn't provide total relief for OCD
sufferers. On the natural front, a sugar called inositol, found commonly in bran
cereals and nuts, is known to affect serotonin and reduce OCD symptoms. For
patients choosing the therapy route, they are subjected to activities that will
reduce obsessions and rituals, thus breaking the OCD cycle. With the aid of a
therapist, they will do things like touch tissues that are "dirty" without washing
their hands afterward. With the obsession/ritual cycle broken, the issues can
slowly begin to resolve themselves and lessen the effects of the disorder.
More on anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and post-traumatic stress
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