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Anxiety Disorders: Dealing Day-to-Day


Reviewed By: Steven A. King, M.D.

If you feel chronic, intense and irrational anxiety on a regular or even daily basis, it is possible that you have an anxiety disorder. But you don't have to let your anxiety control you. Instead, get a handle on your anxiety and reclaim your life by effectively managing the disorder. This can be accomplished if you:

  1. Seek early treatment
    The first step to effectively managing your anxiety is seeking early treatment. Maybe you are unsure if you have an anxiety disorder. After all, it's perfectly normal to feel anxious on occasion, and the feeling is often temporary and can be attributed to a specific source (for example, when you feel nervous before taking an important test). But when feelings of anxiety are persistent and illogical and interfere with your ability to work, travel, and form and maintain relationships, you are probably suffering from an anxiety disorder.

    Asking others for help is not always easy. This may be why only one-third of people who experience symptoms of anxiety disorders actually visit a doctor. But the sooner you take this step, the sooner you can put your feelings of apprehension behind you. You'll be glad to know that people diagnosed with anxiety disorders have a number of effective treatment options. In addition, most cases of anxiety disorders that do not respond to one form of treatment will respond to another.

  2. Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor
    A number of different medications may be prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Antidepressants are used to treat depression and many are also approved to treat anxiety. Physicians also may prescribe anti-anxiety medications and beta-blocker medications (which are primarily used to treat heart conditions).

    You should continue to take all medications as prescribed by your doctor, even if they don't appear to be working and even if your anxiety symptoms seem to go away. Some medications, especially antidepressants, can take several weeks to reach their full levels of effectiveness. In addition, discontinuing these medications abruptly can produce unwelcome effects, including the return of anxiety symptoms as well as withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, headache and dizziness Benzodiazepines, a group of anti-anxiety medications, has been known to cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including death, if withdrawal is not supervised. Always follow your doctor’s advice on dosage, both increasing it and decreasing it.

  3. Attend all scheduled therapy sessions
    During psychotherapy (commonly known as therapy), people are encouraged to talk about their anxiety and any related issues with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker. This treatment method is based on the theory that people can improve their emotional well-being and mental health by talking about their concerns or problems with a therapist, who in turn can help them find better ways to cope, solve problems and set realistic goals for improvement.

    Psychotherapy for people with anxiety disorders may be conducted in an individual or group setting, and is particularly effective for certain anxiety disorders, such as social phobia and panic disorder.

  4. Eat a healthy diet
    Although a healthy diet may not help manage anxiety, an unhealthy one can worsen it. A diet that provide a variety of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals and includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean meats and is low in saturated fats will help improve overall health.

    People with anxiety disorders may benefit from avoiding foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as chocolate and coffee, which can increase the likelihood of anxiety symptoms. You can work with your doctor or dietitian to create a meal plan that is well balanced and that offers a variety of choices.

  5. Avoid certain substances
    Some types of medications, caffeine (as discussed above), amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine can increase the likelihood of symptoms related to anxiety disorders. If you are prone to anxiety, it is best to avoid these substances.

  6. Exercise regularly
    Exercise and proper nutrition are important elements in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, regular physical activity is believed to reduce anxiety levels. For overall health, people with anxiety disorders are generally encouraged to try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. If you are new to exercise, it is best to begin gradually by exercising for just a few minutes at a time and working your way up to 30 minutes or more a day. You should always consult your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.

  7. Employ positive coping methods
    Don't let your anxiety disorder leave you feeling helpless or hopeless. Take control of your condition by identifying and using positive coping methods. For example, when you start to feel nervous, you can read a book, listen to relaxing music or watch a funny television show. Other positive coping methods include:

    • Talking to a friend or family member
    • Writing in a journal
    • Exercising
    • Engaging in a hobby, such as drawing or gardening

  8. Share your feelings with others
    Keeping your feelings bottled up inside isn't healthy. Sharing your thoughts and opinions with others, such as friends, family members and your doctor or therapist, can help you identify and work through any emotional challenges you may be experiencing. Having a reliable network of social supports can help people with anxiety disorders realize that they are not alone.

 

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