About one in every seven Americans suffer from one form or the other form of Anxiety Disorders. Do you have trouble focusing during the day or sleeping at night? Are you always obsessed with worries about your relationships, finances, work, and family life? Do you suffer from panic disorder and have specific phobias like flying in the plane, getting in the elevator, making presentation, going to the grocery store, riding in the car, driving on expressway, and being in social situations? Do you suffer from symptoms such as dizziness, tingling, trembling, sweatiness and have hot or cold sensations? Have you suffered from some trauma which has rendered you nervous with terrifying flashback or a feeling of numbness? If you identify with any of these symptoms and scenarios, you are probably suffering from a psychological condition–chronic anxiety. Sometimes these symptoms could be caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry that leads to unhealthy forms of anxiety.
However, there is help available and you can heal yourself from these debilitating symptoms. You just have to take charge and be in control to heal from these symptoms and condition. Some people have childhood trauma, in some case there is stress and in some cases it is pure inheritance which trigger symptoms of anxiety. Research by the National institute of Mental Health has shown that anxiety is the number one mental health problem among American women and is second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men. Fortunately, good news is that you can manage anxiety by rebalancing your brain chemistry and changing your perceptions beliefs and attitudes and self talk. There are five levels of healing according to Dr. Jonathon Davidson and Henry Dreher:
1. Challenge your fearful beliefs: Unhealthy anxiety is caused by fearful thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you need to reframe your irrational thoughts and come up with rational responses to deal with your situations. You must identify distortions in your thinking, and produce rational counterstatements to challenge your silent assumptions. Writer has covered this process in depth in the blog posts written on Automatic self talk and Panic Disorder. Readers are referred to those blog posts for additional information. Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) also helps challenge irrational beliefs and by disputing them, you come to accept the rational beliefs. Anxiety symptoms get escalated by holding on to irrational beliefs with conviction. However, once these irrational beliefs are disputed, the person is able to decrease the intensity of anxiety, emotional distress and frustration.
2. Exposure therapy or desensitization: This process helps us become stronger and be able to face our worst fears. A CBT therapist will devise an hierarchy of steps for exposure and first expose you in imagination by associating positive images of a relaxing scene with those phobic steps. Once the person is able to tolerate those steps in imagination, then real life desensitization is done when the person faces those fearful situations in real life situation, starting from least anxiety provoking steps to most anxiety provoking steps. This technique is particularly helpful in treating phobias of flying, crossing bridges, snakes, spiders, dogs etc. Exposure to the triggers of anxiety, help you become more ready to face your fears. Exposure therapy enables you to tolerate your anxiety until it finally diminishes. Through the desensitization exercise, you learn to recognize that there is no danger and nothing bad actually happens. The fear is only in your mind.
3. Develop Serenity Skills: Self help strategies like prayers, meditation can eventually ease your anxiety, panic, phobias, obsessions, compulsions, and post traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, mindfulness, diaphragmatic breathing, and spiritual pursuits tend to heal the person from anxiety. Once faith is developed, the person does not feel so anxious about uncertainty. Having meaning, purpose and spirituality promotes mental well being of the person. Simply having belief in a Higher power can diminish the anxiety and facilitate spiritual growth. The inner void which creates a sense of helplessness, is replaced by faith and trust in the Higher Power and can become instrumental in alleviating symptoms of anxiety.
Social support is also needed in order for the person to feel relaxed and become less anxious. You will not feel so isolated when you become involved in some kind of support group. You can turn to friends who are supportive of you for comfort and company so your isolation is remedied. Sometimes isolation can worsen your symptoms of anxiety and also make you avoidant. Avoidance leads to more terror when faced with the phobic situations.
4. Medications: When the condition is chronic and there is a genetic factor involved, medications to treat anxiety are prescribed. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft etc are often prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. Another class of medication is Benzodiazepines which include, Xanax,and Klonopin, is also prescribed. There is a risk for psychological dependence on these medications so one has to be careful. There is also a risk of abuse of these medications.
5. Diet, exercise, and herbs: Diet and nutritional changes are also needed to treat anxiety disorders. Diet high in unhealthy refined sugars,and fat can aggravate symptoms of anxiety so it is important to cut down on these and add more intake of healthy foods such as fresh fruits, grains, vegetables, and lower fat protein sources. It is also important to eliminate caffeine intake to soothe and calm the mind and free it from anxiety. Caffeine can trigger symptoms of anxiety like restlessness, nervousness and insomnia. It is very important to get involved in a healthy exercise program on a regular basis as exercise promotes secretion of endorphins.
There are many herbs like St. John’s Wort, Kava which are also available in the market which have fewer side effects than psychiatric medications. Some people opt for homeopathic remedies but it is best to get guidance from a professional before trying these natural herbal remedies.
When you heal from anxiety symptoms, you become more resilient and are able to cope with your life stressors more effectively. You will become calmer and happier as you try these healing methods to reduce your anxiety.
The person has to be really committed in order to produce changes and become resilient. The methods described above can be tailored to suit your specific needs.
In summary, Anxiety disorders should be treated professionally and with the guidance of a good therapist trained in CBT, and your psychiatrist, you will be able to recover from this debilitating condition. Develop a support system of good friends and family members and you can transform your life from a daily struggle, fears, compulsive behaviors and achieve a greater sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and serenity. Peace, joy and energy will brighten up your life if you follow these methods of healing to eliminate anxiety from your life.
Hypnosis also helps with the treatment of anxiety disorder. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.
The Anxiety Book, Developing Strength in the face of Fear by Jonathon Davidson, MD and Henry Dreheer