When to seek help for anxiety
Anxiety, you hear the word from friends and family when dealing with a stressful situation, when taking medication or even anxiety attacks.
But what exactly does it mean to have an anxiety disorder? And when should you help yourself to get the treatment you need or for those you love?
1. What type of anxiety disorders are there?
According to the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders include separation anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to a medical condition and substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder.
2. When people think of anxiety, they may think of a family or friend who over-stresses and takes a prescription to overcome that anxiety. How serious is this?
That description actually could indicate a serious anxiety disorder. The differences between “normal anxieties” vs. symptoms of an anxiety disorder depend on the severity of symptoms and related problems in a person’s life.
For instance, many people might experience an escalation in stress and anxiety during times of increased responsibilities at work. Some might find it slightly difficult to fall asleep, or find they are repeatedly worrying about how to meet the demands of their job. These would be within the realm of expected situational responses.
However if someone, for example, for six-months or more is experiencing excessive apprehensive worry, difficulty controlling the worrying, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating and muscle tension, and these symptoms were related to problems with functioning in important areas, that set of symptoms may meet criteria for generalized anxiety disorder. Each anxiety disorder has a set of criteria that must be met for diagnosis of that disorder.
3. What are some signs that someone should seek professional help?
If someone is experiencing significant problems with functioning in important areas such as occupation, relationships or health (including sleep), then I recommend they consider seeking professional help to evaluate the problems, find appropriate diagnoses and receive treatment options that may help alleviate symptoms and improve functioning.
Professional help could include medical, psychiatric or psychotherapy services, among others. Additionally, if people use substances it’s important to assess their substance use to determine if it may be a contributing factor to their symptoms. An addictions assessment may be indicated to determine if a substance use disorder is present.
4. Do you recommend any calming activities for people with anxiety?
Although medication can be very useful in alleviating anxiety and stress, I always recommend that people look at other ways to make positive changes in their lives. Exercise and a nutritionally balanced diet are two of the most important tools that can be used to help people manage anxiety symptoms and other mental health disorders.
With all of my patients, regardless of the type of specific symptoms, I recommend that they incorporate exercise and improved diet into their overall wellness plans. Spiritual practices can help alleviate anxiety for some people, as well as mindfulness or meditation practice and listening to music or calming sounds.
Some find acupuncture, massage or other alternative medicine practices helpful, also. People really just have to try different methods and find those that are most effective for them.
About the Author
Sarah Scroggins, health enews editor, is manager of social media at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She has more than 9 years of public relations and marketing experience with a Masters degree in Communications with an emphasis in PR. Sarah loves spending time with her husband and her two pups.