Everyone is anxious from time to time; anxiety has allowed humans to survive by giving them the energy to fight a danger or run away from it. It gives us an incentive to face and solve our problems. Sometimes, however, anxiety can get out of hand. The adrenaline that gives us energy can also cause very unpleasant symptoms – racing heart, shortness of breath, digestive problems, sweating and trembling, and inability to focus on what we need to do. When a lot of these symptoms happen at once, the person is having a panic attack. It can also make people feel so uncomfortable about certain situations that they avoid them, or handle them poorly. Some examples are taking tests, having an interview, or speaking in public. Some people are too anxious to leave home. And, many people lie awake night after night, as their worries whirl through their heads.
Anxiety can be managed in several ways. One of these is medication, which works in different ways to help the person. For instance, by blocking adrenaline or, by relaxing the mind & body. Since medications can affect people differently, it often takes time and patience to find the right one for each individual. Our psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners at ABHC help patients try out medications until the best drug, or combination of drugs, is found.
We do discourage one type of anti-anxiety medication, however – the benzodiazepines (clonazepam & lorazepam, for example). These tend to cause significant problems when used for long periods of time, so our goal is to help people already on them to stop carefully & safely.
Psychotherapy is also helpful in managing anxiety. There are several techniques to help people manage their fears, such as learning to look at them in a different, less threatening way, or facing them in gradual steps until they cease to be so frightening. Our psychotherapists at ABHC are very good at finding the right steps to help.
There are also things people can do to manage anxiety themselves. For example, doing things that will help to improve the fear-provoking situation. Another approach is to distract oneself by doing something enjoyable, and/or something where one has to really focus their attention. Naturally, these things are different for different people – e.g., reading, watching a movie, playing with children or pets, doing puzzles, or, especially, getting exercise. Together with appropriate medication and counseling, most anxiety can be controlled so that anxiety does not control the person.