Dr. Linda on Anxiety

Dr. Linda on Anxiety

For this article we have invited a special guest, Dr. Linda, to discuss anxiety, the impact it has on our health, and to better understand the difference between common anxiety and anxiety disorders. We have all experienced some form of anxiety at one time or another.

PathologyPrevention™ - Dr. Linda has been a guest with us before, so without any further introduction, we’ll turn this topic over to her.

Dr. Linda - Thank you PathologyPrevention™ for this opportunity to discuss what I feel is one of the most important aspects of personal health management, and the control of pathology prevention efforts, which is like washing our hands before we eat. Stress is one of the principle contributing factors to the failure of our immune system, and cause of chronic diseases in the United States. This stress can impact both our physical and mental health, leading to anxiety and all its forms.

Now I know that you folks at PathologyPrevention™ look at mental health using eight or nine separate theories of psychology and encourage considering the combined view of these theories in understanding our mental health. Anxiety, and many other mental health issues are commonly understood using multiple lens, or combined disciplines, such as your psychology theories. 

When I talk about Anxiety, I’m referring to an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur in these scenarios. When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight or flight responses. As a result, some common symptoms of anxiety include nervousness, restlessness, being tense, or having feelings of danger, panic, or dread. I’m sure most of us have felt this at one time or another.

Anxiety can be normal in stressful situations such as public speaking or taking a test. Anxiety is only an indicator of underlying disease when feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and interfere with daily living. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety and anxiety disorders are treatable, and several effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

PathologyPrevention™ - Dr Linda, are you saying that all of us should consider some form of treatment, right now, even if we aren’t currently experiencing anxiety disorders?

Dr. Linda - Well, I haven’t thought of it like that before, let’s look at your idea as we continue, and see if it makes since. I’ll point out what each of us can do as a form of pathology prevention when it comes up. As I was just going to say, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay greater attention.

Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. These disorders refer to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior. In contrast, fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.

Managing anxiety is an activity that we should all participate in during normal pathology prevention activities. I believe this is what you were suggesting earlier. To help reduce common anxiety, we can practice aerobic exercise, relaxation techniques, drink herbal teas and vegetable juices, get massages and even apply grounding practices, or participate in meaningful discussions with family, friends, pastors, or coaches, which have been shown to help address anxiety.

However, anxiety disorder, which is beyond common anxiety, can cause people to try to avoid situations, even trigger or worsen their symptoms. This is referred to as a negative feedback loop, becoming worse and worse as more effort is attempted to resolve it, and eventually becomes the disorder. Job performance, schoolwork and personal relationships can be affected.

In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, meaning the above health management efforts will be in vain, the fear or anxiety must:

  • Become out of proportion to the situation or age-inappropriate
  • Hinder ability to function normally or
  • Health management efforts cause deepening anxiety instead of improving it

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, which I’m talking about here, and others such as panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder should be addressed in future interviews.

The causes of anxiety disorder are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological, trauma, and developmental. This suggests that anxiety disorder can run in families, a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorder. In fact, all the psychology theories described by PathologyPrevention™ may jointly contribute to the normal feelings of anxiety and contribute to the growth of a mental health disorder.

The generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments.

The first step when considering any mental health issue is to make sure there is no physical problem causing the symptoms. If an anxiety disorder is determined, a mental health professional, or even your Health Guardian can work with you on finding the best treatments. Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorder don’t seek help. They don’t realize that they have an illness for which there are effective treatments, and this is not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.

Supervised stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorder, calm themselves, and may enhance the effects of additional therapy. Research suggests that aerobic exercise can help some people manage their anxiety, and even reverse the negative feedback loop.

There are a few things people can do to help cope with symptoms of anxiety disorder and make treatment more effective. Support groups (in-person or online) can provide an opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies. Learning more about the specifics of a disorder and helping family and friends to understand the condition better can also be helpful. People who are anxious should avoid caffeine, which can worsen symptoms, and should check with their health care professional about any medications that could affect their condition.

PathologyPrevention™ - We at PathologyPrevention™, would like to thank you Dr. Linda, for your time today, and look forward to future discussions about other Mental Health topics.

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