Nearly everyone has experienced the sweaty palms and quickening heart rate that come with occasional anxiety, but such symptoms may be pointing to an actual disorder if they become a hindrance to everyday life.
“Anxiety can actually be good in certain situations. It helps us achieve our goals and meet our targets on time,” said Chandan Gupta, MD, a primary care physician with Monroe Medical Center. “But it also can become counter-productive and hazardous when it is intense and experienced over a prolonged period of time.”
A person who has an anxiety disorder may experience feelings that are persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It can feel like an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations. And in some cases, it can be disabling. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety, the ADAA said.
“A disorder is when anxiety becomes irrational,” said Dr. Gupta, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “It’s one thing to say, ‘I have a test in a week and I’m worried about it.’ But another thing to say, ‘I have a test in a week and I’m so nervous that I’ve stopped studying for other classes, interacting with family, sleeping and eating.’ That’s what qualifies as a disorder.”
There is no test to tell if someone has an anxiety disorder. A health care provider often makes the diagnosis based off of interviewing the patient. They will ask questions to help identify the duration of the anxiety, the intensity of symptoms and how much it is having an impact upon a person’s everyday life.
Fortunately, anxiety can be treated by first trying simple lifestyle and behavioral changes. Dr. Gupta recommends the following steps to her patients who struggle with prolonged anxiety:
Acknowledge it is real. Acknowledging anxiety’s presence is one of the biggest barriers in treating it. Most people who struggle with anxiety do not know they have it. Seek the help of a health care provider to help create a plan for dealing with it.
Tackle stressors. Work with family, friends and your health care provider to identify the stress points in your life that act as triggers to anxiety. This may include factors such as long work hours, stressful relationships and an academic overload. Look for ways to reduce or eliminate these stressors.
Cut the caffeine. What is put into the body can often cause or aggravate anxiety symptoms. Cut down on caffeine that can increase a person’s heart rate and increase water intake.
Seek sleep and relaxation. Establish a healthy sleep routine and make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep each night. Pursue relaxation techniques such as yoga.
Kick it with exercise. Add exercise to your daily routine even if it means a small walk a day. Get outside when possible to enjoy nature and breathe in the fresh air.
Get lost in a hobby. There are many hobbies that have shown to be helpful to people with anxiety such as music therapy, painting, or reading books.
There are times when a person may need additional help with their anxiety. Thankfully, various medications exist to help control and alleviate symptoms. Still, Dr. Gupta says more times than not a person can find relief by simply evaluating their life.
For more information on the anxiety or to find a Premier HealthNet provider near you, go online to www.premierhealthnet.com/provider.
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Premier HealthNet is one of the largest groups of pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, and urgent care practices in southwest Ohio. For more information, go online to www.premierhealthnet.com/news.