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Anxiety – Enemy of the Self or Maybe Your Protector

We have been adapting well to the Earth’s physical environments for as long as humankind has existed. Our legs allow us to walk across the land. Our arms provide leverage to move objects, and our hands allow precise movements to create art. All of these instances are made possible by a less understood entity, which is our minds that enable thought, perception, planning, and execution. Going from ancient civilization to a globalized and connected society took time, but it is an extraordinary achievement. The mind can do many wondrous things for the greater good and also for yourself.

It can also be a survival instinct mechanism by helping you perceive a potential threat and decide whether to confront or flee from a situation. Self-protection is what keeps you alive, but a constant alarmed state can be problematic if chronic anxiety or regular panic attacks interfere with your life. Work or school performance may suffer, and going about through the day can be a bit of a drag.

Whoever is affected by an anxiety disorder should not feel alone. About 18.1% of the US population are affected every year, and nearly one-third of them sought treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (n.d.). This number may be under-reported for those who suffer in silence, which demonstrates a need for the country to expand the mental health care system. The recent global health event and social issues brought forth in the new decade may be a source of stress for everyone, and this could be a cause for concern moving forward. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Similar to how we built societies and made contributions in any shape or form, we can work together and dig ourselves out of the heightened psychological state of mind.

It all starts with the self and the surrounding community. Humans are social creatures, and having a network of friends and family can help. After all, given from the potential underutilization of health care for anxiety, talking out life’s problems with a familiar person can be a great stress relief. There’s a less feeling of shame or embarrassment compared to speaking your minds with a therapist or healthcare provider. Having a peer to voice your concerns or inner battles can alleviate the anxiety of the following types suggested by a Clinical Neuroscience article:

Fear of going out to places
Is there something out there that is causing apprehension?

Panic disorder
What are the triggering events for the symptoms such as rapid breathing, a quicker heart rate, and profuse sweating?

Post-traumatic stress disorder
Is there something that has happened in the past, such as being bullied or publicly humiliated, that you can’t seem to shake off?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Do you have recurring thoughts of performing tasks in repetition to reassure yourself?

Social phobia
Does the thought of speaking in front of a group of people or delivering a presentation make you anxious?

Generalized anxiety disorder
What’s going on within your life that is causing you to feel anxious?

Mixed anxiety and depression
Has feeling anxious driven you to depression in recent times and the past? What were the precipitating events, if any?

Thinking about the type of anxiety one may be affected will require self-reflection and a look at oneself in the mirror before talking things out with a friend. Thoughts may be racing, so being in a quiet place and alone will be a great time to focus and look at the issue at present.

If self-talk or having a companion to talk things through doesn’t help, then consider escalating to cognitive-behavioral therapy and search for help online near you (Here’s a link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/cognitive-behavioral-cbt/). The next may require drug therapy, such as anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants, regular visits with a primary care physician, or complementary and alternative medicine (Bystritsky, Khalsa, and Cameron, 2013). 

Whichever route you take, do pay attention to your progress a week, a month, or a year down the road, and adjust the treatment plan accordingly and with the guide of a helper, if necessary. Realize that you are part of the community with someone nearby who is willing to give you a helping hand. We are all facing more or less similar economic, societal, and cultural challenges of today. Coping will make us more resilient to what life throws our way in the future.


References

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Bandelow, B., & Michaelis, S. (2015). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience17(3), 327–335. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/

Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S. S., Cameron, M. E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management38(1), 30–57. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3628173/

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