Living with anxiety

Everyone feels anxious at one time or another. Chances are, you’ve experienced some form of anxiety at some point in your life. Maybe you had pressure from work, or you were studying for an important exam, or maybe you were even just planning a big event and you were worried about how it would all work out.

There are many reasons why you may experience anxiety, but the feelings brought on are usually the same: discomfort, weariness, and even fear. Whatever situation is creating the anxiety, this is usually temporary and will subside in time, when the event that you are feeling anxious about passes.

People who suffer from anxiety disorders have longer periods of intense feelings of fear or distress out of proportion to these events, and their feelings of anxiety are magnified and prolonged. People who suffer from anxiety disorders interpret real or imagined events to be much riskier and dangerous than they really are, leaving them with constant feelings of unease and fear. Many times, these feelings interfere with their personal and professional lives and relationships.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental disorders in Canada. In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians aged 18 plus reported that they had an anxiety disorder. They reported such disorders to often be quite debilitating, leaving them unable to perform basic functions and activities needed to live a regular life. Functions affected can range from getting dressed and bathed in the morning, to socializing with friends and family, to performing tasks at work. For many people, anxiety disorders can get so bad that they no longer want to leave their homes, and they become recluses or prisoners in their own homes.

Anxiety disorders not only affect thoughts, emotions and behaviours, but they can also affect physical health. People who suffer from such disorders often feel physical pain due to their anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect children as well as adults. 

Treatment of anxiety disorders

All too often, people mistake these disorders for mental weakness or instability. The social stigma attached to mental illness often prevents those with anxiety disorders from asking for help, as they feel weak. The truth is that anxiety disorders affect people from all different social classes, races, ages, and life stages. The good news is that anyone suffering from anxiety can be successfully treated, allowing them to lead a normal life without worry.

The most common form of treatment is a combination of drug therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT involves helping people to turn their anxious thoughts and feelings into more rational ones. Sometimes people will benefit from being exposed in a controlled way to the object and situation they fear. Some CBT techniques have been developed to deal with specific disorders. For example, people with panic disorder can benefit from learning new breathing and meditation techniques, which can help them deal with their anxiety. Read more about specific types of anxiety disorders here.

Support groups and learning more about the disorder can also help a great many people deal with anxiety disorders. Involving family and friends who are also affected by the disorder, can help people recover or learn how to cope with their condition.

Over 20% of those with anxiety disorders do not seek medical attention and will not consult a health professional, often because they don't realize they have a problem. Many people with anxiety disorders think that what they feel is normal since they have known nothing else. Many people suffer for years before getting the right treatment. Becoming more informed about the disorder and adopting good sleep habits are common coping strategies. Engaging in other self-management strategies such as physical activity/exercise, meditative practices and developing a care plan are less common, but also good coping strategies.

The most important first step in treatment is to get a proper diagnosis from a health professional such as a psychologist, social worker, counsellor, psychotherapist or other health professional. If further diagnosis is needed, contact a specialist in anxiety disorders.

The bottom line is, there is hope for those living with anxiety disorders. There is a lot of help and support out there, and many coping mechanisms that can be learned to deal with all kinds of anxiety. There are also different medications available, both over the counter and prescribed. Passionflower is a well-known exotic plant that has received much more attention due to its more impressive healing properties like how it helps with anxiety, depression, insomnia and other sleep disturbances. If you or anyone you know suffers from anxiety disorders, contact your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and possible solutions.

Woman overcoming anxiety