National Anxiety and Depression Awareness

WeekMay 6 - 12, 2007


Part I - Anxiety

Each year more than 17 million Americans will suffer from an anxiety disorder and more than 19 million Americans will suffer with a depressive illness. Often these illnesses manifest with not only emotional symptoms but physical symptoms as well. Individuals often believe the cause of their discomfort and pain is an undiagnosed physical illness. Anxiety and depression can happen to anyone at anytime. Below are a few of the most common symptoms.  Are you at risk?

  • Constant uncontrollable worrying
  • Feelings of intense anxiety in social situations
  • Feeling blue, sad, or hopeless
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Sleeping problems, poor concentration
  • Unexplainable aches, pains, or headaches
  • Anxiety attacks, nervousness, or tension
  • Phobias

Anxiety
Anxiety is a state of the mind and body associated with worry, tension, and nervousness. Everyone experiences life stress and anxious moments. In fact, anxiety can help us cope with external dangers by increasing our awareness and getting our body ready to react.

When anxiety becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily life, a person may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the United States. Up to 25 percent of people in the United States will suffer from anxiety disorders sometime in their lives. Anxiety disorders usually begin in a person's late teens or early 20s. Anxiety disorders may occur with depression. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders can be chronic illnesses that can grow progressively worse if not treated. Effective treatments are available.

Causes
The causes of anxiety and panic are not fully understood. Life experience may trigger anxiety. Chemical imbalances in the brain can also play a role. These imbalances may run in the family.

Symptoms
Anxiety can express itself in different ways. It may be ongoing or come in bursts, lasting only a few minutes. Panic attacks are short, intense bursts of anxiety accompanied by a sense of dread and physical reactions such as heart pounding and sweating. Generalized anxiety is an ongoing condition that is not usually a direct result of a well-defined irrational fear (phobia).

The two major symptoms of generalized anxiety are uncontrollable anxiety and worry. Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or edginess
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbance
  • Difficulty concentrating

The symptoms of a panic attack may occur suddenly and repeatedly, including:

  • Fear of losing control or "going crazy"
  • Fear of dying or that something terrible is about to happen
  • Fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath, smothering, sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling of choking
  • Nausea or abdominal discomfort
  • Numbness or tingling

Treatment

  • If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, see your physician.  If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, develop a treatment plan.
  • Share your treatment plan with people close to you. Talk to friends and relatives and explain what you are going through.
  • If your doctor prescribes medication, take it exactly the way it is prescribed. You may be tempted to stop the medication when you start feeling better. However, do not stop taking your medication until your doctor tells you to.
  • Tell your doctor if you experience side effects from the medication.
  • Keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.
  • Keep in mind that it may take some time to start feeling better.
  • Talk with your doctor before trying any natural preparations for the treatment of depression, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. Over-the-counter preparations can interact with other medications and cause serious side effects.

Self-Care Steps for Anxiety

  • Learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
  • Take time away from stress.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can improve your health and sense of well-being and increase your ability to handle stress.
  • Avoid alcohol and don’t use illegal drugs.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine. It can make the symptoms of anxiety worse.
  • Practice confronting your fears.
  • See your doctor if your symptoms aren't improving.

NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT ANXIETY
If you have questions about anxiety or depression, the HealthQuest Employee Assistance Program can be a great resource. Call the toll-free line confidentially at 1-888-275-1205 (Option 7).

Part II on Depression.