How to Cope With Anxiety
Anxiety is normal, but if it interferes with your daily life and gets in the way of your work or school, seek professional help. Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that are characterized by excessive or irrational worry, fear, and tension. They often result in panic attacks and are a major source of stress for many people.
Symptoms of anxiety are usually physical, although they can be psychological as well. Most anxiety disorders involve a group of neurotransmitters and hormones that affect the central nervous system (CNS).
The main mediators are norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Other peptides and neurotransmitters may also be involved.
Some medications, like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants, can help control some symptoms of anxiety. But they can have unpleasant side effects, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about them before taking them.
Exposure therapy helps you face situations that cause you anxiety, and it can also help teach you coping skills to deal with your fears. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common type of psychotherapy that helps you change the negative, or panic-causing, thoughts and behaviors that cause your anxiety. Some people also learn calming techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.
Getting enough sleep can also help you manage your anxiety, since a lack of rest can increase anxious feelings and make them worse. Try to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
In addition to medication, therapy is an important part of treating anxiety. A skilled therapist can guide you through the steps of learning how to recognize your anxiety triggers, changing your thinking patterns, and finding ways to cope.
Lifestyle changes are another important tool in coping with anxiety. Exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, and focusing on positive, non-anxious activities can reduce anxiety and improve your overall health.
Medication is used to treat anxiety when it’s severe or doesn’t respond to other treatment strategies. It’s best to consult with your doctor before starting medication, especially if you have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other medical problems.
Your doctor can do a physical exam, take your medical history, and run lab tests to check for other health conditions that could be causing your symptoms. He or she will then refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health specialist for a diagnostic evaluation.
The most effective treatment for anxiety disorders is behavioral therapies. These treatments can include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and a combination of psychotherapy.
But they also can include lifestyle changes, such as exercising and eating right. It’s important to keep track of your symptoms and your progress in therapy so you can determine when it’s time to change or stop your medication.
When a medication is working, but doesn’t seem to be helping, your doctor might recommend an increased dose or a different drug. It’s also possible that your symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition, such as low thyroid levels or asthma.