Anxiety

The high stressed, overworked, perfectionistic lifestyle many of us are attempting to live is causing our US society a lot of anxiety.  There are many anxiety symptoms but despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America give the following statistics about anxiety disorders in the US on their website:

  • “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.”

Another interesting point about anxiety is the role it plays in conjunction with depression.  Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression often creates anxiety symptoms (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions. In fact, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Seeking help, treatment, and support can lessen anxiety along with finding techniques to avoid or prevent anxiety before it becomes problematic in one’s life.

What are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, known to many as “benzos,” are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves within the brain (central nervous system) and sedation (drowsiness).  Seizures, anxiety, and other diseases that require benzodiazepine treatment may be caused by excessive activity of nerves in the brain. These drugs may work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. Gamma-aminobutyric acid reduces the activity of nerves in the brain and increasing the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine, reduces brain activity.

According to medicine.net, benzos are used to treat: “anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, sleeplessness, alcohol withdrawal, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PMS.”

Benz use, when not closely monitored, can lead to addiction and are most often abused to get “high: due toothier effects on the brain.  In fact, in 2017, benzos were ranked 8th in the top 10 drugs most abused in the United States.

The website drugabuse.org gives 5 shocking facts about benzo addiction:

  1. Becoming Addicted is Shockingly Easy
  2. Quitting is Devastatingly Difficult
  3. Using Often Creates Cognitive Impairment
  4. Developing Alzheimer’s Disease Is Far More Likely
  5. Dying Early Is a Tragic Possibility

medicine.net also lists the effects of benzos which include: lightheadedness, confusion, memory impairment, improper body balance, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, respiratory depression, withdrawal symptoms, seizures, slow heart rate, sever low blood pressure, fainting, suicide, jaundice, dependence and abuse, reduced libido, weight gain, vomiting, increase or decrease in appetite, sedation, and/or drowsiness.

Overall, there is a defining need and place for benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, but their usage must be monitored for signs of addiction, dependence, and withdrawal to avoid some of the dangerous side effects of the drugs.  Being aware of the dangers can prevent addiction and help others through recovery from benzo abuse.

sources: medicine.net, drugabuse.org

ExerciseHelpsAnxietyandDepressionExercise Helps Anxiety & Depression

If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety and are looking for a solution, consistent exercise may be key. Research shows that our physical, emotional, and mental parts are intertwined very intimately and can strengthen and support one another. Specifically, evidence points to three types of exercise that target alleviating anxiety and depression: running, hiking, and yoga.

Running has a reputation for improving mood. It also burns calories, reduces food cravings, and lowers your risk of heart disease. Further, running has been shown to mend troubled dispositions while increasing serotonin and norepinephrine output during and after exercise. These powerful neurotransmitters aid in lessoning depression, lowering stress, and alleviating anxiety.

Hiking has also been shown to have many health benefits. Not only does nature calm our minds, but hiking gets the heart pumping as well. Studies show that when immersing oneself in nature, around plants, trees, streams, etc., participants felt less anxious and had increased memory function.

Not surprisingly, yoga has shown to alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. Some research recommends yoga be a complementary treatment for depression in fact. The focus on breathing while doing yoga really helps with anxiety because it is difficult to feel stressed or anxious when you are focused on breathing.

More and more research points to exercise to lessen the difficult symptoms of depression and anxiety. Although it may not be surprising, sometimes getting up and participating in yoga, running, and/or hiking may seem daunting to those dealing with depression and anxiety. However, if individuals can find someone to go with and encourage them to get out and exercise, or can find the drive to do it themselves, the benefits are enormous.

 

AnxietyInChildren9 Things to Try for Anxiety in Children

A recent article published in the Huffington Post by Renee Jain discusses anxiety in children. Interestingly, she states, “40 million American adults, as well as 1 in 8 children, suffer from anxiety.” More kids than most of realize miss out on school and social activities just because they are so worried about the way they perceive certain situations or the thoughts in their heads. In turn, parents are discouraged, frustrated, and often out of patience when they see their children engage in anxious behaviors constantly.

Jain says, “that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety, there are a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it — many of which are simple to learn.” She too struggled with childhood anxiety and wishes that her parents would’ve been better educated on how to deal with it. She has developed an anxiety relief program for kids called GoZen. From this program, she gives 9 things to try for anxiety in children:

Quoted directly from Renee Jain’s Huffington Post article

  1. Stop Reassuring Your Child

Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about.” Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It’s actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex — or more logical part of the brain — gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:

  • Freeze — pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
  • Empathize — anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
  • Evaluate — once your child is calm, it’s time to figure out possible solutions.
  • Let Go – Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.
  1. Highlight Why Worrying is Good

Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that Something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose.

When our ancestors were hunting and gathering food there was danger in the environment, and being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don’t have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.

Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.

  1. Bring Your Child‘s Worry to Life

As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn’t help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can. Create a worry character for your child. In GoZen we created Widdle the Worrier. Widdle personifies anxiety. Widdle lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we’re in danger. Of course, sometimes Widdle gets a little out of control and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Widdle. You can use this same idea with a stuffed animal or even role-playing at home.

Personifying worry or creating a character has multiple benefits. It can help demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry. It can reactivate the logical brain, and it’s a tool your children can use on their own at any time.

  1. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective

Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:

  • Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like “No one at school likes me.”
  • Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: “I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday.” Negating evidence: “Sherry and I do homework together–she’s a friend of mine.”)
  • Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.
  1. Allow Them to Worry

As you know, telling your children not to worry won’t prevent them from doing so. If your children could simply shove their feelings away, they would. But allowing your children to worry openly, in limited doses, can be helpful. Create a daily ritual called “Worry Time” that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box. During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry — anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.

  1. Help Them Go from What If to What Is

You may not know this, but humans are capable of time travel. In fact, mentally we spend a lot of time in the future. For someone experiencing anxiety, this type of mental time travel can exacerbate the worry. A typical time traveler asks what-if questions: “What if I can’t open my locker and I miss class?” “What if Suzy doesn’t talk to me today?”

Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.

  1. Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety

Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse.

So what’s the alternative? Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.

Let’s say your child is afraid of sitting on the swings in the park. Instead of avoiding this activity, create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal (e.g., go to the edge of the park, then walk into the park, go to the swings, and, finally, get on a swing). You can use each step until the exposure becomes too easy; that’s when you know it’s time to move to the next rung on the ladder.

  1. Help Them Work Through a Checklist

What do trained pilots do when they face an emergency? They don’t wing it (no pun intended!); they refer to their emergency checklists. Even with years of training, every pilot works through a checklist because, when in danger, sometimes it’s hard to think clearly.

When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.

  1. Practice Self-Compassion

Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn’t wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child‘s anxiety. Here’s the thing, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child‘s anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.

Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child‘s champion.

RecoveryDuringThanksgivingLiving with Anxiety

Living with an anxiety disorder is a lot harder than most people think. Many of us think that we understand what it means to be anxious and that individuals with anxiety disorders must experience that on just a little larger scale. However, living with an anxiety disorder can disrupt one’s life in many ways.

Some of the symptoms that people commonly experience when having anxiety are: problems sleeping, shortness of breath, inability to be still and calm, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness, cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, and/or muscle tension.   When these symptoms are persistent and interfere with an individual living a normal, happy life, there is often an anxiety disorder present.

The main anxiety disorders are: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Although each disorder is unique, the symptoms of each may overlap one another. Tasks that seem simple to most people completely intimidate some with anxiety disorders.

Interestingly, there are some very famous individuals that suffer from anxiety disorders. Leann Rimes and Abraham Lincoln both were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Emma Stone, Joey Votto, Kim Basigner, Scarlett Johansson, and Adele have suffered from panic disorder and Howie Mandel, David Beckham, and Fred Durst live with obsessive compulsive disorder. Although these celebrities live with anxiety disorders, it is important to note that they each recognized anxiety was an issue for them, sought help, and committed themselves to controlling their anxiety.

Anxiety is not easy to live with and can ruin experiences, relationships, years, and even lives for many people. However, as has been shown by many famous individuals as well as many others, people can live with anxiety and continue to function normally and feel confident and healthy if they will seek help and find ways to treat and/or overcome the anxiety they have.

Mental health in word tag cloudAnxiety and Drug Abuse

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the United States. In fact, it has been reported that 18% of adults suffer from anxiety disorders in the U.S. Interestingly, only about a third of that 18% seek and receive treatment for their anxiety. Drug abuse and addiction can be made worse when anxiety disorders are involved.

An important thing to consider when seeking treatment for both anxiety disorders and drug abuse is a facility that focuses on dual-diagnosis cases. In these types of programs, individuals will treat the underlying problem as well as the drug abuse, as they go through detoxification, rehab, and are possibly prescribed medicines to help them.

There are specific anxiety disorders that most often occur with drug abuse. These include: social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), agoraphobia, acute stress disorder, panic disorder, specific phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Each of these anxiety disorders is defined briefly below:

  • Social phobia. An anxiety disorder consisting of fear of public embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD) An anxiety disorder caused by any event that results in psychological trauma. The most common events that lead to PTSD are exposure to death or the threat of injury.
  • Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is when someone has anxiety in environments that may be difficult to escape from. Usually, the individual believes getting help or getting out of their difficult situation many be hard or impossible, and this can set off an attack
  • Acute stress disorder. When someone is exposed to a traumatic event, acute stress disorder can develop within about a month, causing severe anxiety or stress.
  • Panic disorder. When an individual has panic disorder, they may have behavioral changes lasting up to a month and experience severe panic attacks.
  • Specific Phobia. This anxiety disorder is characterized by having anxiety about specific objects or situations. When exposed to these things, people with specific phobia experience irrational or unreasonable fears.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Signs of people with OCD may include repetitive behaviors such as: being compulsively clean, checking locked doors again and again, hoarding, or having nervous rituals, like turning a lock back and forth before several times before leaving the room. This anxiety disorder is related to a feeling of uneasiness and nervousness or fear.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. Constant fear, worry and anxiety, is what makes up GAD. Women are more prone to this anxiety disorder and it is the most common of the anxiety

Treatment for anxiety and drug abuse together can be done in an inpatient or and outpatient setting. However, most agree that more progress is made in these cases when individuals use inpatient therapy for recovery. Many facilities utilize anti-anxiety medications and if patients are being monitored and watched in an inpatient facility while adjusting to medications, there is a higher rate of successful recovery in relation to anxiety and drug abuse.

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