Let’s face it, in such a fast paced and goal driven society, it is a given that we will encounter anxiety at some point or another. We have deadlines to meet, places to be, money to make and then still hopefully we can make time for a social life.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the U.S. 40 million adults 18 years and older, or 18% of the population suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders cost the economy over $42 billion a year. It is not uncommon for people who suffer from anxiety to also suffer from depression. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. That being said, do you remember the last time you felt anxious? Was it because of circumstances that were actually problematic? Or, was it fear associated with potential, but unlikely outcomes? If you are like most people who struggle with anxiety, it is due to fear associated with unrealistic possibilities.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but sometimes the symptoms can be debilitating. Anxiety manifests in many ways, and the disorders can range from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Women are 60% more likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorder, and only about 39% of those suffering from the disorder receive treatment. With as many demands as there today, it is no surprise that anxiety has become so problematic. None of us are 100% immune to stress. In my own experience of anxiety, I remember feeling helpless and completely out of control. It was not until I identified the root cause of my anxiety that I was able to take a deep and healing breath back into the present moment.
We all have stress. But, do we let that stress transform into something more? How can we possibly not feel stressed and anxious, especially when everyone around us is?! The best way to overcome anxiety disorder is to PREVENT IT! The best prevention for developing anxiety disorder is to help our next generation of infants and children develop what Dr. John Bowlby, Father of Attachment Theory calls ‘healthy attachment.” We can do this by providing “good enough” secure attachment and good parenting.
If during the first few years of life we are fortunate to receive all the emotional ingredients necessary to form a healthy human psyche, we develop the inner emotional foundation for the self regulation of our emotions. Emotional components that make up healthy attachment include mother-infant connection in the form of breast feeding, eye contact, skin contact, consistency and stay at home parenting for the first 2-3 years of life. Healthy attachment consists of a family system of support: father’s role is to support mother (the nurturer typically) so that he can nurture her as she nurtures the baby.
Have you explored your relationship with attachment? Did your parents instill in you healthy attachment? The unfortunate truth is that most of us did not. If these emotional ingredients are not laid down as a foundation during the first few years of life, anxiety, as a reaction to the wounds of mother-infant and father-mother disconnect can create emotional dis-regulation in the infant and child.
If you did not have healthy attachment and “good enough” parenting, and suffer from an inability to self sooth and manage your emotions, you probably live with anxiety disorder. The best way to treat anxiety disorder is to go to the CAUSE and reprocess the emotions that caused the emotional dis-regulation to begin with. This can be achieved through therapy.
Although medication is a common part of the treatment of anxiety disorder, medication does not go to the CAUSE and is at best an emotional bandage to manage the symptoms. Living with anxiety is painful for the anxious, and can be a nightmare for those who live with it. One of the most common defense mechanisms for anxiety is obsessive compulsion, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a mechanism of controlling chaos and calming the person down by organizing their outside world so that their inner world can seem more in control. OCD can work in short term, but oftentimes the OCD symptoms can irritate those who live with the anxious individual and makes them feel as if they have to comply with their anxious “world order.” This can cause relationship breakdown.
When anxiety breaks down, people can suffer full blown panic attacks that can be mistaken for heart attacks (and often are). Medication, breathing into a paper bag or just deep breathing can provide short term relief.
The best way to cope with anxiety is to understand that the mind and the body are interconnected. Diet, exercise and getting plenty of sleep can even out the inner emotions and help regulate mood. Keeping away from sugar, caffeine, drugs and alcohol is highly recommended for the anxious. Yoga, meditation and frequent breaks from daily stress is a great intervention plan for calming overwhelming feelings.
If you are experiencing anxiety, support is key. Try not to overwhelm yourself. Surround yourself with people who can help regulate your emotions–give you a hug, hold your hands, look you in the eyes and in general be a calming influence. Animals can be a major contributor to reducing stress levels. Make sure you are exercising regularly, eating healthy and incorporating relaxation such as yoga or meditation into your life. These interventions will help to manage the anxiety, but again, until you dismantle the CAUSE, you will be left with managing the symptoms.
At the Psychological Healing Center (http://