Mrs. Chan has been stuck at home since March and being left emotionally and physically alone. Living on her own, she has been unable to see her children nor grandchildren nor have any other social interactions for an extended period of time. As we spoke with her over the phone recently, she mentioned that she was ‘shaking’ with anxiety and her heart pounding when she came to know that her daughter was hospitalized and scheduled for surgery. She became overwhelmed with anxiety and a sense of helplessness as she was unable to visit with her daughter nor help her like she normally would. For her, the anguish was unbearable.
According to the Government of Canada, “individuals with General Anxiety Disorder or GAD experience excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, life events or daily activities.” Some of its common characteristics include:
Exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety and worry
Anticipation of disaster
Excessive concern about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work
Trouble falling asleep
Trouble staying asleep
If you find that you have excessive or unrealistic worry about a variety of events or activities and it persists for a long period such as over a few months, the best coping strategy will be to talk to a professional. Anxiety can be treated with medication and psychotherapy or both. Medication will not cure anxiety disorders but it can minimize or eliminate symptoms while the person receives psychotherapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, usually psychiatrists, who can either perform psychotherapy themselves or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors to provide concurrent psychotherapy. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti anxiety drugs, and beta blockers. With proper treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives (NIMH, 2016). Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor. The goal is to discover what is causing, or contributing to, an anxiety disorder and exploring strategies to deal with its symptoms.
Besides conventional treatment, there are also integrative methods that can reduce the physical and psychological symptoms associated with anxiety disorders such as relaxation techniques and guided imagery, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, physical activity, music and dietary changes. These topics and more will be explored in upcoming articles.