When Is It Time to Go For Professional Help?

When worries don't just ebb and flow with the vicissitudes of life, but instead become a way of life, this may signal an anxiety disorder. What's the difference between everyday anxiety and a disorder? Here are some questions that can help you distinguish between what we might consider normal reactions to live events and a disabling anxiety disorder.

  • Is anxiety interfering with normal activities such as work, school, family, friends and other relationships?
  • Are you just getting through your day, enduring high levels of stress and not being able to present with or enjoy what you are doing?
  • Do you feel upset and teary, or, irritable and angry when small things go wrong because your stress level is so high, it doesn't take much for you to feel overwhelmed or upset?
  • Are you constantly confronted with worries that are out of proportion with the situations you face?
  • If you are in the midst of a challenging time: a divorce, an illness, a move or other life transition, does worry feel uncontrollable?
  • Do you feel confused and unable to make decisions?
  • Do you have trouble relaxing or are the physical consequences of your stress are taking a toll causing headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances or fatigue?

If this sounds like you, take heart, and take action. We live in a time when you don't have to suffer waking up to the weight of the world each day. Anxiety disorders are the most treatable mental health condition. Don't postpone relief. If worries and fears stop you from doing the things that you need or want to do, or, you power through them but suffer greatly with anticipation, push through with great stress, and feel exhausted afterward, and this is not something that just happens episodically during a time of stress, but continuously for many months, it's time to get help.

Your family doctor can help you determine the proper course to follow. Rather than suffer longer until the consequences of your worry are more pronounced, early intervention is best. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), a highly effective treatment for anxiety, teaches strategies that are practical, easy to implement, typically brief, and well liked by patients for all of those reasons. Decades of well-controlled studies have established CBT's success in treating anxiety and anxiety disorders. In fact, researchers have found that CBT is more effective than a placebo control (sugar pill) or analytic therapy and can even be more effective than medication for anxiety. Patients who have participated in CBT can maintain long-term gains that buffer them from developing depression or an- other anxiety disorder. The therapy also has short-term effects, enabling patients to learn a set of new skills for managing worry and the physical symptoms of anxiety, often within a few months of treatment.

Where to Go to Find Help:

Anxiety Disorder Association of America: 8730 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910, Phone (240) 485-1001

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies: 305 7th Avenue, 16th Fl., New York, NY 10001, Phone (212) 647-1890

Academy of Cognitive Therapy: 260 South Broad Street,18th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102, Phone (267) 350-7683

International Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation: PO Box 961029, Boston, MA 02196, Phone (617) 973-5801

United States Department of Veteran Affairs: Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), also see www.mirecc.va.gov

 

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