Naomi’s family consists of extremely high-strung and nervous people. Her mother has always been extremely prone to worrying about everyone. Her father was quick to become overwhelmed with feelings of dread for every new situation faced by his daughters while they were growing up. In fact, both parents tried to restrict Naomi’s social life so that she would stay close to home. They discouraged her from going away to college and hoped that she would remain with them until she married.
Naomi’s father also suffered from a combination of anxiety and depression and was often irritable and quick to anger. There was a lot of quarrelling when Naomi was a child. The combination of overprotectiveness on the part of her parents and their constant conflict and bickering left this young woman with a sense of low self-esteem and little self-confidence and served to worsen her anxieties.
Finding Help for Anxiety Disorders
Whether anxiety takes the form of GAD or another type of disorder, help is availableboth self-help techniques and a variety of professional approaches may be used to alleviate anxiety.
In terms of self-help, many books are available on meditation and deep relaxation. Individuals can learn these techniques and put them into practice to reduce general tension levels in daily life. Such a reduction in tension reduces the degree to which anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities.
One excellent book on meditation and relaxation is John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion, 1995). In it, Zinn discusses the importance of each of us being aware of our bodies and stress levels so that we get more in touch with our inner selves and needs. The need to reduce stress levels and intense anxiety is now a major health issue in our country, since the connection between stress and physical illness has been well documented.
Psychotherapists have a variety of approaches available to them to help patients reduce anxieties and improve the quality of their lives, including medication. Prozac and other similar medications reduce depression as well as levels of anxiety. The important news about drugs in this class is that they are not addictive.
Psychotherapists also utilize a variety of cognitive-behavioral techniques to target specific symptoms and behaviors to help people learn how to cope better with the situations that give rise to these disorders. Research shows that these methods are as successful as medications for reducing anxiety. Some psychotherapists combine medication with cognitive-behavioral therapy or traditional talk therapies; combination approaches are also effective in reducing the symptoms of these disorders.
Although we believe that we live in an anxious time, people through the ages may have always experienced their time in history as anxious. The difference is that, today, we are fortunate to have effective treatments available to help people face the bugaboos of modern life.
Adapted, with permission, from Dr. Allan N. Schwartz’s Web site, located at: www.allanschwartz.com
On 3 Oct 2005
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.