By Zaakirah Mohamed, Psychologist

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, and we all feel anxious from time to time.  Mild Anxiety is required when we need to survive in dangerous situations, as well as to motivate us with every day challenges and objectivesExperiencing mild anxiety may help you become more alert to face challenging or threatening circumstances.

Stressful situations such as meeting tight deadlines or important social obligations often make us scared.  However when this normal emotion develops into an anxiety disorder it then disrupts our overall daily functioning, as well as our physical and mental well-being. It affects how we feel, how we act in response to it and it can have frightening unexplained physical and mental symptoms which can be very disabling for the sufferer.

  • Your response is inappropriate to a situation
  • When anxiety interferes with your normal functioning
  • You experience excessive anxiety
  • Feelings of apprehension or fear
  • You are not always aware or recognize the source of where the anxiety originated from
  • You cannot control your response

Fortunately, the majority of people with an anxiety disorder improve considerably by getting effective psychological treatment by a psychologist. People who suffer from an untreated anxiety disorder often also suffer from other psychological disorders, such as depression, and they have a greater tendency to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Their relationships with family members, friends and co-workers may become very strained. And their job performance may decline.

The most popular treatments are:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
    • Which includes systematic exposure to anxiety-provoking situations, objects/thoughts
    • Learning to substitute positive behaviours and thoughts for negative ones
    • Learning new coping skills – relaxation exercises, controlled breathing, journaling
  • Medication which reduces symptoms of anxiety disorders by influencing brain chemistry
  • Psychotherapy or counselling with a registered psychologist
  • Family Therapy facilitated by a psychologist

Tips for the sufferer

  • Consult GP, Psychologist and/or a Psychiatrist
  • Contact relevant organisations such as SADAG
  • Educate yourself on Anxiety Disorders
  • Join/Start a Support Group
  • Establish a Social Support System
  • Join Internet Discussion Groups
  • Lead a Healthy Lifestyle:
    • Use alcohol and other medication in moderation
    • Eat healthy
    • Exercise
    • Get enough rest
    • Learn and practice controlled breathing techniques which a trained psychologist can assist you with.
    • Distract your mind – Anxiety can make breathing problems worse. So, if possible, try to distract your mind when you are short of breath. For example, shut your eyes and try to concentrate on pleasant, peaceful thoughts. Some people find it easier to distract their mind by watching TV, or listening to music. If persistent anxiety is a problem which you think is making your breathing worse, then see your doctor or psychologist. He or she may be able to advice on relaxation exercises or other treatments for anxiety.
    • Help and Support for others

      • Get educated on Anxiety Disorders
      • Go for your own therapy if necessary
      • Start a support group and social support
      • Give time to yourself
      • Support the sufferer with:
        • Sticking with the prescribed medication
        • Encourage him/her to go to counselling or psychotherapy
        • Assist the sufferer with CBT ‘homework’
      • Be patient & understanding with his/her behaviour & anxiety disorder

For treatment of anxiety disorders or support needed when dealing with an individual who suffers from anxiety please contact PsychMatters for a psychologist to assist you, on 0114503576.

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