Everyone suffers from an attack of anxiety now and then — life is not perfect. But when anxiety becomes so pervasive that it begins to interfere with normal functioning, it may be time to address the issue. Whether rooted in childhood experiences or a by-product of recovery from substance abuse, if the nervousness never abates it may be time to seek help.
Unfortunately, people are often reluctant to admit to having any mental health issues. Resistance to treatment can be common, even though the condition is highly treatable. Rather than watch your loved one suffer, or feel trapped into dealing with a situation that can’t right itself, there is an option — an anxiety intervention.
Symptoms and Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a disorder of the nervous system that can range in levels from severe (often with debilitating consequences) to mild. Somewhat similar to the body’s fight or flight response, at normal levels anxiety is a necessary function designed to propel action needed to protect the self. Normal anxiety is fleeting and usually abates when the crisis is averted.
For some, though, the anxiety is at a heightened and uncomfortable level that may last for unusual lengths of time. At it’s higher levels, anxiety may create panic attacks and even agoraphobia — a fear of public places and uncontrollable social situations, often resulting in isolation. Some cases are severe enough to cause the sufferer to avoid going out in public at all. It’s estimated that six million people suffer from the disorder, which is more prevalent for women.
Hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorders are also forms of anxiety disorders. Hoarders experience difficulty making decisions and letting go of things. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is about seeking some inner control over something when the sufferer has very little control in other areas of their life. Barriers to treatment include embarrassment, ignorance of the condition, or a fear of being labeled a hypochondriac.
Physical symptoms of generalized anxiety include:
- sweating or sweaty palms
- trouble breathing
- psychomotor agitation
- trembling quivering or shaking
- racing heartbeat
Anxiety-fueled panic attacks may have symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. Sufferers report feeling as if they were about to fall from an incredible height or pass out — locked in fear. Some deal with the feelings by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. These attacks happen to many in the early months of recovery, which could be the brain’s neurotransmitters normalizing, or it could be that once the self-medicating substance is removed, the untreated anxiety returns. In the case of hoarding or OCD, the sufferers are rarely able to overcome their symptoms without professional intervention. Whatever the case, if the anxiety becomes chronic or doesn’t ease with time, it should be treated by a professional.
Impact on Quality of Life
To those outside of family and close friends, the symptoms of anxiety may go unnoticed except in the cases of hoarding or OCD. Those closest to the sufferer are powerless to prevent these attacks and no amount of reasoning or well-intentioned advice seems to make any difference – especially if the anxiety is severe enough to impair daily life. Coping with the fallout affects everyone involved, with family members perhaps fearful of triggering an episode or attack. Tiptoeing around fearfully is not the answer — for you or your loved one.
The following are ways that anxiety may hamper normal life experiences:
- Isolates from peers and family
- Reluctance to participate in normal activities
- Difficulty with social skills
- Avoids new experiences
- Has low tolerance for frustration
- May be quick to anger
- Makes negative comments about self
- Feelings get easily hurt
- Gives up easily
- Appears uninterested
- May create academic failure
- Inability to maintain relationships
- Difficulty maintaining employment
The sad fact about anxiety disorders is that they are quite treatable with medication and therapy, so many suffer needlessly. Co-occurring conditions, like substance abuse or psychological disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder is one) may be discovered and treated. Occasionally there are physiological contributing factors such as thyroid or adrenal problems. Most often, though, it is a combination of misfiring neurotransmitters and environmental factors are to blame, which makes the disorder so treatable.
When to Stage an Anxiety Intervention
There are things one can do to ease anxiety symptoms such as avoiding caffeine or other stimulants, exercising, eating healthy meals and avoiding too much sugar, finding new coping methods, practicing meditation, avoiding procrastination and more. If these diversions don’t help and the anxiety isn’t the normal early-recovery-from-substance-abuse type, it may be time to seek outside help, any type of intervention is really helpful. The problem occurs when your loved one’s anxiety level is so high that she refuses to take that needed step.
While psychotropic medications such as Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac or others work wonders, adding therapy to discover the psychological root of the problem just makes sense. Hoarders and OCD sufferers are at the extreme ends of the anxiety spectrum and the disruption of life becomes overwhelming and impossible to deal with. Many of the above listed methods won’t do any good at all.
Still, getting your loved one into some form of treatment may prove impossible. That’s when a trained family coach or interventionist may be of help. Addressing unresolved trauma or irrational fear takes courage. Those trained in the field know how to educate and prepare both the sufferer and her family as to what may be expected and how to go about seeking help. Irrational fears are dealt with until everyone is on the same page as far as what to expect goes. If there is substance abuse or self-medicating as part of the problem, a family coach will help identify these issues and direct the sufferer to the appropriate path of treatment. Other therapies may be warranted for the different underlying causes. Again, a professional trained in the field would be able to direct the sufferer and her family in the right direction with the appropriate treatment. Usually an understanding of what one is dealing with makes finding a solution to an otherwise impossible situation easier.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact our professional staff to find out if an anxiety intervention is the next step to finding a solution.