Coping with Anxiety

Anxiety can be incredibly difficult to manage, effecting every aspect on one’s life. From school and work, to relationships, to even the simplest of tasks, those with anxiety can find themselves unable to cope and deal with these day to day situations of life because of their constant fears and worries. In most individuals it is entirely common to experience periods of worry due to stressors in life, however some minds have a tendency to exaggerate these problems for long periods of time where it lingers affecting every action they take. These are those afflicted with an anxiety disorder, and this is what differs it from the normal anxiety all face at some time. Their lives change from normalcy to a terrifying world where danger lurks around every corner, causing some to withdraw into themselves and avoid any possible stressor in their life.

anxiety 2The disorder can manifest itself in different ways, though with similar symptoms in varying severities. The most common of the anxiety disorders is that of the generalized anxiety disorder. Sufferers find themselves in a constant state of worry and contemplation over every task and situation in their lives, causing them to overthink and fear any and all possible situations of their lives. They tend to feel fatigued consistently and unable to concentrate causing even the smallest of tasks to become large issues for them, irrationality and tenseness occurs, and a sleep problem can develop as these feelings continue into the night unable to sleep due to their minds consistent obsession and worry. Similarly as common is the issue known as social anxiety, also called social phobia. This shows itself as a massive fear of any kind of public event or performance where the sufferer has an irrational fear of embarrassment or judgment by those they do not know well. They may freeze up completely, unable to talk and feeling sweaty or shaky wanting to run away and hide from anyone they do not completely know. For days and weeks before a social situation they may fear and angst over it. This compounds itself by awkwardness in the social situation, making it difficult to gain and keep friends causing the disorder to get worse over time.

One of the most serious examples of an anxiety disorder is called a Panic Disorder. These occur less commonly than generalized or social anxiety disorders, but are not rare by any means. Panic Disorders tend to be more complex than other types of anxiety as anything can trigger them. The sufferer enters a state known as fight-or-flight wherein the body copes with any stressor in their life by flooding it with adrenaline. Their chests begin to pound, their heart rate and blood pressure rises through the roof, they begin to feel shaky and clammy, and the feeling of an impending doom rises over them. Shortness of breath occurs as well, their breathing becomes stifled and hyperventilation occurs. Tingling of the limbs and chest pain are also common. Many mistake their first panic attacks with a cardiac event, as the symptoms are very similar. Even the simplest of situation can cause this extreme of a response, and as the disorder worsens even the fear of another panic attack can cause the triggering of one. This feedback loop is a distinguishing feature of the disorder and can leave to a state of constant terror for the sufferers.

Forms of treatment for anxiety are fairly consistent when prescribed by a doctor. Generally a form of psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is undertaken where the patient is taught how to cope with their stressors in varying ways when faced by them, retraining their mind to think rationally instead of panicking at the face of their fears. Confrontation of their worries is very important in these therapies, generally the practitioner will assign homework to the patient that they must complete on their own as to help them deal with real life situations outside of a clinical environment. These therapies are available in both group and one-on-one sessions, with the latter generally used by those suffering from severe social phobias. Talking out their problems and seeing them from the eyes of other patients is quite important to understanding themselves and seeing a new perspective on their worries. But, beyond therapy, medications are generally prescribed in tandem. These generally consist of a few different type of anti-anxiety prescriptions known as benzodiazepines. Medications such as these work by slowing the racing mind and alleviating the physical symptoms such as high blood pressure and high heart rate. The caveat to these medications is they inebriate the mind and body in similar ways as alcohol, causing impaired decision making and drowsiness. Withdrawals are also similar to that of alcohol and are very severe, even life threatening, if not properly tapered off by lowering the dosage slowly over time by a physician.

Close-up of Marijuana Plant

Some find themselves searching for less severe options such as the benzodiazepine, in vein medical cannabis has been found to be highly effective in alleviating and treating anxiety problems. Cannabis’s anti-anxiety properties were first discovered in chemotherapy patients who were prescribed the plant as their doctors noted an increased sense of well-being and positivity in those who were using Cannabis versus those on the standard medications alone. The main chemical at work in Cannabis that alleviates anxiety is CBD (Cannabidol), which is non-psychoactive and available in high quantities in the Cannabis Indica plant specifically. Its effects are somewhat similar to an anti-anxiety medication, lowering blood pressure and improving mood but by activating a different section of the brain known as the endocannabinoid system which controls circulatory, respiratory, hormonal, and a litany of other sections of the body. By stimulating these parts of the brain anxiety can be cut short, while relaxation occurs at the same time. All of this comes without the nasty withdrawals of the standard benzodiazepine making medical Cannabis a serious consideration for many dealing with severe anxiety as well as depression and insomnia issues.

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