Mental Health Day was commemorated on the 10th of October under the theme; “Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority”. There has been a significant increase in mental health problems during the pandemic. This has been driven by an increase in psychosocial stressors such as loss of loved ones and job losses. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. This column will over the next couple of episodes focus on issues of mental health, starting off with anxiety disorders.
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life experienced by all people. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).
These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control.
Symptoms suggestive of anxiety disorders include; feeling restless or worried, having a sense of impending danger, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, dizziness, heart palpitations, breathing rapidly and having he urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not fully understood, although it’s likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Some of these factors may include; the genes you inherit from your parents, having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying, having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis and having a history of drug or alcohol misuse.
Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including: panic disorder, phobias, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia) and substance induced anxiety disorder.
It is important to seek help early when one shows symptoms suggestive of an anxiety disorder. One should also seek for help if; you feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life, if the anxiety is becoming difficult to control, they are symptoms of depression, there is substance abuse as a coping mechanism and if they are having suicidal thoughts.
The treatment modalities that are used to treat anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and some medications. Often a combination of both work best. Psychotherapy is offered by trained psychologists. The offer what is termed as cognitive behavioural therapy; which focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety.
Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health issues. Medications that can be used include certain antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.