High anxiety

More than 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but fewer than one-third receive treatment. Are you one of them?

If you suffer from symptoms such as panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks or nightmares, you may have an anxiety disorder that should receive medical or psychological treatment.

“Business people that feel great responsibility and continuous stress, and do not get enough of the rest they need in terms of sleep and relaxation, are more likely to suffer from a mental disorder,” says Michael Faenza, president and CEO of the National Mental Health Association. “Their behavior has a lot to do with their emotional health. They have to have rest, recreation and know when to stop taking responsibility.”

Despite the development of effective treatments for these disorders, many people avoid treatment because of a stigma of appearing weak. A recent NMHA poll revealed 81 percent of those polled were aware of anxiety disorders and 61 percent wrongly believed that the disorders occur in people who lack the will power to cope with everyday life stress, are usually caused by underlying guilt or will go away if you ignore them and get on with your life.

Get help

Anxiety disorders—such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder—are real illnesses that deserve the same level of understanding and treatment as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease. Usually, a combination of medication and therapy will help the afflicted person regain control.

“Talk about your symptoms or your suspicions with your primary care physician,” says Faenza. “One should look at their emotional life in the same way they look at their physical life, and it should be just as much of interest to their physician. The primary care physician may recommend the person get an additional consultation or participate in therapy.”

Free information on anxiety disorders, other mental illnesses and effective treatments is available from the NMHA at (800) 969-6642 or www.nmha.org.

What is an anxiety disorder?

People who have an anxiety disorder experience intense feelings of fear, worry or dread that continue over a period of time, or thoughts and behaviors they cannot control. Often these feelings and thoughts are accompanied by physical symptoms, such as trembling, muscle tension, nausea or a racing heartbeat. As a result, persons with anxiety disorders often feel like they cannot handle everyday activities. They may start to avoid certain situations, feel isolated from their loved ones or abuse alcohol and drugs to cope.