Anxiety and fear are normal emotional reactions to stress and danger. However, in some cases, the anxiety is excessive and can lead to significant disruption in daily living. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in the US population is approximately 18% according to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). Only 1/3 of sufferers seek help. Anxiety disorders include conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobias to name a few.
Excessive levels of anxiety may be maintained by avoiding the feared situation which only reinforces one to learn to run from it. Furthermore, if the situation is never confronted, one can never test whether the feared consequence is real. Evidence based treatment for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioral + exposure therapy. Traditional psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy may also be effective. Medications can also be used in conjunction with therapy. The key in therapy is learning how to modulate these emotions, developing a hierarchy of fears (starting from least feared), and through repetition it eventually diminishes or disappears.
Many thanks to Stuart Thomas live talk show TV host + producer with Tucson Access Cox 20/Comcast 74. His show is on every first Friday of the month at 6:30pm.
by Jack Shier, MD
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