Anxiety – “The worry chronicles”

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” – Charles Spurgeon

James is a 22-year-old college senior at Brick University in Rhode Island. He is currently preparing for graduation, and is also busy searching for a job in the field of Economics. He enjoyed the first three years of school, learning a lot in class, going to parties and meeting new people; but this last year has not been any fun. James finds himself constantly worrying about passing his classes, potential job interviews, his girlfriend moving back to California, his parents being disappointed in him if he fails or cannot find a job, and much more. He has become very irritable, to the point that his roommates do not talk to him anymore.

Due to all the worries, James has not slept all week; so, when his alarm rings on Friday morning, he automatically turns it off and goes back to sleep. Two hours later he wakes up to find that it is bright outside. James is confused and frantically checks the time, only to confirm that it is 8:15am! His Finance Economics final exam was scheduled for 8:00am. James goes into a panic running around his dorm room looking for something to wear. His mind is racing, wondering whether the professor will ban him from taking the exam when he arrives late, which means that he will fail the class, and thus not graduate, which means that he will not find a job, and will therefore end up having to live with his parents forever!

He runs across campus to his class, arriving at 8:30am in a full class with everyone frantically writing. He walks over to the professor with his heart pounding, and he apologizes profusely for being late. The professor shows no reaction on his face, and hands James the exam and says “I don’t give extra time for people who have no respect for my class, the exam ends at 10am sharp!”. James thanks him and walks over to his desk embarrassed and worried, knowing very well that he will not have enough time to finish the exam. He struggles to focus on the exam, but his mind keeps running, wondering if the professor will fail him for his tardiness. The time goes by faster than he thought, and James barely finishes the exam.

After that, he spends the next few hours worrying about his grade and how it is going to affect his future. He keeps thinking that if he fails this class, it will drop his gpa significantly, and he will never be able to get a job. He spends another night tossing and turning in his bed.

The next morning when his alarm goes off, he quickly jumps up! He has an interview at 9am so he wakes up extra early to prepare. He showers, puts on his best cologne, dresses in his favorite suit, but ends up changing his shirt and tie about 5 times. He keeps worrying that the interviewers will think he does not look professional enough, or smart enough, or nice enough. “What if they hate me?” He thinks. “Maybe I should just cancel the interview, I’m going to tank it anyway.” He adds feeling more nervous. He calls his girlfriend Karen who reassures him that he will be fine because he is smart and handsome. He leaves for the interview an hour early just in case he gets lost, or there’s construction on the road, or God forbid an accident on the highway.

He arrives thirty minutes early and with every passing minute he starts to worry a little more. He is tapping his foot vigorously on the ground, and his heart starts beating faster and he begins to sweat. He rushes off to the bathroom and frantically calls his mom.

Hello?” says the sweet voice on the other end. “I can’t do this mom” James says breathing heavily. “James honey, what’s wrong?” his mother asks sounding concerned. “I don’t think I can do this interview, I wanna go home! I feel like I can’t breathe.” he adds, sounding breathless. “It’s going to be ok honey, just calm down and take a deep breath.” She advises calmly. James takes a deep breath in, “Now slowly let it out.” She adds. James breathes out slowly. “Deep breath in” mom says, “swuup” goes James, “and out” mom adds, “haaa” goes James. This goes on for about a minute, until James is finally breathing normally.

“You’re going to do great James,” mom says reassuringly, “you have a 3.5 gpa and you’re on the dean’s list. Your dad already went through some practice questions with you and he said you did great!” she said proudly. “You are ready kid, go in there and show them what you got!” she concludes. “okay mom,” James says, “you’re right, I have prepared a lot for this day, I can do it! Thanks mom” he says with a smile as he walks out of the bathroom stall. “I love you honey, call me after you’re done.” She asks. “Will do mom, love you too” James says as he hangs up the phone. He washes his face, looks himself in the mirror, and tells his reflection, “You got this!”

The interview goes great! The interviewer was really nice and James left there wondering what he was so worried about. He smiled thinking that he might just have a shot at getting the job. However, a small thought creeped up into his mind, making him wonder what would happen if he was not able to do the job if he got it. What if they fired him. Karen would definitely dump him if he did not have a stable career. Then he would be broke and have to move back in with his parents like his older sister did after her divorce. He gets in his car and drives back to his dorm, worrying about a whole new set of problems that haven’t really happened yet.

***The above is just a snippet of a few days into the life of James. This type of worry lives with him every single minute of every single day, and this is what anxiety looks like. ***

What is Anxiety?

James is exhibiting signs of anxiety. This means that he has excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance). In addition, the individual finds it difficult to control the worry, and the anxiety and worry are associated with 3 (or more) of the following 6 symptoms:
Note: Only one item required in children.
1. Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
2. Being easily fatigued (tired for no reason).
3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
4. Irritability.
5. Muscle tension.
6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).

*** The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause distress in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (work, school, friendships, relationships, etc.).
*** The disturbance is not caused by the effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

Types of Anxiety

General Anxiety Disorder (persistent worry about anything and everything)
Phobias (intense fear of certain objects or situations – e.g. flying, spiders, leaving the house, etc.)
Social Anxiety (fear of social situations where you feel judged or embarrassed)
Panic Disorder (recurrent panic attacks)
Separation Anxiety Disorder (excessive fear of being separated from those you’re attached to, sometimes because you’re afraid they will die)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (persistent uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions, e.g. fear of germs (obsession) leads to repeated hand washing (compulsion))
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (severe physical or emotional trauma that leads to nightmares and flashbacks about the event)
For more information, click http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety.aspx

James is exhibiting 4 of the 6 symptoms and would be recommended to see a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Counselor.

Treatment
1. Psychotherapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for treating generalized anxiety disorder. It helps one connect their thoughts to their feelings, and the actions that follow.
Group therapy has also shown to be a big support system for those with the condition. Family therapy is used to help children with anxiety, as the therapist is able to explain the condition to the family, who are then able to understand how to help their child.

2. Medication

Anti-anxiety medication as well as anti-depressants, have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety. In some situations, benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed for relief of symptoms. All medications must be prescribed by a licensed Psychiatrist. Do NOT take any medication that has not been prescribed for you.

3. Relaxation techniques

Most mental health professionals advise their clients to practice deep breathing exercises daily to keep their anxiety at a minimum. It is advised to take a deep breath in (4 counts), followed by a deep breath out (8 counts), 20 times, twice a day (when you wake up and before you go to bed). You can also do it during the day when you feel anxious.
*Yoga and meditation have also shown to be effective in reducing anxiety.

4. Change of Lifestyle

Physicians advise people with anxiety to Quit smoking, avoid alcohol, and cut back on caffeinated products, as these have been shown to worsen anxiety.
Stay physically active as Regular exercise has been shown to significantly reduce stress, which is a main cause of anxiety. Daily exercise also improves mood and keeps your body healthy.
5. Anxiety support groups

These are helpful because one can hear stories from other people struggling with anxiety, as well as those who have overcome it, making one feel accepted, understood, and encouraged to keep fighting to get better.

6. Socialize more
Most people with anxiety will avoid social situations for fear of making their anxiety worse. But spending time with loved ones who understand and support you has been shown to reduce anxiety.

Resources:

U.S.A
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264, https://www.nami.org
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 1-240-485-1001, http://www.adaa.org
National Institute of Mental Health: 1-866-615-6464, http://www.nimh.nih.gov

KENYA
Befrienders – Crisis helpline: +254 722178177, https://www.befrienderskenya.org/
Amani Counseling Center: http://www.amanicentre.org/counselling.php
Tumaini Counseling Center: 254-733-687050, http://tumainicounselling.net/Nairobi/

***Next week I will write about Autism. Please follow my blog to get alerts every time I post a story. Your information will not be shared publicly. Thank you for reading my blog. Do share it with those you think would benefit. Thank you. 🙂

References:

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