We live in times of anxiety, “critical times hard to deal with.” Many are reeling from financial crises, family breakdown, war, deadly disease outbreaks, and natural or man-made disasters. Add to this a variety of personal worries: ‘Will the growth I discovered on my body turn out to be cancer?’ ‘What kind of world will my grandchildren grow up in?’ Not all anxiety is bad. We naturally feel some stress before a test, a performance, or a job interview. And a healthy fear of danger helps us to avoid harm. But extreme or constant anxiety is destructive. A recent series of studies involving more than 68,000 adults revealed that even mild anxiety increases the risk of premature death.
Anxiety About Money
“After runaway inflation struck in our country, food became expensive and scarce,” relates Paul, a husband and father of two. “We stood in lines for hours, but often the food ran out before we got to the front of the line. People got terribly thin from hunger, and some collapsed in the street. Prices for basic needs soared into the millions, then billions. Finally, the local currency became valueless. I lost my bank account, insurance, and pension.”
Anxiety About Family
“Shortly after my father died, my husband told me that he was seeing another woman,” relates Janet. “Soon afterward, without further warning or good-bye, he emptied his closet and left me and our two children.” Janet found a job, but her pay was not enough for her to keep their house. And she has faced more than just financial concerns. “The crushing anxiety of all the new responsibilities that I now had to handle alone was overwhelming,” she recalls. “I felt guilty that I could not provide as much for my children as other parents do. And even now, I worry about how others view me and my children. Do they wonder if I did all I should have to preserve my marriage?”
Anxiety About Danger
“When I hear the siren, my heart starts racing and I run to a bomb shelter,” says Alona. “But even there I feel anxious. It’s worse when I’m outside, with no place to hide. Once, while just walking down the street, I started to cry and couldn’t breathe. It took me hours to calm down. Then the siren went off again.
How to Help Those With Anxiety Disorders
“My heart often pounds really hard, and I break out in a cold sweat and find it difficult to catch my breath. I am overcome by feelings of dread, anxiety, and mental confusion.”—Isabella, a panic disorder sufferer in her forties.
ANXIETY can be described as “a feeling of nervousness or worry.” Have you, for example, ever felt nervous when confronted by an angry dog? What happens when the dog goes away? The nervousness and worry do too, don’t they? What, though, is an anxiety disorder?When anxiety becomes chronic, when it continues even after there is no more need to feel anxious, anxiety can become a disorder. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older . . . in a given year.” Consider Isabella, quoted in the introduction. Unrelenting anxiety, such as she experiences, can have serious consequences for the sufferer.Not only that, but the immediate family may also be affected adversely. There is good news, though. An NIMH publication states: “Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives.”Family and friends can also help one who is suffering from an anxiety disorder. How?
How to Help
Monica, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, explains a difficulty she faces: “Most people find it hard to understand my emotional problems.”As a result, anxiety disorder sufferers are often so afraid of being misunderstood that they try to hide their problem from others. This can result in feelings of guilt that worsen their emotional state. It is vitally important, therefore, for family and friends to be supportive.Learn more about the disorder: This suggestion may be especially appropriate for those who deal closely with sufferers of anxiety disorders. This may include an immediate family member or a particularly close friend.Keep comforting one another. We can do this both by our words and our tone of voice. We need to show that we deeply care for our friends, and we need to avoid hurtful insinuations. Be sensitive to a sufferer’s feelings. Listen carefully. Try to view matters through the eyes of the one who is suffering, rather than through your own. Do not jump to conclusions while listening. Remember to listen carefully to sufferers. Allow them to express freely how they feel. This may help you to understand better what they are going through. And think of the reward! You may be able to help sufferers enjoy a more full and meaningful life.
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