Anxiety: When worry takes over

Published 2:19 pm Friday, October 28, 2011

Anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse),” according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.
We all worry, or feel apprehensive, from time to time. We worry about paying bills, upcoming changes to our family structure, maintaining employment, or the declining health of a loved one.
These anxious feelings that come and go throughout our lives are normal. But when does that intermittent anxiety become a long-term condition that lessens our quality of life?
Occasional anxieties about events that make us all a little nervous are normal, and even beneficial. The physical symptoms of increased heart rate or sweat in conjunction with the worry about the situation can actually produce positive outcomes.
That adrenaline can often force our minds to perform and think quickly in the right situation. For example, the apprehension about an important college exam can make one study harder. The worry about walking to a car through a dark parking lot may force someone to be more alert. Not all anxiety is negative.
For some individuals, anxiety can progress beyond those natural moments of fear or apprehension that all people encounter on life’s journey. That level of chronic anxiety can mentally paralyze someone, keeping them from enjoying their life and their relationships.
When normal worry becomes a chronic, debilitating condition, a person may be dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the Merck Manual, “Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive, almost daily anxiety and worry for greater than six months about many activities or events.”
In addition to their daily worrying, patients with GAD usually exhibit physical symptoms such as restlessness, unusual fatigability, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and disturbed sleep. When chronic apprehension and fear interferes with daily living and personal relationships, it is time to see a professional.
In treating a patient with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I use a combination of therapies to help lessen symptoms and enable a patient to take back control of his or her life.
Psychotherapy, usually cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be both supportive and problem-focused. The use of anti-depressants can also be effective in the treatment of GAD, however, medication alone is not the answer.
Often times, there is a deep-rooted phobia or psychological component to the disorder. Over time, a balanced combination of psychotherapy and drug therapy can produce a hopeful outcome.

Contributed by Jim Nagi, LCSW, is the Director of Polk Wellness Center. For more information, please call 828-894-2222 or visit

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