A racing heart is normal if you are watching a horror movie. A sleepless night before an important presentation is acceptable. But if these feelings are appearing on a near-constant basis, then you have a problem that you should not ignore.
18% of the US population suffers from anxiety disorder. The issue is also prevalent globally. Sufferers often find it difficult to even lead a normal life. In an interview with The Guardian, one young woman who was forced to drop out of college due to her panic disorder explained what her day-to-day reality was like: “I don’t enjoy sitting at home all day long,” she said, “but I physically can’t do anything else at the moment. It’s as though a pause button has been pressed on my life. I’m just…waiting.”
Panic attacks are just one of the symptoms of anxiety disorders, says National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). There can be other feelings too, like the feeling of an impending doom, nausea, restlessness, difficulty in falling or staying asleep. These symptoms of anxiety create a vicious cycle. The lack of sleep makes it harder for a person to feel less anxious, thereby making it harder to sleep. This is a never-ending cycle.
It has to be noted that such issues are not a problem with a solution. There is no single solution that can take care of chronic anxiety issues. It is a continuous presence and it is attacked on multiple fronts.
At the present time, medications are there to help. But they merely treat the symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause. There is a unique chemistry for each people and therefore different medications work differently on each person. According to the NAMI, most such drugs come with unwanted side effects too. Also, these medications take time to work, some may even take weeks.
What is worse is getting off anxiety medication. Nobody wants to be on medication all their life and anti-anxiety meds make it harder. Some patients experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms also cause seizures and death. This leaves the patient with no choice but to continue with the medication.
Some psychiatric medicines help in the short term, but these drugs also increase the probability of the person becoming chronically ill in the long term. This comes after analyzing all the scientific literature that has been produced over the last half-century. However, it must be noted that this does not mean the medications do not work. They work. But not all medications work for everyone and there is no long-term solution.
But this is just medication. A larger problem lies with how society sees mental health issues.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is believed that only about half of those affected receive treatment. This is mostly because how people tend to see mental health issues. A lot of people who see mental health issues as weaknesses. Hence, they just want to “get over” it.
This is not just the issue with the sufferers but also those around it. Often, other people see mental illnesses as weakness, as cowardice. This is fueled by ignorance, and also people who exhibit the victim mentality – people who pretend to need help in spite of not requiring any.
Mental health is a global issue. Mental illness affects people of every race, class, and nationality. Access to mental health resources is a global crisis, and that access is affected and compromised (or facilitated) by factors from all levels of society: legislative, medical, community, employment, interpersonal, individual.
The stigma that mental illness is not a real illness, or that it only affects the weak, or that it is shameful, those stigmas permeate each of those levels. This includes governments defunding mental health care, medical professionals dismissing or avoiding issues of mental illness in their patients, communities who turn their backs on their most at-risk members, and families who hide behinds walls of secrecy.
Overcoming ignorance is the first step. Also, with other options, besides medication, people with anxiety can actually lead a normal life.
The Mayo Clinic has some helpful advice regarding how we can help solve our mental health crisis.
The first step is to get treatment from wherever someone is comfortable. This can be a friend, a professional or even a book. Talking helps, as well as being more aware of what your problems are and how you can tackle them.
The next thing to do is to avoid isolation. Isolation breeds anxiety and hence it is often better to go out and meet people or participate in group work. Those who are introverted can also simply engage in various solo activities, such as taking a long walk, running or cycling. Physical activities help a lot.
Sleeping is a big issue for those with anxiety and therefore, those with anxiety must create the perfect setting for falling asleep. There are tons of guide on the internet on how to fall asleep faster. Using a heavy blanket helps a lot. Also, while using a blanket, one has to make sure that the body remains cool enough.
There is no general cure, but one has to address the issues symptomatically at first. But in the end, awareness simply helps a lot.