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It’s the most common mental illness

August 15, 2019

Relieve anxiety with these strategies

Linden Oaks at NCH’s Adult Inpatient Case Managers Taylor Wolfe and Brandon Gonzalez offer helpful tips on how to identify, alleviate and learn more about anxiety.

Taylor Wolfe (left) and Brandon Gonzalez stand outside the Linden Oaks at NCH building on the hospital campus.

What is anxiety?

Taylor: Anxiety is commonly defined as an excessive and persistent worry that affects the way we think, feel and behave.

What causes it?

Taylor: Anxiety can be caused by a combination of biological, social and psychological factors.

How do you know if you’re at risk for developing it?

Taylor: Certain aspects of our environment such as problems at work, conflict in relationships or financial troubles can contribute to anxiety. Additional factors that may increase a person’s risk include past traumatic experiences, genetic predispositions, chronic medical conditions, co-occurring mental health problems and drug/alcohol abuse.

What are some coping strategies?

Taylor: Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are great ways to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and can lead to immediate relief. Questioning your own thoughts and correcting irrational thinking patterns is a cognitive technique that, when practiced regularly, helps bring lasting benefits. A great way to start is by identifying cognitive distortions that often perpetuate our worries and fears. 

What resources are available at Linden Oaks at NCH for anxiety disorders?

Taylor: NCH offers great outpatient programs for adults and adolescents struggling with anxiety and other mental health issues. The intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs are designed to educate clients on mental health conditions and offer a team of mental health professionals who provide medication management and an array of behavioral therapies to address clients’ emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

How can you tell you’re struggling with anxiety or just having everyday stress?

Taylor: Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety are very similar to those we experience from everyday stress such as an increased heart rate, irritability and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. However, stress is typically brought on by external sources, such as the loss of a job or a complicated breakup. Typically, symptoms subside once the problem is resolved. Anxiety often occurs when we experience a stress response to non-threatening cues in our environment and symptoms tend to last longer than those from normal stress. It’s important to seek help if you notice your anxiety becoming more difficult to control or if it’s impairing your ability to engage in everyday activities.

How many people are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder annually?

Brandon: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults ages 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Does having anxiety mean you also have depression?

Brandon: Having anxiety does not always mean that you may suffer from depression. However, it’s common to have both. Anxiety and depression have similar symptoms such as trouble concentrating and poor sleep patterns. However the main difference between anxiety and depression would be having a mood of constant worry (anxiety) and having a constant mood of sadness (depression). Patients with depression have at least five of eight symptoms for at least two weeks. Anxiety is oftentimes lifelong. Anxiety and depression are both treatable.

What foods contribute to anxiety?

Brandon: Do your best to stay away from foods and drinks that have high amounts of sugar and caffeine (energy drinks, caffeine, pop or soda). While you’re at it, be mindful to limit processed foods such as fast food. Try to incorporate salads, fruits and vegetables into your diet to create a lifestyle change and to decrease anxiety.

What role does stress play in anxiety and what can be done to address it?

Brandon: The role that stress plays can be both healthy and unhealthy in regards to anxiety. Eustress, which is moderate or normal psychological stress, is considered good because it can help us to get things done. It can motivate us to keep going on with our lives and be productive and function at an optimal level. However, too much stress can give rise to burnout, leading us to not feel motivated to the point that we are worried about getting anything done. It’s very important to recognize your limits and identify triggers to unproductive anxiety. Avoid triggers by making a lifestyle change, changing relationships or changing your daily routine. If you’re unable to avoid your triggers, develop a strategy to manage them by using coping skills, talking to a trusted person and/or rehearsing positive phrases in your mind. Ultimately, it’s important to practice coping strategies rather than waiting until the heat of the moment.

What are some ways to support a friend or family member suffering from anxiety?

Brandon: A good way to support your friends and family is to educate yourself about anxiety using the additional resources in this article.

Linden Oaks at NCH helps patients with a range of behavioral and mental health issues including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and bipolar disorder. Expert treatment is provided and managed by an interdisciplinary team of behavioral health and healthcare professionals.

Take action

  • Visit our intake department to complete a mental health evaluation and learn more about the mental health resources at NCH and in the community.
  • Take the AnxietyAware Risk Assessment.
  • If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, please call 847-HEALING (432-5464) to schedule an appointment for services or for referrals.