Anxiety

Worried that you worry too much? Everyone worries or gets scared sometimes. But feeling extremely worried or afraid much of the time, or repeatedly feel panicky, may be signs of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders include panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are among the most common mental illnesses, affecting roughly 40 million American adults. A person has an anxiety disorder if she or he has persistent worry for more days than not, for at least several months. Some people with anxiety feel they have always been worriers, even since childhood or adolescence. In other people, anxiety comes on suddenly, triggered by a crisis or a period of stress, such as the loss of a job, a family illness, the death of a relative, or other tragedy.

Numerous therapies can help control anxiety. These include psychotherapy and medication, ideally supported by good nutrition, sleep, and regular exercise. People who are anxious tend to reach for unhealthy "comfort" food—and then worry about it. Or they completely avoid food, skipping meals or even fasting—and worry that something is wrong, such as an undiagnosed cancer. Healthy eating can avoid these anxiety triggers.

Not getting enough sleep can boost a person's anxiety level. On the flip side, getting enough sleep can help control stress and anxiety. So can getting regular exercise—aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week.

Anxiety Articles

Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature

Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement. If they do not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, men can find relief by interacting more with nature, whether by walking in the woods, listening to nature sounds, or even looking at pictures of soothing outdoor settings. More »

Tuning in: How music may affect your heart

Music engages many different areas of the brain, which may explain why listening to music may boost exercise ability, ease stress and anxiety, and enhance recovery from heart surgery and strokes. Listening to or creating music (playing an instrument or singing) triggers the release of a brain chemical that makes people feel engaged and motivated, which may allow people to exercise longer. Relaxing music may lower a person’s heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure—perhaps because sound processing begins in the brainstem, which also controls the heart rate and respiration. Patient-selected music shows more benefit than music selected by someone else. (Locked) More »

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis

Any kind of cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. But one part of the cancer process that often gets pushed aside is the psychological aspect of how to manage the stress, anxiety, and depression that come with it. No matter a person’s prognosis, there are ways to address the emotional aspects of dealing with cancer. (Locked) More »

How to overcome grief’s health-damaging effects

Grieving over the death of a spouse, friend, or family member exposes people to many months of constant stress that can lead to anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and general aches and pains. This can place people at a greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, or even death, especially in the first few months of losing someone. Adopting several mind-body strategies designed to help lower and manage stress can help people get through the grieving process. (Locked) More »

When worry becomes a problem

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) constantly anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about issues like health, money, and family even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Left alone to manifest, GAD can lead to serious health problems, like high blood pressure, depression, and unhealthy behavior like excessive drinking. More »

Anxiety and heart disease: A complex connection

Small amounts of anxiety can spur people to take better care of themselves. But excessive worrying may signal an anxiety disorder, which may increase a person’s risk for heart disease. One common form is generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by at least six months of excessive worrying or feeling anxious about several events or activities almost every day. Other people have panic disorder, which is marked by bouts of intense anxiety (panic attacks) that may cause chest pain that is mistaken for a heart attack. Both therapy and medications can effectively treat anxiety disorders. (Locked) More »

Antidepressant side effects: Feeling better, but not quite right?

Antidepressant medications can be a godsend for people struggling with the dark mantle of depression. Yet like all drugs, they can cause side effects, which is why it's important to be aware of any changes in your body when you begin any new medication. If you have any uncomfortable or worrisome antidepressant side effects, tell your doctor immediately. But for many of the mildly distressing side effects, a few simple steps may help. Here are some suggestions for managing side effects of antidepressants. More »

Practical advice for helping people with dementia with their daily routines

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is one of the toughest jobs 
in the world. "It is stressful, physically and emotionally draining, and very expensive, as almost 15 million unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias can attest," says Dr. Scott McGinnis, medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report A Guide to Coping with Alzheimer's Disease. Learning how to take care of a person with dementia can be a trial-and-error process. Every person with dementia and every caregiver is unique, and so is their relationship. However, the following general tips may be useful in helping people with dementia remain physically healthy and connected to the world. More »

Staying calm in turbulent times

Several self-help techniques may reduce anxiety. However, it’s important to distinguish everyday anxiety from an anxiety disorder and to get help from a mental health professional if anxiety interferes with daily life. (Locked) More »

Uncovering the link between emotional stress and heart disease

Heightened activity in the amygdala—a brain region involved in processing fear and other intense emotions—may trigger a person’s bone marrow to generate white blood cells. This can lead to inflammation in the arteries, which encourages the buildup of fatty plaque and raises the risk of heart attack. In people with post-traumatic stress disorder, higher perceived levels of stress have been linked to greater amygdala activity and artery inflammation. More »