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

Generalized anxiety disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time — usually in response to physical stress (such as nearly being run over by a car) or psychological stress (such as having your boss threaten to fire you). When you are being tested or challenged in some way, normal anxiety warns of potential danger and prepares you to deal with it. Normal anxiety has its roots in fear—an emotion that serves an important function. When you face a dangerous or stressful situation, fear helps motivate the body to take action by activating the flight or fight response: the heart beats faster, sending more blood to the muscles; breathing becomes heavier; and muscles tense in readiness for movement. This defensive mechanism provides the body with the necessary energy and strength to cope with threatening situations. When our prehistoric ancestors saw a tiger lying in wait for them, they needed to run. In people with generalized anxiety disorder, the same physical and emotional mechanisms are set in motion, even though there is no physical threat to contend with. For them, feelings of anxiety or apprehension occur for no specific reason. More »

Are your daily concerns a sign of an anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety among older adults. This occurs when worry is present most of the time and interferes with a person’s ability to function normally, although the particular worry may change. Symptoms include persistent, excessive worry about different things for at least six months; fatigue, difficulty sleeping, or restlessness; trouble concentrating; and irritability. Treatment includes medications or cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps identify automatic negative thoughts and come up with ways to eliminate them. (Locked) More »

Health tips for former smokers

Quitting smoking is a huge step forward for improving health and extending life. The well-documented health risks associated with smoking include heart attack, stroke, lung and other cancers, insulin resistance, and tooth loss. However, the body begins to repair the damage from smoking within minutes after the last cigarette is done. To fully reap the benefits, it’s important to take steps to remain smoke-free and to pay attention to health habits, screenings, and vaccinations. (Locked) More »

Can anxiety cause a heart attack?

Several studies have shown that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse. Researchers have reported, for example, that heart patients who have generalized anxiety disorder — constant, pervasive worrying, even about mundane matters — are more likely to have heart attacks and serious heart problems than heart patients who don't. (Locked) More »

Smartphones, medical apps, and remote monitoring: Top 10 health stories of 2010

Smartphones and tablet computers are making it easier to get  health care information, advice, and reminders on an anywhere-and-anytime basis. Hundreds of health and medical apps for smartphones like the iPhone  became available this year. Some are just for fun. Others provide useful information (calorie counters, first aid and CPR instructions) or perform calculations. Even the federal government is getting into the act: the app store it opened this summer has several free health-related apps, including one called My Dietary Supplements for keeping track of vitamins and supplements and another one from the Environmental Protection Agency that allows you to check the UV index and air quality wherever you are. Smartphones are also being used with at-home monitoring devices; for example, glucose meters have been developed thatsend blood sugar readings wirelessly to an app on a smartphone. The number of doctors using apps and mobile devices is increasing, a trend that is likely to accelerate as electronic health records become more common. Check out iMedicalapps if you want to see the apps your doctor might be using or talking about. It has  become a popular Web site for commentary and critiques of medical apps for doctors and medical students. Meanwhile, the FDA is wrestling with the issue of how tightly it should regulate medical apps. Some adverse events resulting from programming errors have been reported to the agency. Medical apps are part of  a larger "e-health" trend toward delivering health care reminders and advice remotely with the help of computers and phones of all types. These phone services are being used in combination with increasingly sophisticated at-home monitoring devices. Research results have been mixed. Simple, low-cost text messages have been shown to be effective in getting people wear sunscreen. But one study published this year found that regular telephone contact and at-home monitoring of heart failure patients had no effect on hospitalizations of death from any cause over a six-month period. Another study found that remote monitoring did lower hospital readmission rates among heart failure patients, although the difference between remote monitoring and regular care didn't reach statistical significance.      Read all Top 10 health stories of 2010 » More »

Yoga for anxiety and depression

A growing number of studies indicate that yoga may be a beneficial treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. More »

Anxiety and physical illness

Persistent anxiety can contribute to respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal problems, and heart disease. Treating anxiety with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination can reduce or relieve physiological distress. More »

It's time to accentuate the positive

A study found that people who maintained a positive approach to life in their thoughts and feelings, referred to as high emotional vitality, had a lower risk of heart disease. More »

Children’s Fears and Anxieties

A child's world is full of dangers, real and imaginary, that many adults forget they ever experienced. Most childhood fears are normal, temporary, and eventually outgrown, but studies still show that anxiety disorders are among the most common childhood psychiatric conditions. In a high proportion of cases, it turns out that the symptoms of an adult anxiety disorder first appeared in childhood, so treatment of abnormal childhood anxiety is not only important for its own sake but may help prevent adult disorders. Children's minds and emotions are constantly changing and developing, and they do not all develop at the same rate, so it is not always easy to distinguish normal fears from those that require special attention. Newborns typically fear falling and loud noises. Fear of strangers begins as early as six months and persists until the age of two or three. Preschool children usually fear being separated from their parents; they may also be afraid of large animals, dark places, masks, and supernatural creatures. Older children may worry about death in the family, failure in school, and events in the news such as wars, terrorist attacks, and kidnappings. Adolescents have sexual and social anxieties and concerns about their own and the world's future. These anxieties become a problem only if they persist and cause serious distress, destroy family harmony, or interfere with a child's development or education. Generalized anxiety disorder. Formerly called overanxious disorder of childhood, these days generalized anxiety in children is recognized as the same disorder of uncontrolled worry that occurs in adults. Children with this disorder are self-conscious, self-doubting, and excessively concerned about meeting other people's expectations. They need constant reassurance and approval from adults. They may worry about school grades, storms, burglary, hurting themselves while playing, or the amount of gas in the tank. They often feel restless and tense and complain of headaches, stomachaches, and other physical symptoms. More »