Anxiety, It’s Not Just Sweaty Palms

I feel the hot damp sweat soaking the underarms of my shirt. The cold sweat feels good trickling down the small of my back but also, I know I will be embarrassed walking back to my desk.  Leaning up against the cinderblock wall I turn my face to feel the cold cement dimples against my hot cheek.

Click, squeak…I hear the telltale sign of someone else entering the stairway. Pushing myself away from the wall my legs are barely able to keep me upright as my chest squeezes my pounding heart.

“Hey, man, are you ok?” Some guy asks picking up his pace coming up the stairs.

“Yeah, I am fine. Just need a little bit of a breather,” I reply, not able to look him in the eyes.

“You do not look ok. Why don’t you sit down here, is there anybody I can call?” He says taking my elbow and directing me to sit on the stair.

“No, I will be ok,” I mumble.

“Are you having an anxiety attack? My sister has those, and she tells me it is the worst feeling you can ever have,” he says sitting down next to me.

I just nod and sit there with my head in my hands feeling grateful but mortified that someone has seen me like this.

Everyone experiences anxiety now and then. It is normal to feel a little anxious when preparing for a job interview, studying for a test, or making an important decision. For most, anxiety is a temporary feeling in response to stressful situations. For people suffering from anxiety disorders, however, the worry doesn’t go away. In fact, it can become worse over time.

Recognizing and managing anxiety

Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of high anxiety for several days a week, lasting a period of 6 months or longer. Some of the symptoms of an anxiety disorder include irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, difficultly controlling feelings or thoughts of worry, and feeling on edge.

It is hard enough dealing with an anxiety disorder in your own home, let alone in the workplace. There are several types of anxiety disorders, each one with symptoms that can make it difficult to be at work.

People with panic disorder, for example, have recurring panic attacks that can come on without warning or cause. During a panic attack, people can experience rapid heartrate, shortness of breath, shaking, and feelings of impending doom. People with panic disorder often avoid places or situations that could trigger an attack, such as the workplace.

Social anxiety disorder is one of the more common forms of anxiety disorders, characterized by intense fear of, or anxiety toward, social or performance situations. People with social anxiety have a fear of being humiliated, judged, and rejected by other people and experience anxiety in nearly all social situations. Everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, going out to eat, or going to work can be so unbearable for social anxiety sufferers, that they actively avoid social situations. Social anxiety disorder can also manifest as extreme performance anxiety where something like giving a presentation at work can trigger the body’s fight or flight response and cause hyperventilation, heavy sweating, and nausea. In some cases, the fear is so great that it will even cause people to freeze up like a deer in the headlights.

The causes of anxiety disorders differ for each person. Traumatic social or environmental events, brain injury, underdeveloped social skills, family histories of anxiety or mental illness, health conditions such as heart arrhythmias, or even high caffeine consumption can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

If you have had consistent, severe anxiety for a period of at least 6 months, you should consult with your doctor about being evaluated for an anxiety disorder. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can persist for years, negatively impacting social relationships and work performance.

Treatment for anxiety disorder varies depending on the type of disorder. If you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult with a mental health professional who will work with you to find the right treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often very effective for treating anxiety disorders because it “teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations.” CBT involves identifying, challenging, and neutralizing negative thoughts, as well as confronting fears through cognitive and exposure therapies. Click here to find a CBT specialist near you. For help finding low-cost CBT and other psychological therapies, click here.

Anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and beta-blockers can be used to help relieve anxiety symptoms. These medications are only available through a prescription and some may work better for specific types of anxiety disorders than others. You will need to consult with your physician who will usually refer you to a mental health professional who is licensed to diagnose and prescribe medications for your anxiety disorder.

Group therapy and support groups, as well as meditation, are also great resources for managing anxiety. Click here to find group therapy for anxiety in your area. Click here for a list of online support groups, one-on-one support, and other anxiety treatment resources. Click here for a 10-minute meditation for managing anxiety. Click here for a 30-minute meditation for managing anxiety. For more anxiety meditation resources, click here.

If you believe you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to talk to your doctor. They will be able to help you find the method of treatment that works best for you.

You should also contact your local Veterans Service Office to be connected to resources for treating anxiety.

Check these resources for additional help and support.

For information on and referral to treatment services for anxiety disorder, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), TTY: 1-800-487-4889

It is confidential, free, and you can call 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year. SAMHSA also has a behavioral health service locator that can help you find services near you.

Go to Make the Connection’s website here for more anxiety disorder information and resources.

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