Anxiety For Dummies
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Some people find that self-help is all they need. They read about good ways of dealing with their anxiety, and then they apply what they’ve discovered. Voilà! Their anxiety gradually fades to a manageable level.

However, no self-help book is intended to completely replace professional help. And anxiety sometimes requires the assistance of a professional, just like complicated tax matters may call for a certified public accountant or deciding to draw up a will may send you to an attorney. We hope you understand that seeking a mental health professional’s assistance is a reasonable choice, not a sign of weakness.

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This article tells you how to know whether you should consider professional assistance for yourself or someone you care about. It’s not always an obvious decision, so we give you a list of indicators. And if you still aren’t sure, you can always talk with your primary care doctor, who should be able to help you decide.

Suicidal thoughts or plans

If you find yourself thinking about harming yourself, get help now. Take these thoughts very seriously. Call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If your thoughts become overwhelming, call 911 and get to an emergency room. Help is available. And when you do access professional help, be honest about your thoughts; hold nothing back. A professional can help gather other options and solutions that seem out of reach when someone is feeling tremendously anxious or depressed.

Feeling hopeless

From time to time, everyone feels defeated. But if you begin to feel hopeless about getting better, thinking that the future looks bleak and you can’t do much to change it, get professional help. Feelings of hopelessness put you at greater risk for suicide. You need to know that you can feel better. Let others help you.

How you handle anxiety and depression

You may be experiencing depression mixed with anxiety if you find yourself having some of the following symptoms:
  • Feeling sad most of the day
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities
  • Change in weight
  • Changes in your sleep patterns and habits
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Feeling keyed up or slowed down
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling excessively guilty
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of death
If you do have both anxiety and depression, seek professional help. Depression is a treatable condition. Having the energy to fight both can be hard.

Trying self-help to no avail

Perhaps you’ve read Anxiety For Dummies and given the recommendations your best shot at overcoming anxiety, but for whatever reason, they just haven’t worked. That’s okay. Don’t get more anxious because you didn’t get rid of worry and stress. Something else may be going on. Get an experienced mental health professional to help you figure out the next step.

Struggling at home

You’re anxious. The anxiety causes you to be irritable, jumpy, and upset. You hold it together at work and with strangers, but you take it out on the people you care about most, your family. Then you feel guilty, which increases your anxiety. If this sounds like you, a professional may help you decrease the tension at home and ease the pathway to finding peace.

Dealing with major problems at work

Maybe you have no one at home to take out your anxiety on, or perhaps home is the haven away from stress. If that’s the case, work stress may overwhelm you. If you find your anxiety exploding at work, consider professional help.

First, anxiety sometimes causes irritability and moodiness with co-workers or bosses; such behavior can cause plenty of trouble. Anxiety can also rob you of your short-term memory, make it difficult to focus, or make decisions feel overwhelming. So if anxiety affects your job performance, get help before you hit the unemployment line.

Suffering from severe obsessions or compulsions

Anxiety is a problem that often co-occurs with other emotional disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of those disorders. OCD can easily consume many hours of time and cause serious impairment in the lives of those who suffer from it. The problem is that people with the disorder often don’t seek help until their lives are overwhelmed by unwanted thoughts or repetitive actions. Most people with OCD need professional help. If you or someone you love has more than mild OCD, get professional help.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

You feel agitated and keyed up. Were you also exposed to a traumatic event that resulted as follows?
  • At the time, you felt helpless and afraid.
  • Later, you try not to think about it.
  • In spite of your efforts not to think about it, the thoughts and images keep popping up.
If so, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The treatment of PTSD is probably best done by an experienced professional. Many people with PTSD try to tough it out and live life less fully because of their stubbornness.

Sleepless nights

Is anxiety keeping you awake? That’s quite common. Too many sleepless nights make it hard to function and more difficult to help yourself in the fight against anxiety. If you sleep poorly night after night and awaken tired, check it out with a professional. You may be experiencing depression along with anxiety. Furthermore, insomnia is a treatable condition by professionals.

Getting high

Sure, a beer or three can seemingly soothe the soul, but excessive drinking or drug abuse is a common problem among those with anxiety disorders. It makes sense; anxious feelings are uncomfortable. What begins as an innocent attempt at feeling better can become another big problem later on. If you find yourself consuming too much alcohol or another drug to calm your feelings, get professional help before the crutch turns into an addiction.

Finding help

In the days of high-cost health care, you may not always have as much freedom to consult any professional you want. However, whether you receive a restricted list of professionals from your insurance company or not, it’s still a good idea to check out one or more of the following:
  • Ask the insurance company or the state licensing board for the specific profession or license of the referred professional.
  • Ask your friends if they know of someone with whom they had a good experience.
  • Ask your primary care provider. Family physicians usually have a good idea about excellent referrals for various types of problems.
  • Talk to the professional before making an appointment. Ask about his experience with treating anxiety and what approach he takes. Ask about whether you’ll receive a scientifically verified approach for dealing with anxiety.
  • Call the psychology department of your local college or university. Sometimes they have referral lists.
  • Call or use a search engine on the web to find your state psychological, psychiatric, or counseling association. Or check out national consumer organizations.

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