Chronic anxiety can negatively affect a person’s well being and if not treated properly, can lead to more problems. Local experts recommend anxiety sufferers begin with lifestyle changes and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Heather Chik, a clinical psychologist and director of the Anxiety and OCD Behavioral Health Center in Munster, says chronic anxiety can come in many forms but most often would be diagnosed as general anxiety disorder.
It is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worries that last for at least six months and it is usually accompanied by several physiological symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
Cathy Cinko, a licensed clinical social worker and Franciscan Alliance EAP therapist, describes chronic anxiety as a constant state of worry and anxiety, which is disproportionate to actual events.
“For adults, you maybe worry about finances and work whereas children might be worried about their parents getting in a car accident, strangers breaking into their home or monsters. For older adults, it might be more related to health. It definitely exists in all age groups,” Chik says.
Ephphatha Malden, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist working with Samaritan Counseling Center in Munster, says anxiety ranks in the top three mental health issues she treats.
The first treatment approach often utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy, Chik, Cinko and Malden say.
“It’s a very well established therapy,” Cinko says. “It focuses on identifying and understanding and changing thinking and behavioral patterns.” The client is highly involved in his or her own recovery and the treatment can take place on an outpatient basis.
“A lot of times people turn to medication such as antidepressants instead of trying cognitive behavioral therapy first,” Chik says. With the behavioral therapy, they can learn the skills that they could use for a lifetime.
Malden also uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients change their thought process.
“We see improvement in behavior if it’s practiced in everything,” Malden says.
She says that if anxiety is not treated it will continue to lead to anxiety attacks.
“A lot of people who may suffer anxiety attacks may not want to take it seriously or treat it. It’s not that simple. Once you recognize the symptoms, you can get the right treatment services.”
Malden says anxiety sufferers who do seek treatment often find it better than they thought it would be.
Chik says one part of treatment is problem solving. If the patients are overwhelming themselves, they have to learn to cut down. If they’re having trouble making decisions, they can learn to come up with a quick decision even though it may feel kind of uneasy for them.
“It’s a lot of problem solving and learning to not worry about things that are out of their control,” Chik says. “A lot of times people try to fix problems that they can’t do much about. Also a lot of times with worry, people tend to project into the future. I would teach them to be more in present and enjoy the moment rather than trying to fix things in their mind about the future.”
Cinko says in addition to the cognitive behavioral therapy, patients may try alternative treatments such as stress and relaxation techniques like yoga and acupuncture.
“Studies suggest that has been found to treat anxiety disorders,” Cinko says.
Meditation is also a good way to remove oneself from the world’s stressors. She also suggests sufferers stay connected with friends and family. People with a support system have a tendency to react more positively to certain events.