My earliest memory I had about feeling anxiety is in elementary school, when I would get a nervous stomach each day in the cafeteria. In high school, the same thing happened before big events, like a school dance. While I was a happy child and teen throughout those years, I now realize that those small events may have been my first anxious experiences.
Growing up I would always hear things like anxiety is not a big deal and society doesn’t deem at as problem; it’s just something that you have to just deal with. When I first started college, I assumed my anxiety was just from the transition to it, but my nervousness would occur in social situations so that when I knew it was definitely not just in my head. But so many people in the world deal with these very things all the time, and often hide their anxiety or don’t even talk about it.
One of the main reasons people hide their anxiety initially is because they feel like no one would even bother to understand or even listen. Anxiety sufferers often feel that most people, including their family and friends do not understand what they are going through. When you try to talk about your feelings and emotions to those close to you and it does not yield any response, then it will result in extreme hurt within you. We then immediately conclude that our loved ones do not want to hear about our anxiety because they do not love us and do not care about our feelings.
Delving into how many people deal with this 26 year old, Joanne Reed, who is my long-term neighbor, suffers from panic disorder anxiety. As I was looking for people who struggle with anxiety I came upon her because I know she used to struggle with depression and a hint of anxiety up until we had a conversation and more things started to unravel.
Joanne speaks about how she has struggled with anxiety pretty much all her life and she even went to a psychologist and a therapist. “The fact that my anxiety and depression were interfering with my work, relationships and, most importantly, my physical health, was a big deal,” Joanne said.
“I knew I needed to do something about it. So one night after work, I grew the courage to go to see someone. Not just a social worker but a real doctor who could diagnose and treat me,” she added.
Joanne and many others are very suspicious of going to get help. Instead, they try to cope with it and other negative consequences by avoiding situations or experiences.
As Joanne was talking about her experience with anxiety there was also a conversation held with Joanne’s personal psychologist and therapists. It’s good to have both a psychologist and therapists because they both approach to problem differently, and it’s good to have several different methods for dealing with anxiety.
Ariel Stern, who is Joanne’s therapist and works at A Better Life Therapy, speaks about how the issues or problems you are going through are not your fault.
“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year,” Ariel said.
She has been dealing with patients coming in about all sorts of problems from depression, relationship issues, grief and many more. But Stern finds that specifically anxiety is highly treatable, and most of the people suffering do get help. “Each session is, essentially, a problem-solving session. You describe your current situation and your feelings about it, and then the therapist uses their expertise to assist you in trying to resolve that problem so you can move closer to having the life you wish to have,” Ariel explains.
When it came to hearing how Joanne felt about her therapy sessions, she says at first she was reluctant but then enjoyed it. “A few weeks ago, I had my last therapy session. It is wild to me that this is where I am. For so long, especially when I first started, I didn’t see myself ever stopping,” Joanne said as she had a happy look on her face reflecting on the past.
“When I started therapy, I felt so completely disconnected from myself. I had the firm, ingrained belief that anxiety was a thing I wouldn’t be able to control. If I couldn’t control it, then something was wrong with me,” Joanne said.
Ariel then explained how therapy is not the only method for anxiety disorder, “People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.”
Joanne quickly learned that just because you go see a therapist doesn’t automatically take the problem away. “Every day I’d practice the techniques that Ariel had [given me] but then I suddenly began to catch myself having multiple anxiety attacks and it was just as exhausting as it sounds.” She then did further research.
With the research, Joanne discovered Dr. Kevin Kuehlwein, who specializes in anxiety. Kuehlwein is highly experienced in helping people with anxiety and others thing as well. “I’ve helped many people with depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, couples issues, self-esteem, weight and anger issues,”Kuehlwein said.
“I’ve taught 30 years at the university level and co-edited 2 scholarly books. I also train people from different states and countries interested in applying cognitive-behavioral therapy,” Kuehlwein added.
When talking about what actually goes on and how he deals with a patient similar to Joanne, Kuehlwein talks about people with anxiety disorders tend to become easily overwhelmed by their emotions. “Through the cognitive component of therapy, patients learn to understand how their thoughts contribute to their anxiety symptoms. ”Through different techniques when dealing with psychologist it’s important to note that everyone is different and every technique is not going to work but the goal is to reduce undesired behaviors associated with anxiety disorders,” Kuehlwein added.
When dealing with these types of treatments for anxiety it’s also important for the doctor to know that the patient is struggling with something real and they are not a lab rat so it’s not okay to overuse the power.
“As a doctor I take my job seriously. I don’t just go in thinking that every patient is dealing with the same thing and just prescribing them all sorts of medication, Kuehlwein said. Therapist Stern also wanted it to be known that all of her sessions are private and her job is not to try to be their friend but their confidant because they ultimately trust me.
The question now may be, where does Joanne go from here? Will she always be suffering from anxiety? The real truth of the matter is as long as Joanne is open and willing to get to help she will have her anxiety under control or even beat it. “I used to think that my anxiety was something that controlled me, but here I am now, many months later. I’m back at work and feeling much better. Anxiety is something I still battle daily, but the medicine has definitely improved my workday, relationships, and health.”
“I know it’s something I’ll probably struggle with for a while, but taking those small initial steps has changed my life and outlook. I see my doctor every three months for a check-up,” Joanne adds.
Occasionally anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time.
Joanne who is positive and exudes generosity explains that she has had her bad times with anxiety but also mentions that there is an upside to all this. “I look back on the personal struggles I’ve had and wonder how differently things may have been had I sought professional treatment sooner. I kick myself for all those moments, events, and years that I wasn’t truly happy with myself and my life.”
“Knowing that so many other girls go through this every day breaks my heart. My advice to other girls who are feeling or showing symptoms of anxiety is not to sweep them under the rug. Reaching out to someone who can help may seem scary, but it’s worth it in the end,” Joanne said with great confidence.
At the end of it all it’s important to talk about mental health. Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. Especially since May is the month of mental health, it’s important to talk about it. It may be very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety or the sheer continuous intensity of it. To some, this anxiety may not seem like a serious condition, but to those who suffer from it, it needs to be looked at as a major priority that needs to be taken care of.