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Anxiety conditions are common but serious medical illnesses that cause persistent and intense feelings of worry, stress, or panic.  Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about anxiety. Contact Hopewell now if you suspect you have an anxiety condition and want relief.

A: Anxiety is the brain's normal reaction to stressful or threatening events in our life.  It prepares our body to fight against the threat, get away from the threat, or sometimes freeze to avoid the threat.  This is often referred to as our fight-or-flight response. 

However, sometimes the part of our brain that triggers anxiety starts to misfire causing unwanted and unnecessary feelings of worry, stress, fear, and panic.  There are a number of things that can lead this type of misfiring including some medical conditions, traumatic events in adulthood, substance abuse, past childhood abuse, and genetic factors.  It is often difficult to determine precisely what caused a persons anxiety condition, and it typically involves a combination of triggers. Regardless of what caused it, anxiety creates significant discomfort and distress for those who experience it.  

A: In general there are two different types of anxiety that people most commonly experience: persistent excessive worry, and periodic panic attacks.  

Persistent excessive worry that occurs more days than not and includes the some of the following symptoms:
Symptoms (thee or more  for more than six months)
  • A feeling of apprehension or worry that is difficult to control
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up
  • Easilty fatigued
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Muscle tension

Panic attacks
Periodic panic attacks are an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that peaks after 10-20 minutes.  It includes the following symptoms:
Symptoms (four or more)
  • Pounding or accelerated heart rate.  (May feel like a heart attack)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath, hard to catch your breath
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling light headed or dizzy
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbing or tingling sensation
  • Feeling disconnected from reality
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

A:  Once diagnosed, a person with anxiety can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and medication. Studies have found that combining therapy with medicine usually provides the best results. Certain forms of psychotherapy have been shown to be particularly effective for people who experienced adult trauma or childhood abuse.  

Anxiety Medication
For persistent excessive worry doctors often prescribe antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs for anxiety include: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Paxil, and Lexapro.  Sometimes Effexor, Cymbalta or Tofranil may be used depending on how you respond to the SSRIs,  Most are available in generic versions. SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than older antidepressants, but they may still have some side effects which tend to fade with time.  

For many people who experience persistent anxiety, lifestyle changes can also have a positive impact on their symptoms.  Finding ways to reduce stress, increase exercise, and cut caffine, alcohol, tabacco, and sugar have all been shown to help. 

Panic Attack Medication
Medical treatment of panic attacks includes anti-anxiety medication such as: Ativan, Valium, Librium, Xanax, and Klonopin. However, these drugs are often habit forming and should only be used when a panic attack is imminent or in progress. Anti-anxiety medications are also frequently abused.

A:  Anxiety is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality trait. It is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition. It's not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. In the same way that you can't "snap out of" diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other medical condition, you can't make clinical anxiety disorders go away with just will power. Many people with a anxiety illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe anxiety, can experience improve and relief with treatment.

A: We learn from the book of Job that God permits intense pain and suffering at times in those He loves.  Also, the Psalmists often cried out to God about feeling overwhelmed with sorrow, terror and helplessness.  You can look at Psalm 88 as an example.  However, Philippians 4:6 tells us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  What then are we to think when we have obediently lifted our requests to God and our anxiety persists?

C.S. Lewis said "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  God can often use our pain for His purposes such as: 
  • Developing humility
  • Helping us sort out the best values and priorities 
  • Being taught the value of submission to God 
  • Learning obedience to God's word 
  • Learning patient endurance 
  • Developing character 
  • Producing hope 
  • Learning to depend on the resources Jesus supplies 
  • Experiencing God's enabling grace 
  • Being privileged to share in Christ's sufferings 
  • Growing in holiness
  • Developing a strong faith 
  • Learning the truth that if we have God we have all that is necessary for full maturity 

We can take comfort that God is with us in our sorrow, and that we can rely on him to care for us through our trial.  He offers hope in his Word.  Lamentations 3:21–23 tells us, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”