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If you’re walking in the woods and you spot a bear, you’ll probably feel at least a wee bit anxious. Most likely, your heart rate will spike and a wave of fear will wash over you as your brain processes a jumble of options: Run, scream, freeze. …
“Anxiety is a normal human experience that we all can experience,” said Dominique Dietz, LCSW, director for Behavioral Health at OSF HealthCare. “Anxiety our brain and body reacting to what we believe is a threat.”
But what happens when the immediate threat vanishes and the anxiety lingers? What about when the perceived threat is more hypothetical but it affects your ability to function? Maybe you struggle to sleep, or eat or work; unable to make decisions.
That’s where normal anxiety crosses the line and becomes an anxiety disorder.
No. 1 mental health problem in U.S.
If you are diagnosed with anxiety disorder, the first bit of good news is that you are not alone.
“Anxiety is the No. 1 mental health concern in the United States; more than any other diagnosis, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” Dominique said. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19 percent of adults in the U.S. have anxiety disorders.
One of the biggest challenges to mental health care providers is pinning down the diagnosis. Blood tests, X-rays, MRI scans and such can specify what ails you physically. Mental health diagnosis is dependent on patient history, professional observation of behavior, interviews with the patient and input from close contacts, such as family, friends and co-workers.
Is it time for you to see a specialist?
Here are some basic questions to ask yourself:
- Do I worry excessively, to the point it causes me problems getting through the day?
- Am I easily irritated or annoyed?
- Am I frequently nervous, anxious or on edge?
- Do I have trouble sleeping?
- Am I motivated to be physically active?
- Do I have stomach problems? Panic attacks? Heart pounding for no real reason?
- Do my thoughts tend to focus on negatives and the worst possible situation?
“A way to identify that you may need help is if you begin to notice that anxiety is impacting or impairing your everyday life,” Dominique said.
Anxiety responds well to treatment
Even though general anxiety disorder affects men and women equally, 80% of the people who seek help are women, Dominique said.
“Men tend to downplay symptoms more, which can lead to not addressing concerns early on,” she said.
As with physical diseases, waiting too long to seek help for mental health issues can make treatment more difficult.
But another bit of good news is that general anxiety disorder responds well to different kinds of treatments, including medications, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you more effectively identify and respond to challenges.
“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great technique to help assist with anxiety. CBT is beneficial because it assists individuals with their negative thoughts and excess worry. When anxiety occurs, we tell individuals to reframe their negative thoughts, identify realistic interpretations of events and create a plan of action for when anxiety occurs,” said Dominique.
“The most important thing to know is that anxiety is normal and you can get better. Having anxiety does not make you odd, foolish or fragile.”
Online app aids treatment
If you are experiencing anxiety, but remain unsure about seeing a specialist, OSF HealthCare offers a digital behavioral health option. It’s called SilverCloud.
The service is available at no cost to anyone who is 18 years old or older and who lives in an area served by an OSF HealthCare facility. Once you have signed up for SilverCloud, a mobile application is available and the service can be accessed 24 hours a day.
“What distinguishes SilverCloud from other digital behavioral health applications is that is offers integrated support to the users,” Dominique said. “The app provides users with content that is based in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and support through a coach who can provide check ins and reviews. The coach can also help connect users with resources in their communities if needed.”
Learn more at osfhealthcare.org/silvercloud, email OSF.Silvercloud@osfhealthcare.org, or call (833) 713-7100.
Last Updated: August 2, 2022