We all experience anxiety. It’s a common reaction to stressful, dangerous or uncomfortable situations. If you live with an anxiety disorder, the fear and worry you experience on a daily basis is disproportionate to the situations you encounter – and your anxiety is interfering with your ability to live a happy and healthy life.
If you have an anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder in America. In any given year, 40 million Americans over the age of 18 will experience an anxiety disorder (18.1% of the total population). It’s the most common form of mental health disorder in our country. Although many people suffer in silence (or never get appropriate treatment, more than 90% of those who engage in treatment do make improvements and start living less worried and stressful lives.
Although treatment almost always makes things better, self-medication very rarely does – and usually, it makes things much worse. Although certain drugs and alcohol can sometimes temporarily reduce anxiety symptoms, the abuse of such substances almost always worsen the severity of an anxiety disorder and often leads to a co-occurring substance use disorder.
My biggest concern is the combination of benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, Valium) with alcohol. This is one of the strongest, most common, and deadliest drug interactions in the world. All of these substances result in dependency when taken regularly and all of them have the potential for abuse.
Learning to cope with anxiety through specific coping strategies allows us to improve our holistic health and reduce our use of unhealthy distractions. Mindfulness is key – being willing to spend time with ourselves and to both notice what we’re really feeling is liberating. Most often, anxiety is the result of trying not to feel what we see as “negative” emotions – anger, disappointment and fear are at the top of that list.
If we are to grow and heal, we must progressively become willing to experience and express all of our emotions. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t feeling anxious right now, how would I feel?” And whenever you’re stuck or unsure what to do next, ask yourself, “What advice would I give to a friend in my shoes?”