How to Help Those With Anxiety Disorders

From http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102012090 

“My heart often pounds really hard, and I break out in a cold sweat and find it difficult to catch my breath. I am overcome by feelings of dread, anxiety, and mental confusion.”—Isabella, a panic disorder sufferer in her forties.

ANXIETY can be described as “a feeling of nervousness or worry.” Have you, for example, ever felt nervous when confronted by an angry dog? What happens when the dog goes away? The nervousness and worry do too, don’t they? What, though, is an anxiety disorder?

When anxiety becomes chronic, when it continues even after there is no more need to feel anxious, anxiety can become a disorder. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older . . . in a given year.” Consider Isabella, quoted in the introduction. Unrelenting anxiety, such as she experiences, can have serious consequences for the sufferer.

Not only that, but the immediate family may also be affected adversely. There is good news, though. An NIMH publication states: “Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives.”

Family and friends can also help one who is suffering from an anxiety disorder. How?

How to Help

Be supportive: Monica, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, explains a difficulty she faces: “Most people find it hard to understand my emotional problems.”

As a result, anxiety disorder sufferers are often so afraid of being misunderstood that they try to hide their problem from others. This can result in feelings of guilt that worsen their emotional state. It is vitally important, therefore, for family and friends to be supportive.

Learn more about the disorder: This suggestion may be especially appropriate for those who deal closely with sufferers of anxiety disorders. This may include an immediate family member or a particularly close friend.

Keep comforting one another: The first-century missionary Paul urged friends in the Greek city of Thessalonica to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We can do this both by our words and our tone of voice. We need to show that we deeply care for our friends, and we need to avoid hurtful insinuations.

Consider the three professed friends of the man Job, after whom a book in the Bible is named. Those men, as you may remember, wrongly implied that Job was in some way covering over concealed sins and that his suffering was the result of his cover-up.

So, be sensitive to a sufferer’s feelings. Listen carefully. Try to view matters through the eyes of the one who is suffering, rather than through your own. Do not jump to conclusions while listening. Job’s professed friends did, and as a result, they were called “troublesome comforters.” They actually made him feel worse!—Job 16:2.

Remember to listen carefully to sufferers. Allow them to express freely how they feel. This may help you to understand better what they are going through. And think of the reward! You may be able to help sufferers enjoy a more full and meaningful life.

Identifying Types of Anxiety Disorders

Understanding anxiety disorders is vital, especially when the people involved are immediate family members or close friends. Consider five types of such disorders.

Panic Disorders Recall Isabella, mentioned in the introduction of our article. It is not only the attacks of anxiety that she finds disabling. “In between them, there is the dread that an attack is going to happen again,” she says. As a result, sufferers tend to avoid places where they have had an attack. Some become so restricted that they are housebound or are able to confront a feared situation only when accompanied by someone they trust. Isabella explained: “Merely being alone is enough to trigger an attack. Mother gives me security; I can’t stand it if she is not nearby.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder A person obsessed with germs or dirt may develop a compulsion to wash his hands over and over again. Regarding a similar compulsion, Renan says: “My mind is in constant turmoil as I go over and over past mistakes, reanalyzing them and looking at them from every possible angle.” The result is an obsession to confess past mistakes to others. Renan is in constant need of reassurance. But medication has been of help in controlling his obsession.*

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) In recent times this term has been used to describe a range of psychological symptoms people may experience following an extremely traumatic event that involved physical harm or the threat of such. PTSDsufferers may startle easily, be irritable, become emotionally numb, lose interest in things they once enjoyed, and have trouble feeling affection for others—especially those with whom they used to be close. Some become aggressive, even violent, and tend to avoid situations that remind them of the original traumatic incident.

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder This is a term used to identify people who are overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. Some sufferers have an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. They may worry for days or weeks before attending an event. Their fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, or other ordinary activities and makes it hard for them to make and keep friends.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Monica, mentioned earlier, suffers from this disorder. She goes through the day filled with “exaggerated worries,” even though there is little or nothing to provoke them. Sufferers tend to anticipate disaster and are overly concerned with health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Just the thought of getting through the day may produce anxiety.*

[Footnotes]

Awake! does not endorse any specific medical treatment.

The above material is based on a publication of the National Institute of Mental Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Give An Hour

I have to admit that I have been a bit stalled in taking the next steps. Sometimes the best you can do in the morning is wake up, brush your teeth, get dressed and simply celebrate your ability to do only that. Other days staying in be until 3pm because you cannot face the day feel like an utter failure, so you browse the internet for distraction. I was doing just that when I found this site: GIVE AN HOUR

Their mission?

Give an Hour’s mission is to develop national networks of volunteers capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society, beginning with the mental health needs of those who serve and their families.

How it works?

A site visitor (could be a veteran, family member or person affected by a loved-ones service), clicks on “Get Help” to get information on what to expect and how to choose a provider. S/he clicks on “Provider Search” to find someone offering individual counseling services near their home.

Seriously? That was just what I needed. To get back to therapy. Sometimes a caregiver is so busy caregiving that they don’t realize that they themselves are spiraling into despair. I felt, and still do feel very often, that I cannot go on. That another day cannot be faced. That I will just stay in the fortress of my own bed under the covers until the world melts away and I achieve enlightenment beside my pillow.

That is not living. So tomorrow I will call, and go, and talk to someone.

Interested? Then visit the site:

GIVE AN HOUR

What, What, What Are We Doing??

(See bottom of this blog post for an update)

Sometimes desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. Once I understood that my best friend and lover was suffering from a disabling disorder (combat-related PTSD) that wasn’t responding to traditional therapy I asked myself, “what else can we do?”. I did research online and at the library. I called his psychiatrist whenever I needed advice and started seeing a therapist myself specifically for PTSD caregiver support.

Then I saw this blog, Two Happy Campers, where this couple decided to leave their home (part-time) and go on outdoor adventures in a truck camper with their two dogs. I thought that was extreme. I mean, I’m a city girl! I like the idea of camping but am much better suited for five-star hotels, spas, and room service. The more I dug into camper/RV lifestyles (there are tons of blogs about this, who knew?) I started to recall phrases I had been reading and hearing regarding coping with PTSD:

  • Keep things simple
  • Put everything in its place (my hubby has OCD tendencies)
  • Focus on the basics
  • One day at a time
  • Get fresh air, start exercising
  • Don’t isolate
  • Make thoughtful changes

Then I thought, could we consider this? Could we simplify our 5 bedroom house (we have a lot of stuff for just two people and it’s a constant source of stress for my husband), downsize our wardrobes, cut our ties with the 9 to 5 (and live on just his disability), and lead a much more frugal life?

The same things in the bulleted list above are what we learn from the Holy Scriptures. At Matthew 6:22 it states, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is focused, your whole body will be bright. The footnote lets us know that the context of the translated word “focused” is modern “simple”. So, keep your eye simple. What we were learning from mental health professionals aligned with what we are taught from the holy scriptures. Acting on it was a no-brainer!

tiny house

Crazy, right? Then I thought, maybe the way we live right now is crazy. The average American spends 1/3 to 1/2 of their income on a home that takes 15 years to work to pay off. 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe living the “normal” way is actually crazy. What if we could live on less and instead of investing in a career and house we could invest in our personal relationships with our creator, each other, and nature?

Rat-Race

Next, I though about living vs. surviving. With PTSD it seems like the sufferer and his family just survives daily life. I want (and deserve) to see my husband really live, not just survive. What if by changing things drastically we could both get back to living instead of just getting through each day to face another filled with the same issues in the same spot?

dont just survive live

Another scripture that kept coming to mind is Matthew 6:33 which states, “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” With this in mind we decided that going from full-time working to full-time RVing seemed like a moot point. So we have decided to work on personal improvement so that we might serve God to the full extent that our own circumstances permit.

We start our mornings now with the daily text, a prayer, and either field service or medical appointments. We round out the end of the day with personal or family study, meetings, and housework. It’s still a little scary, but I think that means we are on the right track. The planning stages of this adventure has begun. Join us while we figure out the rest!

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2016 UPDATE

I’m a regular pioneer as of September 1, 2016. As of May 5, 2017 we are part-time RVers and international travelers for need-greater work!!

… Matthew 6:33 states, “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” With this in mind we decided that going from full-time working to full-time RVing seemed like a moot point. So we have decided to work on personal improvement so that we might serve God to the full extent that our own circumstances permit.

We start our mornings now with the daily text, a prayer, and either field service or medical appointments. We round out the end of the day with personal or family study, meetings, and housework. It’s still a little scary, but I think that means we are on the right track. The adventure has begun. Join us while we figure out the rest!