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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Why am I so anxious?

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

Anxiety is a normal reaction to a threatening situation and results from an increase in the amount of adrenaline from the sympathetic nervous system, causing increased heart and respiration rates. It can also raise blood pressure and divert blood flow to the muscles. While these physical reactions are appropriate for escaping from danger, when they cause anxiety in many situations throughout the day, they might be detrimental to a normal lifestyle.

Luanne Freund, director at Vintage Park Assisted Living Center, 2250 S. Elm St., Ottawa, said chronic episodes of fear often are related to an anxiety disorder that can be disruptive or cause distortions in behavior that aren’t useful for normal functioning.

“Anxiety illnesses affect more than 20 million Americans,” she said. “The most common are general anxiety disorder, panic attacks and phobias.”

Panic attacks begin with a feeling of intense terror followed by physical symptoms of anxiety. Symptoms include four or more of the following: pounding heart, difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pain, shaking, sweating, choking, nausea, numbness, fear of dying, flushes and fear of going crazy.

Panic attacks tend to run in families with first-degree relatives of patients having four to seven times greater risk than the average population.

Panic attacks can be treated with drugs, cognitive-behavior therapy and other forms of psychotherapy. Relaxation therapy is often used in combination with other treatments.

Next time: Freund discusses Phobias.

Linda Brown is Herald marketing director. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

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