Anxiety doesn’t discriminate between quarantine, re-opening
By Sandra Schiele, Counsel House
In the last few weeks, some of my biweekly patients have moved to weekly and many of my weekly patients have moved to semiweekly. This supports what we all know to be true, and that is this pandemic is not easing up in the behavioral health world. The focus this week has been on anxiety. Last time, we discussed post-traumatic stress disorder. That is a type of anxiety.
This week, we will discuss panic disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, symptoms may include excessive worry, insomnia, muscle tension, dry mouth, tingling, numbness, unable to concentrate, restlessness, heart palpitations, perspiring, trembling, shortness of breath, choking sensations, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, chills, heat sensations, feeling detached from ones surroundings, loss of control and fear of dying.
As you read this, you may think it sounds much like a heart attack or even some symptoms of COVID-19. You are correct. Many people who suffer from panic disorder find themselves at the emergency room believing they are suffering from cardiac arrest. Hospitals run a battery of tests and learn this is not the case. On the one hand, this is a relief; but on the other, it leaves the individual with a lifetime of coping with this disorder. Imagine yourself truly believing you are suffering from a heart attack. Your chest is pounding. You’re perspiring and shaking. You’re gasping for air. You’re confused as to your surroundings. You’re lightheaded and terrified that you’re dying. Now, imagine this on a weekly or even daily basis and how this might feel for someone with this condition. Frightening, isn’t it?
The fear of getting sick, having a loved one die, being physically assaulted, losing everything, these fears are real for most of us during this pandemic and riots. These very triggers are escalating the symptoms of this disorder to the point that people are turning to substance abuse and contemplating suicide. But, there is hope. There is always hope.
It begins by recognizing the signs and seeking help via outpatient or inpatient therapy, healthy coping skills, cognitive restructuring and possibly psychotropic medications.
Healthy coping skills can entail relaxation techniques, healthy distractions, sharing of one’s feelings, physical activity, special projects, music, dance, gardening, jigsaw puzzles, sports, spirituality, prayer and expressions of art, to name a few. Whatever you choose, resist the urge to choose something unhealthy. Remind yourself that all you need to focus on is the “what is,” not the “what was” or the “what if.”
If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected]. For 24/7 crisis and information services, you can also call Louisville’s Hope Now Hotline at 1-800-221-0446.
Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.