I just can’t handle it anymore!

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 8, 2009

Anxiety, worry, nerves, panic attacks and sleep disturbance are all problems that patients experience frequently these days.

Everyday stressors can result in feelings like worry and panic; who doesn’t feel stress in our fast-paced and convoluted world?

The worst thing about this cycle of stress that leads to anxiety is that the path that leads to anxiety also leads to further destinations, as well. Once you have reached the point of anxiety, the next feeling that is often felt is one of guilt.

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You may think to yourself that you should be able to handle the stress better; “everyone else does” you may think. That feeling of guilt and inadequacy then often leads to feelings of hopelessness, which is one of the parameters we use to define depression. It is a slippery slope that starts with anxiety, worry, nerves, panic attacks and sleep disturbance.

There are all kinds of reasons for sleep disturbance.

Insomnia is not always due to stress and anxiety, but worry and busyness certainly contribute.

If you have trouble falling to sleep because your mind races, or if you wake up after a couple of hours and you keep going over your needs for this or that, you may be suffering from significant anxiety. If you have trouble concentrating, find yourself distracted easily, have trouble remembering simple or significant items, you may have stress overload resulting in poorly controlled anxiety.

Think of your stress as water heating in a pot. Once the stress gets to a certain level of intensity, the pots boils and produces anxiety. Unlike the stress that you can hide under the surface, anxiety is harder to hide because it manifests behaviors that others can see.

Oftentimes this level of anxiety can interfere with relationships and even sexuality. When you feel overwhelmed, it is natural to retreat into yourself to some degree and that can inhibit your concern and partnering in relationships.

Anxiety can make it difficult to handle everyday situations, making it more likely that you will lose your temper or yell at your spouse or kids. You may become excessively emotional. In fact, many patients who come to my office complaining of PMS are really suffering from overwhelming anxiety. They may think and say PMS, but when we start analyzing the problem, it becomes obvious that their problem really occurs most of the cycle and is not limited to just the week before the period.

You may see some of these tendencies in yourself occasionally even if you do not have significant anxiety.

We all have times when we are temporarily overwhelmed and function less well than we would like. That is human nature and a consequence of a fast-paced life. There are others amongst us who can’t ever seem to resolve the challenges. For someone suffering from an anxiety problem, one overwhelming challenge follows another. Often those affected are reluctant to speak up because they are embarrassed at what they see as personal failure.

If someone in your life appears to be suffering from anxiety, it may be up to you to step forward and show you care. You may notice that one of your friends, one of your sisters, a parent, or your spouse seems to be overwhelmed at times. She may have trouble concentrating and doing her job. She may be leaving routine functions like housework undone. She may avoid going out, driving, crowds or other activities she used to enjoy. Normal daily events may provoke her to break out in a sweat, feel her heart racing, experience a feeling of inability to catch her breathe or chest tightness. She may remark that she feels like she is drowning.

She won’t really understand what is happening to her. She won’t know what to do. She won’t be able to see that this is just a phase, a challenge, a condition that she can overcome. Someone needs to reach out to her. She will need support!

She may need for you to suggest that she can get help. Step forward with a positive attitude, confident that help is available. By reaching out in a loving and supportive way, you can make a difference and convince her to seek help!

I can tell you that once she reaches out for assistance and finds it, once she begins to improve, and once she starts to heal the anxiety, she will be very grateful. When she has been led to a place where anxiety is under control, she will become more functional again.

Only then will she realize how seriously the anxiety problem had her in its grips. Some of my most contented patients are those who have resolved anxiety and are determined to do what it takes to avoid letting it come back.

Do you feel excessively nervous, anxious, wary, or panicky?

Do you know someone who is constrained by these problems?

Help is available. Reach out!