Ask The Doctor

Free Yourself from Unnecessary Anxiety

Dear Dr. Garner,

I am writing to you out of desperation. About two years ago, my husband had a heart attack while out for a walk. For more than 12 hours, I did not know his whereabouts.

Now, every time he’s a little late coming home, I start to worry. This is only part of it. I find that I am consumed with worry in every part of my life, especially during the holiday season. I know my fears are not logical, but I cannot stop feeling this way.

Furthermore, I feel like I can never be happy. When something good happens in our family, I want to happy. Instead, I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, that something bad is just around the corner.

My doctor has told me to exercise and eat better, but that hasn’t changed what I’m feeling.

I get stomachaches, and my heart constantly pounds. I have pretty much become a shut-in.

I want to make a fresh start and enjoy my life. What should I do?

Worrying in Wyckoff Heights


Dear Worrying,

I am so sorry to hear of your problems. You are definitely not alone in experiencing this condition as several million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

As you noted, you are well aware that your thoughts are not logical – that’s a great start, but you obsess about them anyway.

The good news is that treatment for this condition is very successful. It consists of a combination of therapies in which you talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist and combine this with medications that help your brain restore a normal chemical balance.

It is normal to feel anxious from time to time, as everyone has stress in their lives. The problem arises when the anxiety becomes overbearing and you cannot function properly.

High-Anxiety Season

The Christmas season, while joyous, can often be an anxiety-provoking time, particularly as people get wrapped up in the gift-giving and financial stress that often accompanies it.

When stress interferes with your everyday activities, it becomes very serious. Not only can it interfere with your lifestyle, but it is also associated with serious medical problems that can cut your life short.

Making a Diagnosis

How can someone tell if he or she has generalized anxiety disorder? The person must worry excessively about a variety of problems for at least six months and answer “yes” to five of the following seven questions:

1. Do you have difficulty controlling your worries?

2. Do you have difficulty concentrating?

3. Are you angered easily and frequently irritable?

4. Do you sometimes feel like you might throw up when you are worried?

5. Do you have headaches and other aches and pains that have no cause?

6. Do you sweat or experience hot flashes?

7. Does your worrying interfere with your job or school?

Of course, it is important to see your doctor to make the correct diagnosis, but answering “yes” to any of the five questions above is a strong indication that you have a serious problem.

May Be Inherited

Generalized anxiety disorder may be inherited and can occur in children as well as adults. In children, the anxiety may be due to fear of a nuclear war, terrorist acts or never seeing their parents again. Children with generalized anxiety disorder have difficulty fitting in with peers. The child may be a perfectionist who requires excessive reassurance and approval. He may be excessively critical of himself or have a fear of failure.

Everyone has worries (some bigger than others), but it becomes a problem when someone cannot function properly due to these anxieties.

Visit your family doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help you make that fresh start. I wish you good health, happiness and joy.[hr] Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on The NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 97 Time Warner and Channel 30 Cablevision.

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