Is There A Cure For Anxiety?

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Anxiety: we all have it. Some of us it helps, some of us it annoys. Some of us, however, suffer from it to such an extent that we can’t lead normal lives. The conditioning of worrying so much about trivial matters that it interferes with normal life is called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) by the medical profession.

People who suffer from this disorder know that they have a problem. They wish that they could stop worrying and get on with actually living their lives, but their irrational impulses are simply too powerful. They wonder if there exists some miracle cure for anxiety–a pill they could take, or a bitter draught, that would magically make their fears vanish. Alas, there is, as yet, no such cure.

People who suffer from crippling anxiety have several options for treatment. The first is self-help: learning techniques to help themselves relax and temporarily alleviate their fears. There are a number ways to do this. Sometimes, visualising a pleasant scene works well. Some people can relax when listening to music they like (although some people find that they prefer the music that agitates and excites, rather than relaxes; for these people, listening to favourite music is not a good option). Some people can relax while viewing a favourite artwork, or practising a favourite hobby. Breathing rhythmically and continuing to do what one is doing are other self-induced methods of dealing with anxiety.

If none of these methods work, a trained therapist can help. Approximately two thirds of GAD sufferers show marked improvement after just a few months of cognitive-behavioural therapy sessions with a trained therapist. Cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches patients to examine their thought processes and isolate unproductive thought patterns that lead to anxiety.

For example, a good therapist can teach a GAD sufferer to recognise when he or she starts automatically imagining negative outcomes of whatever situation he or she is in. Whenever GAD patients embark on any project, they are prone to immediately imagine the worst possible result, and then automatically mistake that imagining for inevitable reality. Cognitive-behavioural therapy can teach chronic worriers to become aware of, and reform, these and other destructive habits of thought.

In addition to therapy, a qualified psychotherapist can provide certain mood-altering medications. These medications do not cure anxiety, but they have proven to be effective at ameliorating many of its symptoms and lessening its incidence. Benzodiazepines and antidepressants (typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibtors, or SSRIs, such as Prozac) have both been effective at relieving symptoms of anxiety, but patients should be wary of their side effects.

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