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By PIETER VAN ZYL LIVI\G WITH ANxo-Are you so fearful, strung out and panicky that you're unable to live life to the full? You're not alone and there is help! AT THE birth of his first child, the nurses briefly had to stop attending to his wife, who was in the throes of labour, to attend to him as he'd turned pale and passed out. American journalist and editor Scott Stossel was not just another father for whom the birth process was too gory; he'd been suffering from crippling anxiety for many years. "I have an unfortunate tendency to falter at crucial moments: writes Stossel in his book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind. "I've frozen, mortifyingly, on stage at public lectures and on several occasions I've been compelled to run off stage. I've abandoned dates, walked out of exams and had breakdowns during job interviews, on plane flights, train trips and car rides, and simply walking down the street." Anxiety doesn't only overcome some people when something "big" happens. You can also be paralysed by fear when nothing at all threatens you. Stossel describes it thus: "On ordinary days, doing ordinary things - reading a book, lying in bed, talking on the phone, sitting in a meeting, playing tennis - I have thousands of times been stricken by a pervasive sense of existential dread and been beset by nausea, vertigo, shaking and a panoply of other physical symptoms. In these instances I've sometimes been convinced that death, or something somehow worse, was imminent: It even happened on his wedding day. Stossel describes what happened in painful detail: "Standing at the altar in a church in Vermont, waiting for my wife-to-be to come down the aisle to marry me, I start to feel horribly ill. Not just vaguely queasy but severely nauseated and shaky - and, most of all, sweaty. "The wedding reader's facial expressions have gone from registering mild concern to what appears to me to be unconcealed horror: is he going to die? I'm beginning to wonder that myself. For I've started to shake. I don't mean slight trembling, the sort of subtle tremor that would be evident only if I were holding a piece of paper - I feel like I'm on the verge of convulsing. Scott Stossel (pictured) is an American in his mid-forties with two kids, a solid marriage, and a job as editor of. prestigious magazine, The Atlantic. He conquered anxiety disorders and wrote a book about it: My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind.
LIFESTYLE ADVICE "I'm hoping that my pants are baggy enough to keep the trembling from being too visible. I'm leaning on my almost wife and she's doing her best to hold me up: 'I've sometimes been convinced that death, or something somehow worse, was imminent' SUFFERERS are usually aware their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants, but are unable to shake the feeling of dread. The disorder affects between 16 and 23 per cent of adult South Africans, according to a recent study published in the South African Journal of Psychiatry. But it doesn't have to take over your life, experts say. There are many types of anxiety disorder: Generalised (worrying even about small things) Catastrophising (turning small things into something big; always assuming the worst in a situation) Panic (acute episodes of intense and sudden physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, trouble breathing, nausea) Post-traumatic stress disorder (flashbacks or nightmares of a trauma, body being hyper-alert, avoiding reminders of the trauma) Social anxiety (fear of performance, meeting new people, eating or drinking in front of others) Simple phobia (fear of snakes, spiders, heights and so on) Obsessive compulsive disorder (compulsions to check, wash and so on) "Common to all is avoidance: Sandton clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde says. "We avoid what scares us - but over time this can shrink your life right down: For example, if you had a panic attack on a highway you may start to avoid all big roads then maybe anything with traffic on it until eventually you're housebound. "Anxiety disorders can be very debilitating: Johannesburg clinical psychologist Bradley Daniels says. "A person may end up losing their job as they're unable to make it function effectively at work." How do you live with these disorders? "Don't: is Dr Linde's advice. "You don't have to accept this is how it will always be - you weren't born with full-blown anxiety, rather a vulnerability to it, which has been triggered and can be worked on: The first step is to talk to your GP, Daniels says. "Your doctor will then refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. A psychologist can help you to gain insight into the cause of your anxiety, while a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help you manage it: A combination of therapy (talking about your problem) and medication is often the best way to treat anxiety, Daniels believes. The role of loved ones is important, Linde adds. "Separate the person from the anxiety; see it as a person who sometimes has GETTY IMAGES/CONTOUR COLLECTION/MIKE MCGREGOR anxiety controlling them. You can make plans to address the anxiety but remember the person is still to be respected and loved. "Stop enabling the anxiety, for example by 1 DONT SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF What you consider small may not be so minute in someone else's world."For someone with anxiety everything is big stuff' says Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in, Ohio, America. Try to approach them from a point of encouragement. If you were around when they experienced a previous panic attack, remind them that they managed overcome it. 2 CALM DOWN The debilitating problem with anxiety and panic disorders is you can't calm down. Finding the ability to relax - particularly on command - isn't easy for most people and it certainly can be more difficult for someone who is anxious. Offering to do something with a sufferer may be the best way to help, according to Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. Activities such as meditation, going for a walk or working out are all positive ways to help them to cope. 3 JUST DO IT When someone with anxiety is facing their fear, a little tough love may not have the effect you're hoping for. Instead of telling someone to"suck it up", practise empathy. Humphreys advises swopping pep-talk language for phrases such as "that's a terrible way to feel" or"I'm sorry you feel that way". It shows some understanding. 4 EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE Those with anxiety won't react to the comforting words in the way you may hope, Bea says. Unfortunately telling someone that everything is going to be all right' won't do much because nobody is going to believe it': "It's helpful to tell the person that the duration of the panic attacks aren't as long as they feel: advises Zane Wilson, founder and chairman of the South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group (Sadag). AN EXTRACT FROM MY AGE OF ANXIETY: FEAR, HOPE, DREAD AND THE SEARCH FOR PEACE OF MIND BY SCOTT STOSSEL, WILLIAM HEINEMANN, R331,31 AT KALAHARI.COM. © SCOTT STOSSEL 2014 EXTRA SOURCE THE HUFFINGTON POST, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM giving in to the need for reassurance in the case of obsessive compulsiveness, by phoning on their behalf or making excuses for them avoiding social interaction: "Consider timing the attacks -they'll be surprised to see how brief they are': 5 I'M STRESSED OUT TOO! You may be accidentally trivialising someone's struggle by creating a comparison. However, if you're stressed or suffering from a mild anxiety or panic disorder, Humphreys warns that camaraderie after a certain point can be dangerous. "It's important not to obsess with each other: he advises. Two people who are anxious may feed off each other' In order to promote healthier thoughts, distract yourself': clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde advises. Focus on something different - what you can see outside, a song on the radio, breathing, meditation, recalling in detail an event in the past such as a pleasant birthday celebration or holiday': 6 HAVE A DRINK - IT WILL TAKE YOUR MIND OFF IT Most people assume if someone has a few drinks that will take their anxiety away' Humphreys says. In the short term yes, perhaps it will, but in the longterm it can be a gateway for addiction. It's dangerous in the longterm because it can reinforce the anxiety' 7 DID I DO SOMETHING WRONG? It can be difficult when a loved one is constantly suffering and at times it can even feel as if your actions are somehow setting them off. It's important to remember panic and anxiety disorders stem from something larger than just one particular or minor instance, Humphreys says. "Accept you can't control another person's emotions': he adds. If you try to [control their emotions], you'll feel frustrated, your loved one suffering may feel rejected and you'll resent each other. It's important not to take their anxiety personally' It's also crucial to let your loved ones know there's a way to overcome any anxiety or panic disorder - and that you're supportive. SADAG RUNS SUPPORT GROUPS FOR ANXIETY SUFFERERS. FOR MORE INFO GO TO SADAG.ORG OR CALL 011-234-4837 BETWEEN 8 AM AND 8 PM SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. you.co.za 3 JULY 2014 43 SEVEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY