Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, can have serious consequences for sufferers and their loved ones. But fortunately, there are treatments to control them.
Being in good health implies not only a state of physical well-being, but also mental. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively […], and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” To stay in good mental health, we must find a balance between the different aspects of our life.
There are several types of mental illnesses, anxiety disorders being among them. Their common feature is a state of intense and exaggerated anxiety that overwhelms a person’s existence. This anxiety translates into feelings of physical or mental discomfort and interferes with the individual’s capacity to engage in activities at home, work, or in a social setting.
Anxiety disorders include, in particular, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. Around 1 in 4 adults will suffer from anxiety disorders during their lifetime. Currently, about 10% of Canadians live with an anxiety disorder. These disorders, like physical diseases, can affect anyone, regardless of sex, race, or social status.
Often, people suffering from anxiety do not ask for help because they are ashamed, frightened of prejudices, or don’t realize that they are ill. To be properly diagnosed and treated, it is important to see a doctor if anxiety affects your daily life. The doctor will take the time to ask you questions, conduct a thorough examination, and order tests if necessary. It is very important to note and mention all your symptoms and when they appear to get an accurate diagnosis.
Several symptoms may be present, such as:
- chest pain;
- shortness of breath;
- excessive sweating;
- recurring thoughts;
The treatments generally offered include psychotherapy and anti-anxiety drugs. The same treatment may not be suitable for everyone, so it is important that it is adapted to your needs. The most frequently used drugs in anxiety disorders are antidepressants (used in this case to treat anxiety), sometimes combined with anxiolytics. These drugs re-establish the balance between neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, which are partly responsible for the symptoms of anxiety disorders. It can take a few weeks before you feel the effects of the treatment. It is important to continue taking your medication. You must be patient. Abrupt discontinuation of the drug may worsen symptoms.
The drugs used to treat anxiety disorders can produce side-effects such as:
- dry mouth;
- difficulty sleeping;
- weight gain or loss;
These side-effects are temporary and will go away with time. But if they persist and are very unpleasant, speak to your healthcare professional or doctor. Often, side-effects can be managed, either by reducing the dosage of the drug or changing the prescription.
Tips for good mental health
In addition to the treatments already mentioned, here are some tips to remain in good mental health:
- Adopt healthy lifestyle habits: eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Maintain harmonious relationships with the people around you, such as your family, friends, and colleagues.
- Develop strategies to cope with stress.
- Find hobbies and pastimes that you enjoy.
- Get support from your loved ones or specialized organizations in difficult times.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who can guide you to the right mental health resources. They can also support you all through your treatment. Don’t hesitate to consult one. And don’t forget that good mental hygiene helps you stay balanced!