When you’re worried about worrying: With proper treatment, anxiety doesn’t have to be something you’re afraid of

It’s normal to experience anxiety, especially at pivotal moments such as the purchase of a house, a job change, or a move to a new city. The strain associated with these events typically passes after several weeks, once you’ve adjusted to the new situation. If you find yourself worrying all of the time, however—particularly about things you know aren’t that big of a deal—it could be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a potentially debilitating condition that can last for months or years while impairing your physical health, your relationships, and your career. “When excessive anxiety or worry occurs for at least six months, that’s when we know it could be GAD,” says Andrea Hess, MS, LPC-IT, SAC-IT, Employee Assistance Program Counselor for Prevea Health. “Sometimes people are aware that they’re worrying too much and may even experience symptoms, such as nausea, migraines, or rapid breathing.”

PARENTHOOD, ANXIETY, AND DEPRESSION
Becoming a parent—with all of the physical, chemical, and financial changes that take place—is a common time for people to develop a heightened level of anxiety. “Baby blues,” or the feelings of unhappiness or fatigue women experience shortly after giving birth, are also typical. And the two conditions can often accompany each other. “In general, half of the people who develop major depressive disorder (MDD) in the period leading up to or after the birth of their child also develop an anxiety disorder,” Hess says. “When the anxiety continues beyond that period, it may develop into GAD.”

To reduce stress, Hess recommends preparation: Gathering information through classes, books, and other resources helps to calm the fears associated with this life-changing endeavor. Similarly, making a plan by identifying potential challenges, strategies, and members of your support system will increase your ability to cope when the big day arrives. If symptoms of anxiety or MDD occur, don’t hesitate to seek help from your doctor or therapist. Medications, counseling services, and dialectical or cognitive behavioral therapies can help you overcome the challenges associated with depression and anxiety.

“Each person has a different response to treatment,” Hess says. “But if you’re attending regular therapy appointments and taking medications as prescribed, anxiety will generally start to loosen its grip after two months.”

To learn more about the behavioral health services offered at HSHS Sacred Heart, call 715.717.4272 or visit sacredhearteauclaire.org/medical-services/behavioral-health.

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