How to Live a Full Life with Chronic Anxiety
Is it possible to live a full and happy life even with chronic anxiety? It’s a question that I’ve been asked about a lot, and a question I continue to try to answer.
One of the most overpowering fears when it comes to chronic anxiety syndrome is how quickly, and how easily it might change your life. It pains me to think how many times I felt my life slipping away from me because of my condition.
I would lock myself in my apartment, days at a time at worse; because I feared that I would unravel as soon as I stepped out into the open world – like a spool of thread that had slipped out of the seamstresses’ hand.
At the height of my chronic anxiety, I felt lost and out of control. My heart would palpitate seemingly out of nowhere, and I would sweat profusely, as if every single pore in my body was an open dam of water. But the manifestations of my chronic anxiety disorder were much worse mentally than they were physically.
During my many chronic panic attacks, I felt paranoid and unsure of myself. And though those feelings normally creep up on normal people; this feeling felt like an avalanche in my psyche, bull dozing through my conscious self with violent force.
Though I would eventually become determined to take control of my chronic anxiety, it would be a long time before I could come to terms with my condition. For the longest time I felt robbed of my own life. I was held hostage by anxiety; unable to tell when it would trigger next, trapped in a shell built by my own fears.
However, after a long while of therapy and support from the people around me, I discovered that living a full life with chronic anxiety wasn’t only possible, it was attainable.
What a Full Life Means Under Chronic Anxiety
When a person struggles with chronic anxiety, it’s common to want to live a life free of it. A lot of chronic anxiety sufferers strive to live the life they had before the condition. For those of us who only know a life of anxiety, we look to our friends and family as barometers for what it means to lead a “full life”. I used to think of any excuse possible to skip out on any social gathering with even a handful of strangers. But at the same time, I envied my friends who could socialize on a whim. I consider myself lucky that they’ve still considered me a friend after all these years, especially since I would be the first to admit that I probably didn’t deserve it. Read More
For many people living a “full life” means doing whatever you want. But even for people without chronic anxiety disorder, that just isn’t possible. Every one lives under rules and restrictions, whether it be laws or social guidelines. People misunderstand that a “full life” is a life without limits and boundaries; especially for people with chronic anxiety. But through my many years of chronic anxiety, I’ve come to realize that this shouldn’t be the case at all.
Chronic anxiety does have the potential to rob us of our lives. It keeps us from having meaningful relationships, and it prevents us from excelling from our careers. But suffering from this kind of condition doesn’t make us any different, or any worse than anyone else in the world. Because of this, I’ve come to realize that living a “full life” doesn’t mean living a life free of restrictions, instead it means living a life outside of the control of anxiety.
For sufferers of chronic anxiety, many (if not all) of our decisions are made around our anxiety. We fear the triggers of a chronic panic attack, and we fear it catching us at the least opportune moment (which is usually the case).
This fear is both paralyzing and detrimental to our lives. While other people make decisions based on what’s right for their family, for their career, and for themselves, we’re suddenly stuck with appeasing an unwanted psychological house guest – chronic anxiety.
But as I mentioned earlier, there are ways to live a “normal” and “full life” with chronic anxiety. It is different from “curing” the condition entirely (which I usually talk about other in other posts), but it is definitely a key step to making sure that we take control of our anxiety and not the other way around.
The next sections of this article will cover a good number of possible treatments to help you curb the effects of chronic anxiety. The sections cover both the natural and medical means of alleviating the manifestations of anxiety. And whether you decide to take medication or natural treatments to deal with your chronic anxiety disorder; it’s best that you first research the possible effects, side effects and conditions of each of these treatments.
Medication for Chronic Anxiety
Most sufferers of chronic anxiety usually take medication to curb the effects of their condition. There are specific drugs on the market that relieve the symptoms and manifestations of anxiety that are usually considered to be detrimental.
Anxiety can normally be felt through hot or cold flashes, copious sweating, sleeping disorders, palpitations, and sweaty palms among a host of other symptoms. It can affect our ability to think, act and socialize.
Listed below are a number of drugs and medications that can help get your life back on track, if only temporarily. But before taking any of them, it’s important to consult your physician first to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Effective in the treatment of chronic anxiety, the effects of benzodiazepine can immediately be felt in just a little over a week of use. Benzodiazepines tend to work quickly, with a reduction in anxiety being observed in a few days, with an overall improvement being observed in a little over a month. Drugs like benzodiazepines curb chronic anxiety by greatly reducing brain activity and temporarily relieving anxiety.
However, the side effects of this particular drug are very powerful. Patients can feel sluggish and lethargic, overly sedated (a direct result of a slowed and hampered mind). Other side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, clumsiness, confusion, dizziness, memory loss and even depression, nausea and impaired vision. On top of that, benzodiazepines can become addictive over time, and the drug greatly loses its effectivity after regular use.
Benzodiazepines are normally taken during a chronic panic attack or on top of overwhelming anxiety episodes since the effects can be felt rather quickly (no more than an hour after self-medication). Still reliance on this particular drug should be taken under extreme caution due to its addictive potential.
An alternative to benzodiazepines are antidepressants. These kinds of drugs are the usual preference due to the dramatically lower risk of dependency and addiction. The risk of abuse with anti-depressants is also much lower than that of benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, the potency of antidepressants is also much lower than benzodiazepines. It takes as long as a month to a month and half to feel the initial effects of antidepressants. Because of this antidepressants can not act like “chill pills” in the same way that benzodiazepines can be used.
A major problem with anti-depressants, despite their wide spread use among the public, is that they carry with it a “suicide risk”. Anti-depressants are required by the Federal Drug Association to be stamped with a clear warning of suicidal tendencies as a side effect. Suicidal thoughts, hostility and agitation are common side effects of anti-depressants, which can be more harmful than helpful for people suffering from chronic anxiety. On top of these side-effects, nervousness, headaches, drowsiness and weight gain are also very common when taking antidepressants. Because of this, use of anti-depressants needs to be heavily moderated and monitored by a licensed physician.
Although beta blockers are normally used to treat people who suffer from high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, beta blockers can also be used to treat and curb the effects of chronic anxiety. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of norepinephrine, a particular hormone that regulates our response to anxiety-inducing scenarios. This helps control the physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, a trembling voice, sweating, dizziness, and shaky hands.
Since beta blockers work in alleviating anxiety on a mental level, unlike benzodiazepines that are taken during the onset of an anxiety episode, beta-blockers can be taken in anticipation of an anxiety inducing scenario (such as a social gathering). Beta-blockers can help soothe the nerves of a chronic anxiety sufferer to avoid an anxiety inducing event. However, beta blockers also come with their own list of possible side effects including light-headedness, sleepiness and nausea.
Despite the long list of side effects from these drugs, there’s a reason why medication is a popular choice in alleviating chronic anxiety. I personally went through a phase of trying out all possible medication, finding myself particularly inclined towards anti-depressants. When taken under moderation, and under the supervision of licensed physicians, these kinds of medication can go a long way in living a full life, free of anxiety.
However, the threat of being dependent on these drugs is a very real concern, and making sure that you are in control of the drugs (instead of the other way around) is a very big reason to remain vigilant.
Natural Chronic Anxiety Treatments
Despite the effectivity of chronic anxiety medication, a lot of patients feel that their side effects can cause more pain than harm, especially when it comes to living a normal life recovering from the effects of chronic anxiety disorder.
As an alternative, there are a good number of natural chronic anxiety treatments available to the public. A good number of them do not even require prescription or supervision of any physician (although it is always recommended to consult with one first to make sure that the necessary steps are taken to make sure that your condition is alleviated and not aggravated).
Diets that Curb Chronic Anxiety
In my efforts to alleviate my chronic anxiety and live a full life, I discovered that there is a lot of truth to the idea that “you are what you eat”. Your diet has a great effect on both your physical well-being and your mental health. Modifications to your diet and your eating habits can go a long way to alleviating anxiety, as well as minimizing the chances of an eventual panic attack.
Steering clear of caffeinated drinks is one clear example of how you can curb chronic anxiety. Although most people begin their days with a shot of energy-inducing caffeine, caffeine can have adverse side-effects to serotonin levels (which have everything to do with depression and anxiety).
On the other hand, increasing your complex carbohydrates (rice, pasta and potatoes) may go a long way in making you feel happier, lighter, and less stressed and anxious. Although these foods are usually avoided when it comes to losing weight (or traditional diets), complex carbohydrates release hormones that keep you happy and worry-free, drastically lowering anxiety levels.
Unfortunately, not all comfort foods are recommended. Sugary foods such as chocolates, cakes and desserts can cause a burst of sugar-laden energy; unfortunately, the impending sugar crash can leave you feeling depressed, anxious and low. Avoiding them altogether (or in large doses) can help you manage your anxiety.
Herbs and Supplements that Curb Chronic Anxiety
On top of dietary changes, there is a wide variety of herbs and supplements that can help alleviate chronic anxiety:
Chamomile has been largely recognized as an effective natural sleeping aid, and can be taken in tea form to help relax both the mind and tense muscles. Chamomile is a great natural anti-anxiety herb and is completely healthy and organic.
More potent herbs like Kava-Kava and Valerian Root can also work to alleviate anxiety and act as an effective sleep aid. However, their potency and possible allergic reactions make it difficult to openly recommend to just about anyone.
Passion Flower is another herb that has a profound effect on tension, sleeplessness and anxiety. However it is incredibly potent in contrast to other herbs and supplements.
However, a good number of these herbs and supplements also come with their own set of side effects (especially the more potent herbs like Passion Flower). Side effects include dizziness, confusion and drowsiness. When it comes to taking these natural remedies, it’s best that you first consult with your physician.
Though these natural treatments are not as potent as their medical counterparts, they can be very effective in allowing you to live a full life free of the effects and manifestations of chronic anxiety.