Living with Anxiety

  • Topic Info:"Fear ambushes me."

    Those words, written by Andrea Petersen in her book, On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety, resonate with many individuals.

    Andrea was a sophomore in college when she had her first noticeable encounter with anxiety. One moment she felt fine. The next, her heart rate spiked, she was short of breath and broke into a sweat, and was experiencing visual changes. She had an overwhelming terror that she was about to die.

    At the time, had no idea what she'd experienced was a panic attack. For the next month or so, she experienced those intense physical sensations and dread.

    Unfortunately, Andrea was not diagnosed correctly for a full year. 

    That was in 1990. There is more awareness now among the medical and general communities as to what anxiety entails. But, anxiety also manifests in physical symptoms that can mirror other conditions and confuse a definitive diagnosis.

    So many different factors can contribute to anxiety, including:

    • Childhood trauma or illness (e.g., asthma or bronchitis)
    • Adult trauma
    • Certain kinds of parenting
    • Genetics
    • High-reactive temperament
    In the throes of anxiety, individuals may come off as selfish, because they're so consumed with their own worry and fear that they have no time or energy for anyone else. Andrea describes it as being in an isolation chamber, separated from those you love.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one way to address symptoms. With CBT, you systematically and gradually expose yourself to the very things you're scared of in order to prove to yourself that the terrible things you believe will happen won't.

    Varieties of medication can also be helpful in the appropriate situations. Some medications work immediately to address panic attacks. 

    Natural techniques including yoga, mindfulness meditation, massage, or anything that grounds you in the present moment can help prevent relapse of attacks. One of the activities Andrea finds comfort and ease in is baking.

    Quality sleep is imperative for reducing both frequency and duration of anxiety spells.

    Listen as Andrea shares her own personal journey with anxiety, as well as options for managing symptoms in daily life.
  • Book Title: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety
  • Host: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH