‘MAY’ THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
-Written by Dr. Sai Lavanya Patnala, Intern, Apollo Medical College, Hyderabad
May has been globally recognized as the Mental health awareness month. On the theme of ‘anxiety’, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is from 15 to 21 May.
According to Wikipedia, Anxiety is an emotion which is characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil and includes feelings of dread, uneasiness and worry, over anticipated events is often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination, muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, inability to catch one’s breath, tightness in the abdominal region, nausea, and problems in concentration. 
WHAT ARE THE COMMON ANXIETY DISORDERS?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
While anxiety is a common emotion that most people encounter in times of stress and danger, some people experience a range of anxiety disorders.
In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must be out of proportion to the situation and hinder one’s ability to function normally
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.
People with generalized anxiety disorder worry about ordinary issues such as health, money, work, and family. But their worries are excessive, and they have them almost every day for at least 6 months.
People with panic disorder have panic attacks. These are sudden, repeated periods of intense fear when there is no danger. The attacks come on quickly and can last several minutes or more and often accompanied by palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling of shortness of breath or smothering sensations, chest pain, feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint, feeling of choking, numbness or tingling, chills or hot flashes, nausea or abdominal pains and sometimes feeling detached, fear of losing control and fear of dying. Because the symptoms are so severe, many people who experience a panic attack may believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness. 
People with phobias have an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Their fear may be about spiders, flying, going to crowded places, or being in social situations (known as social anxiety).
HOW CAN ONE MANAGE ANXIETY?
There are several exercises and actions to help a person cope with milder, more focused, or shorter-term anxiety disorders, including stress management, relaxation techniques, maintaining support networks, physical exercise. Some may benefit from reducing caffeine intake, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, keeping a regular sleep pattern, regularly exercising and avoiding alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.
However, if the anxiety disorder is severe and disabling to a person’s daily life, a standard way of treating anxiety is psychological counselling. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies. CBT aims to recognize and change harmful thought patterns that form the foundation of anxious and troublesome feelings.
Medicines that might control some physical and mental symptoms include
- antidepressants like Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), fluoxetine, and citalopram
- benzodiazepines like Diazepam
- tricyclic antidepressants like Imipramine and clomipramine
- other drugs include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), beta-blockers and buspirone
Anxiety is not a medical condition but a natural emotion that is vital for survival when an individual faces danger. An anxiety disorder develops when this reaction becomes exaggerated or out-of-proportion to the trigger that causes it. An active lifestyle with a balanced diet can help keep anxious emotions within healthy limits 
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Remember that anxiety is natural feeling of daily life, and experiencing them does not always mean a disorder. In case you do experience overwhelming emotions of anxiety or other forms of mental turmoil, do not hesitate to seek help whether from a close friend or a professional.
Here’s a link providing information about various mental health foundations across India: https://www.thelivelovelaughfoundation.org/find-help/helplines
You may also reach out to KIRAN (1800-599-0019) a free help-line, developed by the Central Government of India’s Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, which aims to provide first-aid, psychological support and crisis management.