HED: Free screenings to be offered for possible anxiety disorders
By Marty Russell
All of us at some point in life have feelings of anxiety brought on by frightening situations such as getting up in front of a group to speak or going to the dentist.
But for a large number of people, anxieties can be so debilitating they can’t work or, in extreme cases, even leave the house.
“It gets to the point where it interferes with their habits and their lifestyles,” said Gail Wood, customer service representative for North Mississippi Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Center. “People can be anxious about many different things. Agoraphobics are afraid of going outside or being in public, and it gets to the point where they can’t leave the house. People with panic disorders can be driving down the street and think they’re having a heart attack because that’s what the symptoms are like.”
It is estimated that about 25 percent of Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder at some point in their life. However, only about a quarter of that number seek treatment. The lack of treatment cost the economy an estimated $46.6 billion in 1990 in worker absenteeism, job losses and alcohol/substance abuse.
To raise awareness of the help that is available for anxiety sufferers, the Behavioral Health Center will offer free anxiety screenings from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. today as part of National Anxiety Disorders Screening Day. The screenings will involve viewing a videotape on anxiety disorders, completing a screening questionnaire and meeting privately with a mental health professional to review the questionnaire and receive information.
“The screening gives us an opportunity to determine if that person might be experiencing an anxiety disorder,” Wood said.
Some examples of anxiety disorders and their symptoms include:
– Present anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder: Persistent and excessive anxiety and worry that lasts at least six months, accompanied by physical behavioral symptoms such as irritability, muscle tension, aches, soreness, restlessness or feeling on edge, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances.
– Panic disorder: A sudden, uncontrollable attack of terror that can manifest itself with heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and an out-of-control or frightened feeling.
– Obsessive compulsive disorder: Obsessions are repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts. Compulsions are ritual behaviors that relieve the anxiety. A common obsession is fear of dirt, germs or contamination and a common compulsion is excessive cleaning, counting, double-checking and hoarding.
– Phobia: A persistent, intense and irrational fear associated with a particular object or situation that leads to avoidance of that object or situation.
– Social phobia: A persistent fear in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating.
– Post-traumatic stress disorder: Caused when someone experiences a severely distressing or traumatic event; individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome become so preoccupied with the event they are unable to lead a normal life.
Most anxiety disorders can be treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
“With treatment, these illnesses do not have to affect a person’s quality of life,” Wood said. “By creating awareness of anxiety disorders, we hope these screenings will help increase the number of people who seek help and get treatment for this illness.”