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Hope and Help for Anxiety Disorders

You are not alone.

Anxiety is one of the most common mood concerns among patients, and among the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor.  Almost one in three adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.   Anxiety may be common, but it is also a real daily challenge for people with anxiety and their families.  The exact cause of anxiety is not fully known, though we think hormones, genetics, and your environment and circumstances can all play a role.

Symptoms of chronic anxiety may include:

  • Chronic worry (about specific things or about nothing in particular)
  • Chronic stress
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble focusing
  • Muscle tension or headaches

Panic Attacks:

If you have anxiety, you may also experience panic attacks. Though these episodes are brief, they can be scary.  Symptoms of a panic attack can include:

  • An increase in your heart rate (feeling like your heart is pounding in your chest)
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or trembling in your arms, legs, fingers or toes
  • A feeling of doom

There are treatments available to help you cope with anxiety:

  • Counseling. Professional counselors or therapists trained in anxiety-reduction techniques, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), can help you change the way you think and respond to specific things that make you anxious.
  • Medication. There are two kinds of medication that can help with anxiety.
  1. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, or Zoloft.
  2. SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), such as Effexor and Cymbalta.

Helpful changes to try in your own life to reduce anxiety:

  • Exercise. Regular exercise has been shown to be great for all mood concerns, not just anxiety.
  • Kava. a plant from the South Pacific, has been shown to be helpful for anxiety. Please tell your doctor if you plan on taking kava because one of its possible side effects is liver damage.
  • Yoga. There are yoga resources on the Internet and plenty of yoga studios throughout Maine.
  • Deep breathing. The 4,7,8 breathing technique is a great tool to quickly reduce your level of anxiety.

To start, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle four times and your anxiety level should be lower than when you started. Practice this technique at least twice daily for the biggest benefit.     


Ben Hagopian, MD, MPH is originally from Massachusetts. He completed his college education at Tufts University in Medford, MA and his medical and public health education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He completed his family medicine residency at Maine Medical Center in 2014 and a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at Maine Medical Center in 2016.  He now works as a primary care provider at Western Maine Primary Care and Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Maine.

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