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Understanding and Managing Anxiety Disorders

woman reflecting

Source: U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO

We all worry or feel anxious at times, but if these feelings interfere with daily activities you may want to check in with your health care provider. Being aware of your own anxiety symptoms or concerns and knowing what to do about them may help you stay mission ready.

Anxiety Disorders and their Symptoms

Anxiety is a feeling of fearfulness and uncertainty. Anxiety disorders last at least six months and can get worse if not addressed. Here is a list of common anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder – sudden attacks of intense fear and anxiety along with physical symptoms such as:

  • Pounding heart
  • Breathing problems
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain

Generalized Anxiety Disorder constant tension or worry you cannot control that interferes with daily activities. Symptoms may include feeling:

  • Tired
  • Tense
  • Agitated
  • Restless

Specific Phobia – intense fear of a certain situation, activity or object that poses little or no actual threat. Signs that you may have a phobia include:

  • Strong urge to escape when you are around what you fear
  • Trouble breathing
  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Chest tightening

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – stress-related reactions that follow a traumatic or life-threatening event that don’t go away or get worse. Symptoms may include:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • Always alert, on the lookout for danger
  • Negative changes in beliefs or feelings

Practical Tips

The following tips can help lessen anxiety:

  • Exercise
  • Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Meditate or pray
  • Accept that you cannot control everything
  • Share your anxiety triggers with family and friends  so they can help

Managing Anxiety Disorders
Talk with your health care provider to explore ways to manage your symptoms [PDF 807.3KB]. Treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy works to identify the anxiety trigger and change your thinking patterns that support the fear and your reactions to the fear. Examples of therapy your health care professional may use include cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.
  • Medications affect the chemicals in your brain linked with anxiety disorders to reduce the intensity of your anxiety and your symptoms.
  • Mindfulness Meditation teaches you to stay in the present moment and let go of anxious or negative thoughts.
  • Guided imagery promotes relaxation by creating a visual picture in your mind of a calm, safe place to reduce worry.  

Reaching out for help can help you stay mission ready and improve your relationships. Start a conversation on Real Warriors Live Chat or call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to speak with a trained health resource consultant. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), service members press 1.

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