Mr. AS is a 30 years old executive working in a Multi National Company. He suffers from anxiety disorders & therefore avoids traveling which is actually an integral part of his job. His condition is not only effecting his career growth, he is also missing out on simple pleasures of his life. The very thought of traveling away from home gives him jitters. His mind is flooded with thinking about the negative consequences, like 'What if the plane crashes or I get unwell while on board or the weather gets bad?'. His family is also troubled as their travel plans get disturbed in accordance.
For him, it is not just about the flight, but also about traveling alone, being in a crowded place, being in a closed space, using a lift, going to a cinema hall.
He is not the only one who suffers from such a problem. Anxiety disorders are quite common. People suffering from such anxiety disorders often present at the OPDs of a hospital with symptoms like restlessness, fast heartbeats, excessive sweating, tremors or shakiness, choking, breathless , nausea or dizziness, twitches or odd sensations across the body. Sufferers often take fast shallow breaths, as a result there is a fall in the levels of carbon dioxide which triggers fall in blood calcium levels leading to tetany / odd contracture of hands and twitches. Anxiety can also manifest as increased frequency of passing urine, irritable bowel, lowered appetite, frequent unexplained vomiting, significant weight loss, lowered immunity and frequent infections.
It is important to understand the following facts:
-Mind and body are interlinked through neurochemicals, hormones and immune system.
-Anxiety related disorders are treatable
-Proper comprehensive assessment and psychiatric treatment can provide significant help.
- Psychiatric medication can help boost the brain serotonin level helping in correction of negative thinking patterns and correction of anticipatory anxiety
-Psychotherapy and relaxation techniques help in providing relief. Try to challenge the negative thought processes by more meaningful, logical and positive thoughts. Try to live in the present moment and adopt a problem solving approach.
-One should avoid use of alcohol or drugs of abuse, as the risk of dependence on them is high and such dependence can further add on to the morbid state.
-Avoid fizzy drinks as they contain compressed CO2. Also avoid excessive coffee use as they are associated with panic anxiety. -Avoid negative comparisons.
-Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Try to maintain healthy sleep-wake cycle, work-life balance, healthy eating habits, engage in regular healthy exercises, and take out time for relaxation, hobbies, and yoga. Try to work in a balanced way towards satisfying healthy goals of life.
Try to live a life free of unfounded or illogical fears. Try to enjoy the present moment in a healthy manner. Learn to face and address your fears, rather than running away from such situations. I cherish the memory of a confident air hostess who walked up to me, while on board, and reminded me that she had once been my patient and sought treatment for flight anxiety.
Hope, faith, determination and a solution based approach are the strings, holding which you can defeat your unfounded and illogical fears. So be a winner!
Dr. Sameer Malhotra
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist & Drug De-addiction Specialist
Director - Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Max Healthcare