October 30, 2019
“Anxiety is more than just worrying,” said Paige Parish, LICSW, social worker in the Office of Case Management and Social Services at University Medical Center. Parish spoke to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Mini-Medical School participants on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
UMC is operated by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences.
Anxiety is caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and environment, Parish said. A lot of people don’t know that there are many different types of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are all considered anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is the most common mental health illness with 40 million Americans currently seeking treatment for anxiety. Parish said the good news is that 90% of cases are considered extremely treatable. Some options for treatment include self-care, alternative natural treatments, psychotherapy and medications.
Parish said some stress in life is good. It is healthy to have motivating stress, but when it is constant, overwhelming or inhibits activities of daily life it becomes a problem that if ignored can affect the way we think about things and perceive the world around us, she said.
The largest factions of mental health support are informal supports. Informal supports include self-care such as taking a walk or reading; and informal community care, such as being part of a group that shares your interests. Formal supports are resources such as counseling, consultations with a doctor, and therapeutic support groups.
“Part of anxiety is can be feeling like you’re out of control,” Parish said. Taking steps to seek support, either formal or informal, can help reinstate feelings of stability and safety.
This can be especially important for geriatric patients who experience consistent changes in the social, physical, and mental arenas of their lives. Maintaining daily activities, getting enough sleep and keeping a balanced social life can help avoid developing a cycle of unhealthy stress.
It is essential for patients to manage their anxiety as it can exacerbate other mental and physical conditions like high blood pressure and insomnia.
The Mini Medical School Program, a partnership of the College and UA’s OLLI Program, features lectures provided by College faculty physicians about current topics, issues and advances in medicine and health. OLLI is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 and older.