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I'm having a great deal of anxiety, coupled with occasional panic attacks. I'm wondering if there is anything natural that I can do in order to ease this general anxiety and feeling of stress without going on medication. I've felt this way for a long time, but it is starting to get to the point where it interrupts my daily routine and schedule. I'm concerned that I have GAD, but I do not want to go on medication if I can help it.
I'm sorry to hear of the situation. Medication is often not the preferred/first line treatment for anxiety disorders and depending on the nature of the symptoms you are experiencing there is every chance you can avoid using medication. Before proceeding further can you provide some information on the symptoms you are experiencing and why you believe you may have developed GAD?
Yes, sure. My symptoms are that I feel keyed up all the time. It's as if after a panic attack, I cannot come back to a normal state of mind, and instead feel like I'm on the verge of that panic happening again at any moment. I recently had a panic attack - on Thursday - and have not felt well since. I'm cloudy and feel as though something could go terribly wrong. I feel very nervous and start sweating profusely. I am also getting frustrated to the point where I feel like I need to go to the emergency room or something similar. This has happened before, and eventually I come down off the "high," but I am just so tired of this happening consistently. I have cut out all stimulants from my diet, including caffeine and alcohol, but that doesn't seem to be helping as of yet. When I'm having panic attacks, I feel light-headed and like nothing can help me. I just moved to a new place and started a new job in August, and I think that has possibly contributed to some of the exaggerated stress, but I still need something to change in order for me to feel better.
Thanks for the extra information. A core feature of GAD is chronic worrying about a range of issues. Worrying about everything from major life decisions to cleaning the house or cooking dinner on time most of the time, most days. If you don't experience great difficulty with worrying, and if you don't experience any other major symptoms then my initial suspicion would be that you are experiencing panic disorder.
Have you by chance experienced any major trauma in your life? For example, serious automobile accident or assault?
When I was a freshman in college I choked on a piece of food and had to be rushed to the emergency room to get it dislodged. I'm not sure if this counts, but after the event is when I first started having panic attacks. After that experience, I started feeling like I was choking every time that I would eat, and then that seemed to lead into more and more anxiety in other ares of my life. Even now, I still have that feeling of choking from time to time while I'm having a panic attack. It feels like at this point, I derive the most stress from worrying about having another panic attack like those that I've had in the past. It's as if I get fixated on that terrible feeling that i have had in the past, and cannot take my mind away from that moment and those feelings. After that happens, I stay tense and very upset for extended periods thereafter. I've noticed that when I have things to occupy my mind, my panic goes away. The busier I am, the less I worry and the better off I am. However, with my new job, I have a lot of down time and that seems to cause my mind to race wildly and return to those times where I've had panic attacks.
Ok, that information clarifies things for me greatly.
It's impossible to diagnose someone via JustAnswer but based on the information you have provided so far I would suspect that you are in fact suffering from Panic Disorder and not GAD. The core features of PD are repeated panic attacks and persistent fear of future attacks. This seems to match what you are experiencing. Panic attacks can start for a whole range of reasons and a frightening medical scare would easily explain the initial development of the problem.
The good news is that PD is very treatable and medication isn't actually recommended as the first line approach - so you can stay away from the meds!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely regarded as the gold standard treatment for Panic. CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through agoal-oriented, systematic procedure. CBT is technique-driven, brief, direct,and time-limited (normally 10-12 sessions). CBT is used in individual therapyas well as group settings, and the techniques are often adapted for self-helpapplications. I would strongly encourage you consider CBT as a treatment optionas I would expect you to benefit greatly from this approach. I would suggest you start by taking a look at this excellent CBT based self-help program here. It will teach you everything you need to know about anxiety, panic attacks, panic disorder and what you can do to manage your own symptoms. I use this material with patients regularly and I find it to be very helpful. Alternatively you can access some published CBT based self-help material to learn more about using CBT techniques. I can recommend the book Overcoming Panic. A Self Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, you can find it here .
If you decide that you need further help getting it all under control then I would suggest you consult with a CBT trained therapist. CBT is usually offered by Clinical Psychologists (although not exclusively) and you can contact the American Psychology Association for assistance with finding one near you. Take a look at theAmerican Psychology Association's locator service here. You can use this to find Psychologists in your area and there is a phone number you can contact if you want a referral arranged for you. Also, take a look at an article published by the APA here. It's an interview with a senior Psychologist and covers some of the things you should consider when you are looking for a Psychologist.
If you have any further questions or would like me to elaborate on any part of my answer please let me know. If not.....I wish you the best of luck!