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Age of (Even More) Anxiety

To Worry Is Human; to Carry On, Divine


Worrying isn't necessarily bad. We're supposed to worry when the going gets tough. It's a natural process. But there's a line that's easily crossed.

"When a person worries more of the day than not, and more days of the week than not; when it is starting to make it difficult to carry out daily activities; or when it makes the day so stressful you have no energy left, it is time to seek help," Mennin says.

How much worry is too much?

"The question to be asked is, 'Do I really need to be losing sleep over this?'" Katz says. "'Is it serving me if I don't go to sleep? Do I really need to be up at the window looking out?' If you are having sleep problems, appetite loss, problems with energy -- how much is this bothering you? If anxiety is getting in the way of going about your daily life or worrying you so much you can't stop, it is time to seek help."

Katz stresses that seeking help doesn't mean defeat. These are hard times. Sometimes it takes a helping hand to get by.

"Getting help doesn't mean you have a psychological condition or that you're crazy," Katz says. "If you have a physical trauma that breaks a bone, it doesn't mean you have some pathology. It just means you need first aid. So for an emotional trauma, there is psychological first aid -- something to help you get through this."

Mennin notes that both psychotherapy and drug treatments are equally effective. As a clinical psychologist, he advises people to try therapy first. Rosenblatt says that people often have the wrong idea about what therapy is for.

"So many people come to a therapist or counselor to help them get rid of their anxiety," he says. "The therapist's job is not to do that but to help people cope with anxiety. Anxiety is a fact of life. We are concerned about the people we love dying and getting sick, about our jobs and homes and what's going on in the world. The therapist's job is not to make anxiety go away but to help people deal with it and go on in their lives in the best way they can. You help them cope with their anxiety but you can't eradicate it."

There's a lot one can do to deal with anxiety. All of the experts tell WebMD that activity is the most important thing.

"Worry serves a purpose -- it pulls us away from the immediate experience of the problem," Mennin says. "We run things in our head, but we don't act. People who worry all the time are always in their head. That is the problem. We have to move on with our lives. That's how we are able to live in times of uncertainty. That is the skill we learn. People have done this throughout history."

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