By Chris Mathe, PhD

Everyone feels anxious at times. Anxiety in fact is a normal and helpful part of life. It alerts us, helps us organize ourselves, mobilize our resources and take action. For example, a person interviewing for a job who feels no anxiety may not prepare adequately or the student without any anxiety may not study enough.

Anxiety only becomes a problem when it overwhelms us – and has the opposite effect. Then it puts us in a chronic state of arousal or hyper-arousal which causes us to be disorganized, immobilized and unable to take action.

If you are struggling with anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders affect 38 million Americans. 10% of Americans every year have a panic attack out of blue. Some signs that anxiety has become overwhelming are:

  • You feel anxious or tense much of the time.
  • You feel anxious when no danger is present.
  • The anxiety interferes with your daily life.
  • You take extreme steps to avoid situations because of your anxiety.


  • Learn as much as your can – educate yourself.
  • Seek the support of trusted family member or friend.
  • Keep a positive attitude, knowing anxiety is very treatable and many persons have learned to manage similar anxieties.
  • Contact a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. Dont’ feel embarrassed about asking for help.
  • If you have developed other problems secondary to the anxiety disclose them and discuss these concerns too. For example, if you’ve become depressed or have had thoughts of giving up or started to drink or abuse drugs.
  • Join a support group to share tips and strategies and inspiration.

It is important that you realize that admitting you have a problem with anxiety is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is the same concept as seeking medical help for other illnesses is a sign of good judgment and following a healthy lifestyle and diet is a sign of self esteem and self respect.

It is not helpful for loved ones or doctors to say “It’s just nerves,” “Relax,” or “Have a drink and mellow out.”

Family and friends need to be supportive (and certainly never tease the person), but also not overlook or ignore the anxiety or encourage the person to avoid situations because of it.