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All About Anxiety

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Laura Tenbus

December 12, 2017
The holidays can be difficult, especially if you're experiencing anxiety. Time that is meant to bring joy and happiness may feel stressful and lonely. Anxiety can be either chronic (ongoing and long-term) or seasonal. Seasonal anxiety often starts in the fall and continues throughout the winter. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in your brain's serotonin and melatonin levels, which disrupts your mood and sleep patterns. Even though seasonal anxiety is temporary, it is no less serious than chronic anxiety and if you see symptoms in yourself, you should schedule an appointment to talk with your primary care physician (PCP).

It may be challenging to recognize whether your feelings are due to the increased stress of the season or if they indicate more serious anxiety. Here are some common symptoms that could mean you are experiencing more than normal levels of stress:
  • Feelings of nervousness or restlessness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble concentrating on everyday activities
  • Insomnia and/or fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
Depression can also be seasonal and often accompanies anxiety. Common symptoms of depression include:
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
If you aren't sure whether you're experiencing anxiety or depression, your PCP can help. The good news is that both of these conditions are treatable with a variety of options like practicing relaxation techniques, counseling or therapy sessions, increasing physical exercise, taking prescription medications, or a combination of all the above.

To serve our patients better, GBMC and Sheppard Pratt Health System formed a collaborative partnership in November 2016. The joint initiative embeds full-time licensed clinical social workers (also called behavioral health specialists) in nine of GBMC’s 10 primary care practices. They work alongside visiting Sheppard Pratt psychiatrists and substance use counselors (for prescribed and illegal substances) from Kolmac Outpatient Recovery Centers, who are available in all 10 practices. Having such specialists available in primary care practices serves to give patients much faster and more convenient service, along with the comfort of being treated in a familiar setting. It can also help to prevent unnecessary Emergency Room visits, where people may go when they mistake symptoms of stress and anxiety for something like a heart attack.

If you suspect that someone you know is going through anxiety or depression, is using prescribed or illegal substances to cope, or is having the symptoms listed above, support them by being receptive and listening. Remind them that anxiety and depression are more common than they may think and there is no shame in seeking treatment. Encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor, and if they are hesitant or uncomfortable, offering to go with them can make all the difference in the world.

For more information about GBMC's primary care providers, visit
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