Study: Children with myopia more likely to have depression, anxiety – Optometry Times

A recent study by Orbis International reports that children with myopia experienced significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety than their peers without vision impairment.

Children with myopia experience significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety than their peers without vision impairment, according to a recent study conducted by Orbis International.

Additional findings concluded that surgery to correct strabismus significantly improved symptoms of depression and anxiety in pediatric patients.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Ophthalmology, the study deepens clinicians’ understanding of the link between vision impairment, strabismus and children’s mental health.

An estimated 19 million children across the globe below the age of 14 years have vision impairment or are blind, according to an Orbis International news release published last month.

While the prevalence of eye disorders, depression, and anxiety is lower among children than adults, these conditions pose a greater risk to pediatric patients when they are not identified and corrected promptly, the release stated.

Resilient mental health is an important requirement for children to thrive, according to Nathan Congdon, director of Research at Orbis International. As seen in these new findings, he stressed that mental health can be negatively impacted if a child has a vision impairment.

“With this research, Orbis has pulled together for the first time the kind of convincing evidence that can help spur governments to action on children’s vision,” Congdon stated in the release. “These results are all the more compelling because the very strongest evidence we found for impact on mental health was among kids with near-sightedness, treatable with a simple pair of glasses.”

According to the release, the research can have profound implications for health care planners when allocating resources and designing interventions to curb vision impairment.

An example of this includes the instance where, in some countries,
strabismus surgery is seen as a cosmetic procedure and excluded from insurance coverage, which then leaves families forced to pay out-of-pocket.

Such challenges could disuade patients of low socioeconomic status from seeking treatment and keep the mental health benefits of corrective surgery out-of-reach.

According to researchers, further randomized controlled trials exploring the impact of public health measures for myopia correction on mental health in children are needed. Scaling up access to strabismus surgery could improve the mental health of affected children.

Should Children Be Screened For Anxiety? – DISCOVER Magazine

If you’ve felt yourself worrying more in the past few years, you’re definitely not alone. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of depression and anxiety surged by an astounding 25 percent, according to a 2022 report by the World Health Organization. Children, unfortunately, are not immune to this worrying trend, either: More than five million 3-to-17-year-olds in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with anxiety, the most common mental health issue. 

In response to this, the United States Preventative Task Force has issued a draft of guidelines recommending that kids as young as eight years old should be screened for anxiety. Not all experts agree, however, that this is necessarily the best course of action.  

Judith Anderson, a health psychologist at the University of Toronto in Canada, says there’s a big difference between feeling on edge every so often and clinical anxiety. While the former is simply part of life, people with anxiety disorders often struggle with intense, disruptive worries about everyday scenarios for prolonged periods of time.

“We must remember that it is normal to experience unease. As humans, we have periods of time where things are not great and we may feel anxiety and low mood, but this is normal and dissipates within a few weeks,” says Anderson. “The self-care culture and consumerism give the message that if we experience any ounce of anxiety or low mood, suddenly, we need serious intervention.” 

None of this is to say that young people aren’t experiencing higher rates of mental health issues brought on by the loneliness of lockdowns, she says. “Social isolation, fear of the unknown, pandemic, negative media, societal instability and doom scrolling have all contributed it,” she says. 

Unraveling Anxiety

Just as with adults, anxiety in children can take many forms. It can manifest as fear when they’re separated from their parents, and certain phobias are also commonplace. Anxiety could also take the form of an intense panic attack, or coalesce into a generalized worry of bad things that might happen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10 percent of children between 3 and 17 years of age around 5.8 million had diagnosed, clinical anxiety from 2016 to 2019.

But screening every child in the nation for anxiety might not be the best use of resources. “If we look to the research on general health scans, they aren’t recommended. In past years, companies were offering full body health scans to individuals to see if there was anything lurking in their body,” says Anderson. “Little things do show up on these scans and then the doctors are left with the responsibility to do something about it.” That can mean intrusive testing or surgery for things that would usually clear up on their own after a while.  

A 2019 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked into the financial cost of such overtreatment in the United States, concluding that the figure lies somewhere between $75.7 billion and $101.2 billion. (That’s roughly the equivalent of the entire gross domestic product of New Mexico.) Anderson fears that such a broad strokes strategy to mental health could yield similar waste.  

“More harm came from these health scans than good. People ended up with complications from the treatment or invasive procedures to remove something that would never have caused them harm if they left it alone,” says Anderson. “I believe the same type of issues could be raised by screening every child for anxiety from such a young age.” 

Instead, Anderson advises parents to communicate closely with their kids and try to get them involved in social activities once again now that pandemic restrictions are lifted. It’s also important to monitor their social media to make sure they aren’t consuming unhealthy content too much research has shown that doomscrolling is especially harmful to teens.   

“If the child continues to worry excessively, or show other types of concerning symptoms then of course, seek therapeutic assistance,” she says, adding that most children will bounce back without any problems as they’re integrated into normal activities again. “But constant or routine screening may bring up issues that keep the child focused on negative emotion and unease.” 

How neurotherapy helps put anxiety in its place – The Seattle Times

In the United States, more than 40 million people suffer daily with the effects of anxiety. Sometimes the symptoms can be debilitating. Research shows that left untreated, anxiety can actually alter the structure of your brain. The parts of the brain that regulate rational thinking, concentration and other cognitive functions can shrink, causing the brain to overreact to stress, affecting the entire body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there is significant evidence that neurofeedback treatment, a noninvasive means of electronically measuring brain waves and retraining the brain for better emotional regulation, can be particularly helpful in soothing generalized anxiety disorder.

“Anxiety appears in the brain as increased low amplitude, high frequency activity known as beta waves. In excess this causes a person to be nervous, on edge and to fidget,” says M. Antoinette Walker, a counselor and neurotherapist at Think Bright Therapy in Seattle. “The goal of neurofeedback is to teach the client how to regulate their brain state. When the brain is regulated, it produces an increase in high amplitude, slower frequency alpha waves which aids in relaxation, decreasing beta waves.”

What is neurotherapy?

Neurotherapy is a combination of neurofeedback, biofeedback and talk therapy. Neurofeedback, also referred to as EEG biofeedback, teaches self-control of brain functions by measuring brain activity with sensors placed on the scalp. The sensors read the cortical level activity of the brain and provides auditory and visual feedback to the client. As the client progresses, the clinician adjusts the level of difficulty to advance the brain to an optimal state. This evidenced-based intervention combines rewiring the brain at a cellular level with other therapeutic methods, such as breathing techniques to reduce stress and anxiety.

“Neurofeedback is an excellent complement to talk therapy,” says Walker, who specializes in substance use disorders, anxiety, depression and trauma. “Before, during and after neurofeedback training, the clinician assesses the client’s biological, emotional, physical and social well-being. The clinician may teach the client cognitive skills to help reframe their thinking, increase positive emotions and emotional awareness, and teach them self-regulation through neurofeedback and breathing skills. They may also address self-care needs, such as exercise and nutrition.” 

Neurofeedback can be used to treat numerous physical and mental health concerns, including substance use disorders, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, trauma, addictions, panic attacks, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress, as well as being beneficial for peak performance training.

How neurofeedback treats anxiety

Studies show that the level of anxiety can be effectively measured by neurofeedback, and lowered over time. The amount of time depends on factors including age, the severity of the condition and the frequency of treatment sessions.

Clients learn to alter their brainwaves to produce the desired effects the same way they master any other new skill — through repetition and feedback. For best outcomes, Walker recommends two 30-minute sessions per week for 15 weeks. We all learn at different rates, “no two brains are the same. As a result, an individualized protocol is developed to specifically address the client’s needs.”

The types of neurofeedback training that Walker practices includes amplitude training, infra low frequency, and Alpha Theta training. The first step in neurofeedback amplitude training involves obtaining a brain map, also known as a quantitative electroencephalogram. This baseline guides the clinician in developing a protocol by identifying the location of dysregulated currents, a key factor in treatment.

Neurofeedback takes advantage of the brain’s plasticity, which encourages and reinforces new neuropathways. This treatment can both retrain the brain and significantly reduces a return to the old pathway patterns. This training results in the formation of new healthy connections and the pruning of old unhealthy connections.

Who may benefit from neurotherapy?

Neurofeedback may be beneficial if you:

  • Have a mental health issue that has not responded to medication.
  • Desire to explore peak performance levels.
  • Are seeking alternatives to talk therapy.

Neurotherapy may provide long-lasting relief for anxiety

“Unlike the results of medication, the benefits of neurofeedback continue after training ceases,” says Walker, who recommends maintenance sessions as needed. “Anxiety does not just disappear, and neurofeedback is not a magical pill or potion. The ability to decrease or eliminate anxiety or any other issues is dependent both on the effectiveness of the neurofeedback training and the active involvement of the client.”

M. Antionette Walker at Think Bright Therapy specializes in co-occurring and substance use disorders, anxiety, depression and trauma. Intervening with neuroscience treatment approaches, including neurofeedback and biofeedback.

5 Things Almost Everyone Gets Wrong About Managing Anxiety – Psychology Today

sour moha/Unsplash

Source: sour moha/Unsplash

When it comes to managing anxiety, a lot of what people instinctively do can make the problem worse rather than better.

Here are some of the most common mistakes.

1. You believe you can think your way out of it.

Smart people are accustomed to being able to think their way out of any situation. However, when you’re very anxious, sometimes your thinking about the topic of your anxiety becomes so cloudy that, no matter how intelligent you are, trying to think your way out ends up leaving you feeling more confused than ever.

If you start to feel like you can no longer trust your thinking (especially if you usually rely on your smarts), you’re likely to become even more fearful.

Instead: Make a short list of your choices. It can often help to involve someone else in this to uncloud your thinking. Include any choices you’ve ruled out as being too anxiety-provoking. With a bit of space and perspective, you may realize your best option is one of these.

2. You try to find a perfect way to move forward.

Whenever I’m really anxious, when I eventually talk it through with someone, it often reveals falls in my thinking that I then feel embarrassed about having had. This feels very imperfect. I think, “I should’ve been able to think in a perfectly clear, all-seeing way about this. I shouldn’t have needed anyone else’s perspective. I should’ve been able to see that for myself.”

Instead: Recognize that it’s ok to muddle your way forward. It’s not realistic to think you won’t have thinking biases and blind spots.

3. You think you need to pause every other aspect of life until you’ve solved whatever is making you anxious.

Anxiety grips us. It makes us feel a sense of urgency and like we can’t take our eye off the problem. If you see anxiety from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that anxiety would have this effect on our thinking and behavior. If what you’re worried about is a predator you can see in the distance, then this makes a lot of sense. In other scenarios, it doesn’t make sense.

If you allow yourself to be consumed by the source of your anxiety, it will take up a larger slice of your life. When solving the problem that’s making you anxious becomes all-consuming in this way, the problem itself will seem larger and larger.

Instead: Continue to live your life, do what you value, and invest in your relationships. This will help keep the problem making you anxious in perspective, keep you in touch with your supports, and help you feel like a competent and useful human.

4. You criticize yourself for overreacting if your anxiety turns out to be a “false alarm.”

Anxiety is sometimes the result of a misperception. For example, you think someone is angry at you or will reject or abandon you, but they aren’t and don’t. Because you “got it wrong,” you feel foolish.

Instead: Recognize that emotions just signal what we care about. Caring about being accepted, supported, and liked isn’t wrong, even if your fear didn’t eventuate.

5. You think your life would be better if you had fewer anxious feelings.

Anxiety itself doesn’t need to limit your life. A version of you that’s less anxious would not be more perfect. In a literal sense, nothing is stopping you from pursuing all your wish to pursue with your anxious feelings.

Instead: Psychologist Susan David has a quote, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” The more you recognize this, the less it will feel like you need to escape your anxiety to have a life filled with purpose, achievement, love, diverse emotions, touching relationships, wonder and awe-inspiring experiences, and anything else you desire.

The Climate Anxiety Discussion Has a Whiteness Problem – WIRED

Sarah Jaquette Ray has spent her career etching out an academic niche at the intersection of environmental issues and social justice. In the late 2010s, as concern around the climate crisis finally began to swell toward today’s crescendo, Ray, a professor of environmental studies at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, turned her focus toward a relatively new phenomenon that had entered the discourse: climate anxiety—the “chronic fear of environmental doom.” As Ray began to write and talk about climate anxiety, she very quickly noticed that the people interested in her work shifted. “What happened? It got a lot whiter,” she says.

A growing discomfort prompted her to pen an opinion piece for Scientific American in March 2021, in which she expressed concern about what she dubbed the “unbearable whiteness” of the climate anxiety conversation. In her words, she was “sounding the alarm” that if marginalized people continued to be left out of the discussion, climate anxiety could manifest as fear or anger against marginalized communities and society would forgo the intersectional approach needed to take action against the climate crisis.

She wanted to capture the ways in which “white emotions can take up all the oxygen in the room.” The term climate anxiety itself seemed to mean much more to the white and wealthy experiencing an existential threat for the very first time. Climate justice writer Mary Annaïse Heglar has dubbed this “existential exceptionalism”—when the privileged represent climate change as humanity’s first existential crisis, effectively scrubbing away centuries of oppression that very much targeted the existence of people of color and other marginalized populations.

Ray’s work has been “really important and provocative for getting the much-needed critical questions opened up about who is being emphasized in the conversation about climate anxiety,” says Britt Wray, a human and planetary health fellow at Stanford University and author of the new book Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis. Wray’s own more recent research shows that while white people might make up the majority of voices in the conversation, climate anxiety is a phenomenon that does not discriminate by race, class, or geography.

In 2021, Wray and her colleagues published a study that surveyed 10,000 young people (between the ages of 16 and 25) in diverse settings around the world, from Nigeria to India, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. They found that more than 45 percent of the participants said their feelings about the climate crisis were negatively impacting their ability to function on a daily basis—eating, going to work, sleeping, studying. And when researchers looked at countries where climate disasters have already become more intense, such as Nigeria, the Philippines, and India, the proportion reporting distress was much higher—it hovered around 75 percent of the respondents in some of these places. “It really points out the inequities and injustices wrapped up in climate anxiety as we understand how it manifests in people’s lives,” says Wray.

Part of the reason certain groups have dominated the conversation could simply come down to language. The reality is that what the term “climate anxiety” means to a white middle-class European might differ completely from what it means to a poor farmer in Lagos. Why somebody might say that they’re experiencing anxiety is derived from a mishmash of preformed notions of what anxiety is, their background, and what words are available to them. “Climate anxiety, as a term, is very privileged,” says Ray. “Not to mention all the emotions that we don’t even have language for, right?”

Why We Hold Fear and Anxiety in Our Chest and Shoulders—And 5 Ways To Release It – Well+Good

As someone who’s dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for two decades, I’m very familiar with the many different ways anxiety manifests in our bodies, including digestive issues and nervous poops. When I’m particularly anxious, I tend to feel tension in my chest and shoulders, and I’m not the only one.

As for why exactly we hold fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions in our chest and shoulders, it’s due to the mind-body connection. “When our mind is in a state of stress and fight or flight, our bodies are in preparation mode to respond to what it perceives might be potentially even a life or death situation,” explains Judy Ho, PhD, a licensed clinical and forensic neuropsychologist. “This causes the sympathetic nervous system to activate, your heart rate increases, and your body tenses up in preparation to act. Chronically, this can cause muscle tension and soreness throughout the body.” She adds that other signs of anxiety and tension in the body include chronic headaches, a sore jaw, and teeth grinding.

Wherever you may hold fear, stress, and anxiety in your body, there are techniques that can help release it. Read on for a handful of strategies to add to your toolkit.

5 ways to release fear and anxiety from your chest and shoulders

1. Do box breathing

Breathwork exercises, in general, are great for calming down. In particular, Dr. Ho recommends box breathing, which helps pump the brakes on the sympathetic stress response. It’s called box breathe because you’re literally (or mentally) drawing a box with your finger while making the four-part breath pattern. Here’s how: “Take a breath in and count to four while drawing one of the vertical sides of a square in front of your face with your finger,” Dr. Ho instructs. “Then hold for four while drawing the top of the box horizontally, then breathe out for four drawing the other vertical side of the box, and hold for four while completing the box by drawing the bottom horizontal line.” Repeat 10 times to feel the fear and anxiety melt away.

2. Do a body scan

Scanning your body from head to toe is another way to help release the stress and anxiety in your chest and shoulders or any other body part. Like breathwork, a body scan meditation is easy and quick, and you can do it anywhere. Find a comfy position and then bring your awareness to your body, Dr. Ho says. Then starting from either your head or your feet, begin to mentally scan through your body and notice where you’re holding tension. Once you pinpoint the specific areas, consciously try to relax that body part, Dr. Ho says. She recommends returning to this practice throughout the day whenever you can spare a couple of minutes.

3. Try progressive muscle relaxation

If you struggle with releasing tension during a body scan, Dr. Ho suggests progressive muscle relaxation as an added or alternative technique. To practice this, get in a comfortable position and focus on one body part at a time. As you do, tense up the muscles for several seconds and then release the tension with a big exhale. Doing so, Dr. Ho says, creates a contrast between the tension and how good it feels to let go and relax.

4. Tap into your senses

Another soothing ritual Dr. Ho recommends adding to your anxiety-busting toolkit is engaging your senses, which can help your body to get into a rest and restoration mode and turn off the fight or flight response. Examples include lighting your favorite candle, splashing cold water on your face, or mindfully eating and enjoying every bite of your food.

5. Stretch it out

When your neck and shoulders are feeling tight, there’s nothing like a good stretching session to help loosen things up. There are tons of neck and shoulders stretches you can do.

We like this quick video because it hits both areas and is only eight minutes:

Specifically, Dr. Ho suggests ones that elongate your neck and shoulders. While the stretches will soothe you physically, she also recommends repeating your favorite mantra as you stretch to help relax the mind. Choose whatever affirmation resonates with you at the moment. Dr. Ho suggests a couple of options: “I can get through the stresses of today,” or “I can handle the challenges ahead.”

Doing some combination of the above techniques regularly will help you nervous system better regulate itself and help you spend more time in rest and digest mode and keeping anxiety at bay.

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Experts Referenced

Do you have recession anxiety? Here are 5 ways to cope, according to a psychotherapist and a financial psychologist – CNBC

Romolotavani | Istock | Getty Images

As talk about the possibility of a recession heats up, so may your anxiety.

While a downturn is not a foregone conclusion, some experts have recently boosted the odds of a recession happening in the near-term. Citigroup, assessing global economic growth over the next 18 months, sees a 50% probability of a global recession happening, and Goldman Sachs has put the odds of a recession for the U.S. in the next year at 30%.

Others, like UBS, are not convinced one is happening. Either way, just the possibility of a recession occurring is enough to fuel anxiety.

More from Invest in You:
5 steps you can take now to financially prepare for a recession
Here’s how to save money in summer cooling bills as prices rise
What the Fed’s rate hike means for you

“When we talk about anxiety, we are talking about uncertainty,” said licensed psychotherapist Bea Arthur, CEO of The Difference, which provides on-demand teletherapy for companies and communities.

“We can’t see how bad a recession will be or if it will come,” she added.

The official definition of anxiety, per the American Psychological Association, is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

That emotion can have a direct impact on your financial life. Those who are anxious or stressed are more likely to engage in costly financial behaviors, including borrowing from high-cost financial services firms and withdrawing cash from retirement accounts, according to a report from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center.

Here are five ways to cope with anxiety before it hurts your mental and financial health, according to psychologists.

1. Narrow your focus

Pay less attention to macroeconomic news and focus more on your particular situation, said financial psychologist and certified financial planner Brad Klontz.

“That will actually save you from about 75% of the stress,” he said.

When you are taking in the news surrounding recession odds or other economic reports, observe them but don’t absorb them, Arthur said. After all, the human brain was designed to only have the capacity to care about those closest to us, she pointed out.

“We are being asked to expand and allow for so many crises, so many stressors to enter our energy field, we have to pull back,” she said. “We have to regain our power.”

2. Meet with a financial advisor

Bloom Productions | Digitalvision | Getty Images

Since anxiety is really about uncertainty around future events, talking to a financial advisor could ease your mind, said Klontz, an associate professor of practice in financial psychology and behavioral finance at Creighton University Heider College of Business.

Northwestern Mutual’s 2022 Planning & Progress Study bears that out. Some 54% of U.S. adults said they are somewhat or very anxious about their finances, according to the survey, conducted with Harris Poll Feb. 8-17 and based on a sample of nearly 2,500 people.

However, that percentage drops to 46% for people who work with a financial advisor and 47% for those who self-identify as disciplined planners.

3. Do a ‘worst-case scenario’ exercise

This is Klontz’s favorite exercise, which leads you through what would happen in response to a series of events.

Talk about your fears, such as “I’m worried about a recession,” and then ask yourself, “Then what would happen?” Continue on from there, so if the answer to the first question was “I may lose my job,” ask yourself “Then what would happen?” Keep running all the scenarios from there, Klontz said.

“The worst-case scenario exercise is like jumping off an emotional cliff,” he said. “When you run through the scenarios, it is not life-threatening and it is not as bad as they fear it would be.”

On the other hand, the stress that can do real damage.

“Financial stress can kill you but it is rare that our financial situation is life-threatening,” Klontz said.

4. Take a moment

Getty Images

It may sound trite, but taking a moment to pause and take a few deep breaths can really help, according to Klontz.

“When we become emotionally flooded, we become rationally challenged,” he explained. “The key is to calm down your emotional brain before you make any decisions.”

That can stop you from making bad financial decisions, like panic-selling stocks when the market goes down.

5. Expand your frame of reference

When the market sells off and the chart for the week makes it look like it fell off a cliff, that’s a narrow frame of reference, Klontz said. However, as a long-term investor, you want an expanded frame of reference. When you do that, the cliff actually looks more like a pothole, he explained.

“Stretch it out 10 years, 15 years,” Klontz said. “It is a steady climb up a mountain, with a couple potholes along the way.”

Also remember that people are typically invested in more than one asset class, so when you see the market dropping, know that your diversified portfolio may not be sinking as deeply.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

What to know about travel anxiety – Beaufort – The Island News

People may feel anxious about traveling for various reasons. For example, the stress of planning a journey, traveling in enclosed planes or trains, or visiting new, unfamiliar places can lead to anxiety symptoms.

Although travel anxiety is not an officially diagnosed mental health issue, it can be severe enough to interfere with the lives of some individuals. They may be unable to see family and friends, go on vacation, or travel for work.

Some people may experience travel anxiety because of negative past travel experiences or because they have an anxiety disorder. Travel anxiety may relate to specific activities, such as driving or flying. It can also involve a general fear of crowds, being unable to leave a space, or the unknown.

People who have had negative experiences while traveling may become concerned these could recur. However, experts report that most driving anxiety is unrelated to previous accidents.

Other circumstances that may trigger travel anxiety include:

driving through storms, snow, or other bad weather

experiencing a panic attack

getting lost while driving or looking for connecting buses

experiencing road rage

If someone has an anxiety disorder, they could experience symptoms while traveling. For example, previous 2017 research suggests people with generalized anxiety disorder may have difficulty concentrating while driving or making other decisions during travel. As a result, they may feel less than confident.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, many people who fear flying or being on other forms of transport are living with claustrophobia. They may become extremely anxious if stuck in traffic or locked onto a plane or train. In people with a phobia of flying, more than 90% of the fear is that they will become overwhelmed with anxiety during the flight.

Additionally, the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and sweating, can cause someone to think they might lose control while driving or worry about what people surrounding them may think. This, in turn, can worsen anxiety and fear of traveling.

Symptoms

A person with travel anxiety may experience symptoms throughout the travel process or at specific points during it. For example, booking travel tickets for an upcoming journey may trigger anxiety in some people, while others may be calm until the journey begins and then begin to feel anxious. 

Symptoms a person may experience include:

sleeping problems leading up to the travel date

being unable to control feelings of worry and concern about traveling

feeling restless or on edge while in airports or train stations

being irritable and short-tempered

having panic attacks, which may cause a racing heart, sweating, and feelings of being out of control

feelings of being self-conscious and that people are judging them

Treatment and management

Some people may only have mild symptoms of travel anxiety that do not significantly impact their lives, or it may be a one-off experience. However, this kind of anxiety can be more severe and debilitating for others, making it hard to leave home or even make short journeys.

Various techniques can help manage and treat different levels of travel anxiety. These include therapy, lifestyle changes, planning, and medication.

Therapy

Psychotherapy is also called talk therapy. People can ask a doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, or mindfulness techniques. Additionally, research suggests that exposure therapy is the treatment of choice for specific phobias. Otherwise known as desensitization therapy, this involves exposing someone to their phobia in a safe and controlled environment to help them overcome fear and anxiety.

Lifestyle changes

People can also make lifestyle changes to help them cope with travel anxiety. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America suggests the following strategies to cope with generalized feelings of anxiety:

living a full, active life 

eating a healthy, balanced diet

talking with a trusted person about anxious feelings

keeping a journal of anxiety triggers

avoiding caffeine or low blood sugar, which can trigger anxiety in some people

Planning

People may experience travel anxiety because of the unknown. For example, they may wonder what would happen if they ran out of money, got lost, or became ill. Having a plan in place for worst-case scenarios may help ease these fears. Although it is impossible to plan for every eventuality, having a general plan can make people feel more in control and less anxious about traveling.

People may be able to ease their anxiety by:

making copies of important documents such as passports and driver’s licenses and keeping them in a separate place from the originals

taking a credit card for emergencies

researching the area and carrying a small paper map or guidebook

purchasing health insurance and knowing where to find local hospitals and doctors

telling friends and family about travel plans

packing snacks and water to avoid getting hungry or dehydrated

taking enough medication to last for the trip

Medication

If the above measures are not enough to ease travel anxiety, some medications can help. If an individual has long-term anxiety problems, their doctor may suggest a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. A 2017 study found these medications are most effective for long-term anxiety treatment. 

A doctor may also suggest a benzodiazepine such as lorazepam to provide short-term, immediate relief from panic attacks. People may find that they feel less anxious purely by carrying this medication with them.

When to contact a doctor

Although it is normal to feel anxious when faced with unfamiliar situations such as traveling, an individual should speak with a doctor if they find that anxiety is restricting their life. Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, planning, therapy, or medication to help ease symptoms.

Generally, anxiety is not a dangerous condition, but a doctor can rule out any other health problems that could be causing the symptoms. They can also advise a person on appropriate treatments to prevent anxiety from worsening.

Sources: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/travel-anxiety; Anxiety disorders. (2022). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders; Bandelow, B., et al. (2017), Treatment of anxiety disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573566/; How can I overcome my fear of flying? (n.d.) https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/ask-expert/how-can-i-overcome-my-fear-of-flying; Overcoming the fear of driving. (2017),

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/overcome-fear-driving; Panic disorder, (n.d.), https://adaa.org/sites/default/files/panic_adaa.pdf.

To Heal Anxiety, Stop Thinking of It as a Disease – Psychology Today

It’s a simple fact: Nobody likes to feel anxious. Anxiety is among the most pervasive and reviled of human emotions. And since it’s unhealthy, we all agree, we should prevent and eradicate it like any other illness. An entire economy has sprung up to aid us in our efforts: from self-help books and holistic remedies to pharmaceuticals and cutting-edge talk therapy. And yet, the fact is that we remain a profoundly anxious society, with rates of anxiety disorders soaring. A third of us will suffer from debilitating anxiety disorders in our lifetime.

Vectorium/Shutterstock

Source: Vectorium/Shutterstock

Why isn’t all this working?

Because anxiety isn’t the problem. The problem lies in our beliefs—the disease story of anxiety taught by mental health professionals such as myself—that truly set us up for failure. These beliefs prime us to cope with anxiety in ways that make it worse, block us from benefiting from treatments when we need them, and prevent us from reaping the many benefits that this difficult emotion has to offer.

In my book, Future Tense, I argue that the only way forward is to challenge the disease story and understand that anxiety is a feature of being human, not a bug. Anxiety isn’t going anywhere, because it is not an illness to be eradicated or defeated. Rather, it’s a powerful emotion that evolved so that we could learn to put it to good use.

Anxiety is good for us, even though it feels bad.

This all begs the question: How does the idea that anxiety is a feature rather than a bug apply to the experiences of people struggling with anxiety disorders?

There’s no doubt that anxiety feels bad. And so it’s natural to think that this painful, sometimes overwhelming feeling is a clear cause for concern, or that it’s a sign that there’s a malfunction—of happiness or mental health—that needs fixing. This logic leads us to what seems like another inescapable conclusion: we should treat anxiety as a disease, to prevent, suppress, and heal, like we would cancer or Covid.

But this disease model of anxiety is fundamentally wrong: based on old, inaccurate ideas about what anxiety is and why it evolved the way it did. This old story goes something like this:

“Anxiety is an evolutionarily outdated emotion that used to be protective for prehistoric humans. It was mainly useful for surviving things like saber-toothed tigers and natural disasters. It’s protective because it’s just like fear, and boils down to the three F’s: fight, take flight, or freeze. When there are no saber-toothed tigers and we feel anxiety anyway, it’s a useless emotion that backfires by triggering an overactive stress response. The result—our health takes a big hit, both physically and mentally. We must therefore free ourselves from anxiety whenever possible.”

This story is mostly wrong. First, decades of biological and psychological research show that experiencing moderate anxiety, even on a daily basis, does not damage us, just as moderate amounts of stress don’t damage us. Second, treating anxiety as something to fix, suppress, or avoid is the surest way for it to spiral out of control. Third, anxiety goes far beyond the protective “3 F’s”. By being uncomfortable and energizing, anxiety makes us sit up and pay attention. It tells us what we care about and it prepares us to do productive things to manage uncertainty, avert negative outcomes, and optimize positive outcomes.

Research shows that anxiety primes us to seek social support (e.g., by triggering the social bonding hormone oxytocin); motivates us to pursue rewarding goals (by triggering the release of the “feel-good” hormone dopamine); and supercharges the quality of creative thinking by making us more persistent and innovative.

So treating anxiety as a disease sets us up to do all the wrong things when it comes to managing anxiety, and creates huge opportunity costs when it comes to leveraging anxiety to our benefit.

Is anxiety really a “triumph of human evolution”?

Anxiety and anxiety disorders are not the same thing. Until we make that distinction, I can see why you might feel that I’m going too far in these ideas.

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion that people commonly experience. It’s felt along a spectrum, from mild and barely perceptible unease to intense and overwhelming panic. Unlike fear, which is the emotion we have when we face certain and present danger, anxiety is apprehension about the uncertain future, where something bad might be coming around the bend, but good outcomes are also possible—like waiting for test results to come back from the doctor, or getting nervous about a big job interview. So, anxiety alerts us to potential danger but also gives us reason to hope.

Anxiety Essential Reads

This dual nature of anxiety means that we’re only anxious when we care about the future. It also means that anxiety exists because of one of the pinnacles of human evolution—the ability to imagine, plan, and prepare for the future, and to simultaneously hold in mind that something bad could happen at the same time that something good is possible. Anxiety is a crucial tool for envisioning the future we want and working to make our positive goals into reality.

Here’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder: We can go through periods of intense, daily anxieties and still not be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. A disorder is only diagnosed when our ways of coping with anxiety—whether with worries, avoidance, panic, withdrawal, or obsessiveness—are out of proportion and disrupt our ability to function in our professional and personal lives. When we say that we’re in the midst of a public health crisis of anxiety, we don’t have it quite right because the problem isn’t anxiety —the problem is how we come to cope with it.

These problematic ways of coping with anxiety usually involve avoidance—like never leaving the house, quitting a job because we fear a negative evaluation, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to dull our emotional pain. They also involve the belief that we can’t cope with anxiety, that any feeling of anxiety is a call to panic. Ample research shows that when we instead are curious about our negative emotions, like anxiety, and learn to name them and make sense of them, they become more manageable. In an anxiety disorder, it’s the cycle of anxiety and avoidance, rather than the anxiety itself, that is the true problem.

I’d give anything to have my exhausting, overwhelming anxiety go away.

It is exhausting. When any of us cope with strong feelings of anxiety, or go to therapy for an anxiety disorder, we are dedicating ourselves to extremely hard work. But we can build endurance. To do so, we have to stop avoiding anxiety. It’s a habit that might have been learned over years, even decades. It will take time to change. No therapist—except dangerous quacks—will ever tell you that the goal of therapy is to prevent or destroy all anxiety. An anxiety-free life is an impossible goal. Instead, a good therapist helps us tune into helpful anxiety, distinguish it from unhelpful anxiety, develop new, productive coping strategies, and figure out which thoughts and behaviors are part of the problem.

Most people struggling with anxiety aren’t running away from it, but fighting through it every day.

Anxiety disorders cause an immense amount of suffering. At the same time, some of the ways we fight through anxiety are helpful and some can be unhelpful. For example, the idea of fighting with anxiety is much less helpful than being curious about anxiety, seeing the advantages it can confer, and understanding the nuances of what it is and what it isn’t. Don’t like anxiety. But own it, so it doesn’t own you. Acknowledge it, and believe that it’s a part of you. That’s how we gain mastery. Treating anxiety as a disease or enemy only blocks us from that goal.

What if I’ve gotten therapy, worked hard, and medication helps me actually do the work in therapy?

Anxiolytic medications (the most commonly prescribed are benzodiazepines) can help those suffering from an anxiety disorder. For some, it is among the best options. I would never tell you to stop taking medication.

But, unfortunately, most of us aren’t being taught to use these powerful medications safely or effectively. Decades of research are unequivocal: Benzodiazepines are most effective when they are used temporarily to treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder and in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Many people, however, aren’t given the opportunity to evaluate whether and how medication is the right choice for them. Medical professionals overprescribe them, giving them to people who even mention feeling worried or anxious and allowing patients to use them chronically, without ensuring access to other therapies.

Many doctors fail to inform patients of their significant risks: They are highly addictive, difficult to withdraw from, and are the second leading cause of overdose deaths, right after opioids. Yet, since the 1970s, the mental health ecosystem has been flooded with these dangerous medications. Drugs like Xanax are a multi-billion dollar industry. Between 2002 and 2015, there was a 67 percent rise in prescriptions—accompanied by a quadrupling of overdose deaths. Many of us have come to take them casually, like aspirin for a headache, to block overwhelming feelings, and without the benefits of therapies that help us build enduring coping skills.

Taking medication is not a failure, just like being anxious isn’t a failure. But the medical profession has failed many patients in its irresponsible prescription of benzodiazepines as a treatment for anxiety disorders.

Bottom line: The disease model of anxiety isn’t working. Until we jettison this faulty metaphor, our struggle with anxiety disorders will only worsen.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Neurons that Promote Sleep After Stress Stave Off Anxiety in Mice – Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Stress promotes a kind of sleep in mice that subsequently relieves anxiety, according to new research that also pinpoints the mechanism responsible. The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, and colleagues across institutions in China, and at the University of Zurich, showed that in mice exposed to a type of psychosocial stress called social defeat stress (SDS), a subset of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-somatostatin neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain receive and are activated by this stress input, promoting both REM (rapid-eye movement) and non-REM sleep, and also inhibiting the release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Together, the sleep initiated through this process alleviated stress levels and mitigated stress-induced anxiety in mice, restoring mental and body functions.

Since sleep is similar across mammals, it is likely the same mechanism is triggered in human brains. Uncovering the pathways involved could lead to the development of artificial ways to trigger these beneficial effects, potentially helping to treat persistent stress disorders such as PTSD, or to ease the psychosocial stress experienced by people who have been newly diagnosed with dementia.

Research lead Bill Wisden, PhD, at the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, commented: “Our results add weight to the idea that REM [rapid eye movement] sleep helps us cope with stress. However, we previously only knew about ways REM sleep is reduced, such as some drugs that suppress it. Now, our study has revealed a mechanism by which REM sleep is induced, paving the way for drugs or other interventions that target the right neurons and boost the stress-busting power of sleep.”

Wisden and team reported on their studies and results in Science, in a paper titled “A specific circuit in the midbrain detects stress and induces restorative sleep.”

Humans and all mammals experience two main types of sleep. These are known as REM, when we tend to dream, and non-REM (NREM), which is deeper, dreamless sleep. While stress can cause insomnia and raise levels of stress hormones, the opposite can also be true, the authors noted. “Chronic stress increases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep; and sleep in rodents is induced by specific types of stress, such as social defeat stress (SDS).” Although the function and benefits of sleep remain unclear, sleep is certainly restorative, the team continued. “Thus, sleep has been suggested to be one of the mechanisms for alleviating the malign effects of stress.”

However, whether there is a specific circuit that links stress and sleep hasn’t been understood. The researchers reasoned that the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain could represent this link between stress and sleep. The VTA regulates reward, aversion, goal-directed behaviors, and social contact, they explained. “It also influences responses to stress and threats, and strongly affects sleep and wake … Because some γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) VTA neurons are activated by stressful and aversive stimuli, we hypothesized that this route allows stress to induce sleep.”

For the reported study mice were exposed to a type of psychosocial stress called social defeat stress – which is used as an analogue for human bullying – by exposing them to particularly aggressive mice, without physical harm. The researchers found that after this encounter levels of flight or fight hormones in the SDS-exposed animals rose, indicating stress. When the mice then slept, the researchers then tracked the activity of the VTA neurons, revealing a specific subset of neurons that detected and responded to stress hormone levels and induced sleep high in both NREM and REM. “Activity-dependent tagging revealed a subset of ventral tegmental area γ -aminobutyric acid (GABA)–somatostatin (VTAVgat-Sst) cells that sense stress and drive non–rapid eye movement (NREM) and REM sleep through the lateral hypothalamus and also inhibit corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) release in the paraventricular Hypothalamus,” the authors noted.

The activity of these neurons, and levels of NREM and REM sleep, stayed high for around five hours of sleep, during which signals were sent to other neurons that regulate stress hormones, blocking them from releasing more. The newly discovered neurons thus not only detected stress and induced sleep as a result, they also triggered the lowering of stress hormones.

The findings showed that sleep experienced by the mice appeared to lower the animals’ anxiety levels the next day. Once the mice awoke, the researchers tested their anxiety response to see how the sleep had affected their stress behaviors. This was evaluated by measuring how long the mice spent in the light, rather than seeking out darkness, as they will tend to do more when they are anxious. The animals’ responses were compared to those of stressed mice that were either sleep deprived (stimulated with objects) or had their newly identified neurons impaired, meaning that they didn’t get the same restorative sleep as did the normal mice.

The team found that mice that didn’t get their stress-induced sleep spent much more time in the dark, indicating that they were more anxious, and stress hormone levels also remained high in these animals. “For mice allowed sufficient home cage sleep after SDS, raised CORT [corticosterone] concentrations

returned to baseline over 60 min,” the authors noted. “If mild sleep deprivation occurred immediately after stress, however, CORT concentrations remained elevated … “For mice unable to have SDS-induced sleep, either because their VTASst neurons had been ablated or were inhibited, CORT concentrations remained higher during their home cage sleep after SDS, similar to the effects of sleep deprivation after SDS.”

Having identified this new mechanism, the team now hope to find ways to selectively target the responsible neurons and boost their positive effects via sleep. This strategy might be used to help treat persistent stress disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who suffer from PTSD experience less REM sleep, contributing to the theory that REM sleep helps us process difficult emotions and stress.

Dementia diagnosis can also cause significant psychological stress, and the team hopes that if their research can lead to a way to boost the effects of sleep, this will also help people cope with a new diagnosis. People living with dementia in addition suffer from more emotional disturbances, and boosting REM sleep may similarly help reduce this distress. The authors concluded, “Thus, a specific circuit allows animals to restore mental and body functions by sleeping, potentially providing a refined route for treating anxiety disorders.”

In a perspective in the same issue of Science, Marian Joëls, PhD, at Utrecht University, and E. Ronald de Kloet, PhD, at Leiden University, noted that the reported results highlight a neurological circuit in the brain, the targeting of which “may help steer future interventions in rodents and perhaps even humans after stressful experiences, be it through cognitive therapy or pharmacotherapy or maybe, one day, genetic interference.”

Joëls and Kloet note that “Not all individuals may respond to social defeat with a bout of sleep,” and that recent studies suggest that social stress promotes sleep-like inactivity in mice, but with a large degree of variation. Also, in the reported study not all of the animals showed a strong increase in REM sleep duration. The authors say this individual variation “requires further investigation in larger groups of mice …” and concluded, “Knowing the essential steps in the brain may help steer future interventions in rodents and perhaps even humans after stressful experiences, be it through cognitive therapy or pharmacotherapy or maybe, one day, genetic interference.”