Meth and Pregnancy
Methamphetamine use has increased in the United States since the 1980s 1, and today is the most commonly used drug behind alcohol and marijuana in a large number of states 1. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year and that 569,000 people were currently using meth at the time of the survey 2. One of the reasons meth is so prevalent is because it can be made with relative ease from legal (yet toxic) ingredients, such as Freon® and paint thinner 3.
As use of the substance continues to rise, so do treatment and hospital admissions. In 2012, meth ranked first in drug-related treatment admissions in Hawaii and San Diego 4. Females have also been found to start using meth at a younger age and intake higher amounts of meth compared to men 5.
With increasing numbers of methamphetamine users, meth abuse during pregnancy is a growing public health concern 6. One study of meth-related emergency room visits found that more than 400,000 reproductive-aged women reported using meth in the prior month 6. Another study found that meth was the primary substance requiring treatment during pregnancy between 1994 and 2006 6.
As a stimulant, meth is extremely potent 7. When a person uses this substance, they may experience a range of feelings, such as 8:
- Heightened alertness.
- Increased energy levels.
- Aggressive behavior.
The negative health effects that may occur from meth use include 1,8:
- Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate).
- Diaphoresis (sweating).
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Hyperthermia (high body temperature).
To date, the medical community’s knowledge of meth’s effects on a child in utero is limited. Conclusive evidence about the potential effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy is lacking, as much of it comes from animal research or from studies with difficult to control variables such as the presence of polysubstance use in the maternal population being examined. While we cannot draw definite conclusions about how meth affects a baby’s development, there is evidence to suggest that meth is harmful to a developing fetus 9.
Effects of Methamphetamine on the Mother
Meth is a dangerous substance that can harm a woman’s body and put her at risk for maternal complications. For example, women who abuse meth tend to have a significantly lower body mass index (BMI). This can make her pregnancy riskier. One study found that lower BMI increased a woman’s chance for pregnancy complications, including more frequent hospitalizationsand longer hospital stays 10. The anorectic effects of meth can also result in intrauterine growth retardation (poor growth of the fetus in the womb) 11.
Using meth during pregnancy can also reduce a woman’s placental blood flow. This can cause fetal hypoxia, an insufficient amount of oxygen to the fetus 12.
Since 2003, meth has been the most common substance that women are admitted with for treatment at US federally funded health centers. To complicate matters, meth is often used in combination with other substances 6, such as prescription painkillers, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol 11. These substances can have additional devastating effects on the fetus. For example, alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which is irreversible.
Effects of Methamphetamine on a Baby
How many pregnant women use meth?
Meth use during pregnancy can harm the way a child develops in utero. Meth use can put a woman at risk for having a baby that has 1:
- A low birth weight.
- Small size for gestational age.
- An increased risk for neurodevelopmental problems.
Most of what we know about the effects of meth on a developing fetus come from animal studies. In rats, prenatal exposure to meth caused 11,13:
- Increased mortality in the mother and her child.
- Retinal defects.
- Cleft palate.
- Malformations of the ribs.
- Slowed physical growth.
- Delayed motor development.
These include 11,14:
- Higher rates of preterm birth.
- Placental abruption.
- Cardiac anomalies.
- Smaller head circumference.
- Fetal distress.
- Fetal growth restriction (at rates similar to those for pregnant women who use cocaine).
One study found that only 4% of babies exposed to meth were treated for withdrawal after birth. However, the study was unable to control for a mother’s use of drugs other than meth 7.
There are reports that meth can lead to long-term adverse health outcomes. These include negative impacts on a child’s behavior, cognitive skills, and physical dexterity.
In a Swedish study, children who were exposed to meth in utero were tested at birth, at 1 year, and at 4 years. Researchers found that females exposed to meth were significantly shorter and lighter than the males.
At age 8, there was a significant correlation between how much meth a fetus was exposed to in utero and the level of aggressive behavior and social maladjustment. When the children were tested at age 14 and 15 years old, they performed significantly worse than their peers on math tests. However, this study was also confounded by variables outside of the researchers’ control, such as maternal polysubstance use, stress levels, environment, number of siblings, and foster care placements 11.
Some studies suggest that the use of meth during pregnancy can result in fetal abnormalities 8. Other studies have reported that meth use during pregnancy can increase the risk of cleft lip in babies 8. A case control study found that mothers who used drugs during the first trimester had over 3 times the risk of having a baby with gastroschisis 8. Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines stick outside of the body from a hole near the belly button 15.
When babies are exposed to meth for at least two-thirds of the pregnancy, certain brain structures were more likely to be smaller than those in non-exposed fetuses 8. It is important to note, however, that overall, exposure to meth during pregnancy is not consistently associated with birth defects. More studies are needed in order to control for confounding variables such as maternal polysubstance use, small sample sizes, and recall bias. It is important to note, however, that overall, exposure to meth during pregnancy is not consistently associated with birth defects. More studies are needed in order to control for confounding variables such as maternal polysubstance use, small sample sizes, and recall bias 8.
Quitting Meth While Pregnant
There is a common trend of women experiencing “turning points” during pregnancy. Being responsible for the life of another human helps many women stop using drugs.
If you are currently using meth and you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant talk to your doctor about your options for meth addiction treatment. Your doctor may recommend entering a treatment facility.
The two main types of treatment you will encounter are outpatient and inpatient treatment.
Outpatient treatment is an option for women who have less severe addictions and who aren’t additionally contending with serious medical or mental health issues. In outpatient treatment, you will periodically check in with your doctor and counselor for medications and therapy, while still being able to live at home.
Inpatient treatment programs offer an immersive treatment environment, with 24/7 supervision and access to medical services, when needed. In inpatient treatment, you will be free of distractions and able to focus fully on your journey to recovery. As a pregnant woman, you will be monitored closely to ensure the health of you and your baby.
In treatment, you may participate in group and individual counseling. Some examples of therapy may include:
- Group and individual counseling. You can engage in group and/or individual counseling as part of your treatment. Counseling can offer you support throughout your recovery.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you understand the triggers and situations that contribute to your use meth. People who struggle with addiction often have underlying issues that drive their addictions. CBT can help you address these issues in a healthy and productive way. In CBT, you can learn how to cope with life’s challenges without meth.
- Family involvement. Family is important to the recovery process. As a pregnant woman, you may or may not have a partner with whom you would like to engage in therapy with. No matter what your situation is, involving your family in your recovery can help you get sober. Family members can offer invaluable support, often providing encouragement and motivation. Note that some individuals do not have healthy relationships with members of their family, so it’s important to do whatever feels right to you and invite those who are positive forces in your life to be part of your treatment.
- Addiction support groups. 12-step programs are available to help you receive peer support. Groups can help you create a community of people going through the same situation as you. Having this type of support can help prevent relapse. Attending support groups can help ensure a woman’s long-term success.
- Contingency-management: This is a strategy used to enforce positive and healthy behavior change. When you meet treatment goals, your therapist may give you a tangible reward in exchange for maintaining sobriety. Incentives could include money, vouchers, or special privileges.
Overall, there are many tools that can help you turn your life around. Pregnancy can present a window of opportunity to improve the health of you and your baby. Call us today at 1-800-980-3927
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Committee Opinion: Methamphetamine Abuse in Women of Reproductive Age.
- Hedden, S. L. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- US Department of Justice. (n.d.). Meth Awareness.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States?
- He, J., Xie, Y., Tao, J., Su, H., Wu, W., Zou, S., … & Guo, J. (2013). Gender differences in socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of methamphetamine inpatients in a Chinese population. Drug and alcohol dependence, 130(1), 94-100.
- Terplan, M., Smith, E. J., Kozloski, M. J., & Pollack, H. A. (2009). Methamphetamine use among pregnant women. Obstetrics & Gynecology,113(6), 1285-1291.
- Hudak, M. L., Tan, R. C., Frattarelli, D. A., Galinkin, J. L., Green, T. P., Neville, K. A., … & Bhutani, V. K. (2012). Neonatal drug withdrawal. Pediatrics, 129(2), e540-e560.
- Viteri, O. A., Soto, E. E., Bahado-Singh, R. O., Christensen, C. W., Chauhan, S. P., & Sibai, B. M. (2015). Fetal Anomalies and Long-Term Effects Associated with Substance Abuse in Pregnancy: A Literature Review. American journal of perinatology, 32(05), 405-416.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). What are the risks of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy?
- Denison, F. C., Norwood, P., Bhattacharya, S., Duffy, A., Mahmood, T., Morris, C., … & Scotland, G. (2014).Association between maternal body mass index during pregnancy, short‐term morbidity, and increased health service costs: a population‐based study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 121(1), 72-82.
- Wouldes, T., LaGasse, L., Sheridan, J., & Lester, B. (2004). Maternal methamphetamine use during pregnancy and child outcome: what do we know. NZ Med J, 117(1206), 1-10.
- Derauf, C., LaGasse, L. L., Smith, L. M., Grant, P., Shah, R., Arria, A., … & Liu, J. (2007). Demographic and psychosocial characteristics of mothers using methamphetamine during pregnancy: preliminary results of the infant development, environment, and lifestyle study (IDEAL). The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 33(2), 281-289.
- Smith, L. M., Diaz, S., LaGasse, L. L., Wouldes, T., Derauf, C., Newman, E., … & Della Grotta, S. (2015). Developmental and behavioral consequences of prenatal methamphetamine exposure: a review of the infant development, environment, and lifestyle (IDEAL) study. Neurotoxicology and teratology, 51, 35-44.
- Hudak, M. L., Tan, R. C., Frattarelli, D. A., Galinkin, J. L., Green, T. P., Neville, K. A., … & Bhutani, V. K. (2012). Neonatal drug withdrawal. Pediatrics, 129(2), e540-e560.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Facts about Gastroschisis.
MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse While Pregnant
Ecstasy is an illicit drug that is frequently abused among a young adult demographic. This drug (chemical name: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA for short) is structurally similar to amphetamine and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects.
Effects During Pregnancy
People who take it may experience a wide range of effects, including euphoria, a sense of openness, and increased energy. However, heavy, chronic use is associated with depression and problems with memory. Among pregnant women, ecstasy can lead to hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and anorexic effects—both of which may directly affect the developing fetus 1.
When pregnant women use drugs like ecstasy, it can cause serious harm to their babies, including 2:
- Premature birth.
- Developmental issues including delayed growth.
- Cardiovascular issues (e.g., heart problems, increased stroke risk).
What If I Took Ecstasy Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?
Ecstasy is widely used by young people, including women of reproductive age. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1.8% of young adults aged 18 to 25 years old were current users of hallucinogens, including ecstasy. Approximately 166,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old) reported past month use of the drug 3. With so many women of reproductive age experimenting with ecstasy, it is common for women to have used the substance prior to finding out they were pregnant.
If you are worried because you took it before you knew you were pregnant:
- Take a deep breath and try to relax.
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible and let them know about your concerns.
- Stop taking ecstasy and any other illicit drugs.
If you are unable to stop using ecstasy and/or any other drugs, call us today at 1-800-980-3927 to learn about your treatment options.
Ecstasy’s Effect on the Mother
One study found that women who used ecstasy during pregnancy had the following characteristics 4:
- Higher rates of unplanned pregnancy.
- Higher rates of therapeutic abortion.
- More likely to report binge drinking during pregnancy.
- More likely to report smoking cigarettes during pregnancy.
- More likely to use other illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and ketamine during pregnancy.
In addition, the use of ecstasy can adversely affect the mother’s physical and mental health. Ecstasy causes an increase in an individual’s stress hormones and this can lead to overstimulation and hyperthermia (i.e., high body temperatures). Also, after using ecstasy, a person can experience a number of changes that affect their behavior, mental state, and routine that include 5:
- Decrease in appetite.
- Trouble sleeping.
Another serious danger of using ecstasy during pregnancy is that the drug often contains adulterants. A person may think that they are taking pure MDMA when in reality they are ingesting a number of unknown chemicals. One study found that a single ecstasy tablet contained over 14 compounds other than MDMA 6. One of the most concerning adulterants is the powerful opioid fentanyl, which can be deadly even in very small doses.
When a mother is healthy and abstaining from harmful substances like ecstasy, it goes a long way to ensure the safety of the baby both in utero and after birth. If you need help for an addiction to ecstasy, give us a call today and speak to a qualified rehab placement specialist about available treatment options.
Effects on the Baby After Birth
Using ecstasy during pregnancy may have a negative impact on your child’s health after birth. Clinical studies have shown that MDMA exposure in utero in the first trimester may lead to behavioral changes down the line, such as long-term memory problems and impaired learning 1.
In addition, a handful of case studies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands found the following effects in babies who were exposed to ecstasy in utero 7:
- Increased risk of congenital defects.
- Cardiovascular anomalies.
- Musculoskeletal problems.
Some studies have also found that babies who are born to mothers who use ecstasy have increased odds of 1,5:
- Reduced birth weight.
- Alterations in gender ratio (more likely to have boys).
- Motor development delays.
- Poor milestone achievement at 4 months.
Quitting Ecstasy While Pregnant
If you are pregnant and addicted to ecstasy, the safest choice you can make for you and your baby is to seek professional treatment. In a rehab program, you can learn the skills to help you cope with stress and triggers that fuel your use. When you are pregnant, your safety and health are extremely important, and there are programs designed specifically to help ensure that you carry your baby to term in the healthiest manner possible. Give us a call today to learn more about your options for professional treatment at 1-800-980-3927.
If you are currently using ecstasy and you are thinking of quitting, there are ways to do it safely. Recovering from an ecstasy addiction can take time, but you do not have to do it alone. There are a multitude of treatment options that can help you learn how to address the underlying reasons for using substances.
Treatment for ecstasy addiction is often based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions. Cognitive behavioral interventions help teach individuals new skills such as how to find healthier ways to cope with life problems and how to modify negative behaviors that may have led to the development of addiction.
Treatment program options may include:
- Inpatient or residential treatment: Inpatient treatment programs typically last 30 to 90 days and allow you to live on-site while you move through treatment.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment requires you to visit the facility for a set number of hours per week. You will meet with a therapist to develop a treatment plan and attend group therapy with other people who are being treated for an addiction to ecstasy.
- Luxury or executive treatment: These inpatient programs offer flexibility to work while living at the center and a number of amenities not normally available in standard residential programs.
It’s not too late to make a change that can positively influence you and your baby. Give us a call today to speak to a trained treatment support representative 1-800-980-3927 so you can start your journey to recovery.
- Singer, L. T., Moore, D. G., Min, M. O., Goodwin, J., Turner, J. J., Fulton, S., & Parrott, A. C. (2012). One-year outcomes of prenatal exposure to MDMA and other recreational drugs. Pediatrics, 130(3), 407-413.
- National Institutes on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2013). Using Drugs When Pregnant Harms the Baby.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
- Ho, E., Karimi-Tabesh, L., & Koren, G. (2001). Characteristics of pregnant women who use ecstasy (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Neurotoxicology and teratology, 23(6), 561-567.
- Singer, L. T., Moore, D. G., Fulton, S., Goodwin, J., Turner, J. J., Min, M. O., & Parrott, A. C. (2012). Neurobehavioral outcomes of infants exposed to MDMA (Ecstasy) and other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Neurotoxicology and teratology, 34(3), 303-310.
- Green, A. R., King, M. V., Shortall, S. E., & Fone, K. C. F. (2012). Ecstasy cannot be assumed to be 3, 4‐methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA). British journal of pharmacology, 166(5), 1521-1522.
- McElhatton, P. R., Bateman, D. N., Evans, C., Pughe, K. R., & Thomas, S. H. (1999). Congenital anomalies after prenatal Ecstasy exposure. The Lancet, 354(9188), 1441-1442.
Xanax Addiction and Abuse Treatment
What is Xanax Addiction Treatment?
Up to 40 percent of people who take benzodiazepines like Xanax every day will develop an addiction to those pills. Recovery moves on two fronts: the physical and the psychological. Medical detox allows the body to become accustomed to the lack of Xanax, while rehab allows for skill-building and relapse-prevention planning.
In 2011, doctors wrote more than 47 million prescriptions for Xanax, making it the most popular psychiatric medication in the United States.
This is partly because Xanax (the brand name of the drug alprazolam) is used to treat a wide range of anxiety and panic disorders, and the effect of depressing the central nervous system has made Xanax the drug of choice for other ailments like sleep disorders and stress.
This has also opened the door to Xanax being abused by patients who are desperate for relief from their conditions, as well as recreational users looking for an easy high.
Fortunately, treatment for Xanax addiction can help bring individuals back from addiction to a life of health and happiness.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax comes from the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. The GABA neurotransmitter is very important for controlling the electrical excitation in the nervous system; lower GABA levels translate to more symptoms and feelings of anxiety, explains Everyday Health. Benzodiazepines boost the release of GABA throughout the individual’s nervous system, producing calming and sedating effects.
The calming and sedating effects of benzodiazepines make them very useful for those suffering from a number of conditions, not just anxiety and panic attacks. The Royal College of Psychiatrists lists some of the other conditions that benzodiazepines like Xanax are used to treat:
- Muscle spasms
- Withdrawal from alcohol
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling compelled to take more medication, even beyond prescription limits
- Needing increasing amounts of Xanax to feel the same effect
- Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal effects if Xanax intake is discontinued, such as dizziness, insomnia, mood swings, and blurred vision
- Trying to get more Xanax without a valid prescription
What makes Xanax so inherently addictive is that its effects are felt almost immediately upon consumption (as fast as 25 minutes, according to The Fix), but dissipate after just a few hours. This makes people compelled to take more Xanax, even if it means violating the boundaries of their prescription. But the effect of consuming more Xanax means that the patients’ tolerance for the Xanax builds up, leading them to take larger and larger doses. Over time, this gets them hooked on the Xanax.This is also why the ideal Xanax prescription should be for as short a period of time as possible (no more than four weeks, at most), to minimize the risk of the patient’s body getting acclimatized to the drug. Even if the patient requires a long-term Xanax plan, it is better for the treatment to be staggered with intermittent stages of consumption and tapering off, than for the person to receive continuous Xanax. The doses should also be as low as possible.Once dependence is in place, the fear of withdrawing from the Xanax kicks in. Individuals may genuinely want to stop taking Xanax if they recognize the unhealthiness of their situation, but the symptoms of opiate withdrawal are often so bad that they go right back on the Xanax for fear of experiencing those symptoms again.
Treatment for a Xanax addiction involves countering the addiction on two fronts: the physical compulsion for the client to take Xanax and the mental craving for more of the drug.To address the first front, a client will undergo medical detox, with the goal of weaning off Xanax with as little distress as possible. Since the effects of withdrawal can be very painful and traumatic, treatment center staff might prescribe a course of anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant medication. Ironically, benzodiazepines are “effective in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms,”in the words of American Family Physician.
Due to the administration of anti-anxiety drugs being performed by trained staff members in a controlled environment (who have a full understanding of the client’s medical history and toxicology), a client can be put on a drug regimen to ease the withdrawal process, while incurring as minimal risk as possible. This is also why withdrawal should never be attempted alone, as the risk for relapsing and seizures (a danger pointed out by an article published in the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association) far outweighs the remote chance of a successful DIY detoxification.
Detox is only the first part of the treatment process; the second part involves addressing the mental damage done by Xanax addiction. To that effect, the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology says that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown considerable effectiveness in helping clients taper off benzodiazepine use. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a system of counseling whereby a client is helped to see how patterns of thought and behavior led to Xanax abuse and addiction. A therapist works closely with the patient on devising healthier and more positive ways of dealing with the root issues behind Xanax abuse, and also shows the client how coping skills and methods for dealing with the lingering compulsion to seek out Xanax.
A treatment model like CBT can also address the presence of a co-occurring disorder ” a client who has both an addiction to Xanax and a mental health disorder at the same time. Addictive Behaviors published a study where researchers examined the effectiveness of CBT in treating those who presented with both post-traumatic stress disorder and a substance abuse disorder. While conceding that their study was not a comprehensive one, the researchers reported that their findings provided support for using CBT to treat co-occurring disorders.
Despite the effectiveness of Xanax, its risks have led doctors and patients alike to investigate alternatives to alleviating anxiety and stress (as well as the other conditions treated by Xanax). Some of these alternative treatment methods, according to Mental Health Daily, are:
- Meditation, which helps reduce the stress response in the brain that triggers feelings of anxiety
- Yoga, which helps reduce the levels of arousal that a person feels when experiencing anxiety or a panic attack
- Essential oils that depress the nervous system and cause relaxation
- Lifestyle changes, such as leaving a stressful job or starting an exercise routine
New York Magazine calls Xanax “the most popular anti-anxiety drug in America,”but that popularity comes with a price. As much as Xanax has become known for treating anxiety and stress, it has also become synonymous with the epidemic of prescription medication. Fortunately, numerous therapies and strategies exist to help individuals emerge from the shadow of Xanax addiction.
Barbiturate Overdose: Symptoms, Effects, and Risks
What are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates are a group of depressant drugs that can have a wide range of effects on a person’s central nervous system. These drugs are most commonly used as sedatives, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, but have also seen use as anesthetics and anticonvulsants. Methods of use include ingesting in pill form and injecting in liquid form, though the former is significantly more common. Barbiturates have a sedating effect on a user, causing mild euphoria, drowsiness, and relaxation. Barbiturates range from Schedule II to Schedule IV under the Controlled Substances Act, depending on the specific drug.
Many barbiturates are prescription drugs and can be obtained legally. As is the case with most substances with similar effects, barbiturates see illegal use and abuse throughout the United States. Barbiturate abuse peaked in the 1970s and has been in significant decline since, but it has not disappeared completely. Barbiturates remain a dangerous class of drug when used improperly.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 3 million people in the United States reported using barbiturates for a nonmedical purpose in 2014 alone. It’s clear that barbiturate abuse remains a problem in the US despite its decline in the last four-plus decades.
A barbiturate overdose occurs when someone consumes too much of a barbiturate for their system to handle. Overdose is known to happen both accidentally and intentionally. Intentional overdoses are often suicide attempts. Accidental overdose is most common among those with a physical dependence on the drug. People who have obtained the drug illegally rather than through a prescription are more likely to abuse the drug and develop physical dependence.
Barbiturates are addictive, and prolonged use can result in a physical addiction to these drugs. Barbiturates are especially dangerous in regard to accidental overdose because a person often develops a tolerance to the mood-altering effects of a drug much more quickly than they do to the lethal effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This means that a person with an increased tolerance will often seek a higher dosage in order to produce the desired mental effects, which puts them at a high risk for overdose.Women are more likely to overdose on barbiturates than men, as they receive more prescriptions for these drugs. This is because women are generally more likely to seek medical help regarding issues with depression and anxiety.
Polydrug use is commonly associated with barbiturate abuse, and this increases the risk for overdose significantly. Mixing barbiturates with substances like alcohol and heroin is common in cases of overdose due to polydrug use. These substances can increase the potency and potentially lethal effects of barbiturates, making them especially dangerous to consume in conjunction. Alcohol can have similar effects to barbiturates, and combining these two substances can have a compounding effect on some of the more dangerous outcomes of each drug, such as respiratory failure. Heroin and other opioids are very common in polydrug use involving barbiturates, and their potential for overdose when used alone makes mixing these drugs very unsafe.
Symptoms of Overdose
Barbiturate intoxication and overdose are usually accompanied by some of the following symptoms:
- Altered consciousness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Judgement issues
- Coordination problems
- Clouded thinking
- Slurring of speech
In more extreme cases dealing with certain powerful barbiturates, a user may exhibit various symptoms, such as memory loss, increased irritability, lack of alertness, and a general hindering of one’s ability to function. Many of these symptoms are very noticeable, which can allow for somewhat easy recognition by others. This can be key in alerting someone to the need for medical help.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one in 10 people who experience an overdose on barbiturates or a mixture of barbiturates and other drugs will die as a result of the overdose. This figure shows how dire the consequences of abusing this class of drugs can be. Death is usually the result of lung or heart issues.
Even those who survive a barbiturate overdose can suffer significant consequences. Due to the depressant effects of barbiturate intoxication, it is not uncommon for someone to experience a serious head or neck injury due to a fall of some kind. Neck and spinal injuries can cause temporary or even permanent paralysis, having a dramatic effect on a person’s quality of life going forward.
Pregnant women can do damage to the fetus they are carrying, and overdose can even result in miscarriage. This kind of event can have a devastating physical effect on a woman, but it can also have drastic mental and emotional effects as well.
Barbiturate overdose can also cause a person’s gag reflex to be depressed, which can lead to aspiration. In this event, an individual’s lungs fill with fluid due to the gag reflex being unable to stop the flow down the bronchial tubes. This can also lead to pneumonia.
There have been serious cases of muscle and kidney damage as well as a result of an intoxicated or overdosed individual being seriously incapacitated and remaining on a hard surface for a prolonged period of time.
Responding to an Overdose
In the event that someone suspects a barbiturate or mixed overdose involving barbiturates, they should contact 911 immediately, especially in the event of any breathing problems. The presence of medical professionals on the scene can improve the chances of surviving the overdose, which can be deadly. One can also contact the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for further instructions.
Keeping a person suspected of an overdose immobilized on a soft surface is recommended to avoid injury. Knowing whether or not an individual mixed a barbiturate with an opioid can be helpful for professionals when they arrive on the scene, as naloxone may be a viable immediate treatment. This drug can help the person regain consciousness and reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Those who experience a barbiturate overdose may need the assistance of a breathing machine until the drug exits their system completely.
The best way to prevent a barbiturate overdose is to avoid taking these drugs completely. Many people who overdose do not have prescriptions for the drugs and have obtained the substances illegally from someone with a prescription. Nonmedical use can be very dangerous, as it often leads to addiction and a dramatically increased risk for overdose.
For those with a prescription, an open line of communication with their doctor is key to avoid falling into abuse. All questions or concerns need to be voiced with a medical professional. Keeping the medication properly labeled and stored safely is a good way to avoid abuse by others, especially children. Mixing barbiturates with other substances, especially depressants and opioids, is incredibly dangerous for any user, whether they are using barbiturates legally or illegally.
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For someone who is physically dependent on barbiturates, withdrawal can be a painful and dangerous process. Going “cold turkey” and abruptly cutting out the drug can turn life-threatening in severe cases. This means that detoxification done without professional assistance is especially hazardous.
Detox should be done in a designated facility that includes 24-hour monitoring by medical professionals. Residential rehabilitation facilities are often a good option for detox, and a client can remain there following this period to begin therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Barbiturate Addiction
An inpatient residential treatment facility is often a viable avenue for someone who has experienced a barbiturate overdose. Treatment at these facilities is fulltime and usually last at least 30 days. In some instances, stays can last 90 days or more, but most clients are able to transition to outpatient treatment after a month or two. Sometimes transition into a sober living facility can be beneficial.
Even after the physical dependence on barbiturates is overcome, the addiction remains. This is more of a mental addiction to the substance that is accompanied by negative thinking and patterns of behavior. One of the most common forms of therapy to combat these factors is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. CBT examines the connection between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and how they influence each other.Changing beliefs that may lead to distressing thoughts is a key component of CBT. Thought patterns can become dangerous and result in triggers to use. CBT’s goal is to help people develop coping mechanisms for these occurrences and replace their old way of thinking with a new, healthier form.
Anxiety is often something that drives an addicted individual to relapse, and it can happen years into their recovery. CBT helps them to deal with these instances without the use of self-medication. Relaxation exercises, problem-solving techniques, and stress relief strategies are often part of the CBT process as well.
As depression and anxiety in the wake of barbiturate overdose are common, CBT becomes extremely useful in many cases. Medication may be used in conjunction with therapy in order to combat more severe cases. Some people may need CBT for a short time period while others require several months of therapy. One of the best aspects of CBT is that the strategies learned in therapy continue to help individuals long after their sessions have ended. This makes it extremely effective in aiding long-term recovery.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
What is Ativan Addiction and Treatment?
There are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addictions to benzodiazepines like Ativan, but there are other therapies that can help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and Contingency Management are all therapy techniques that can help people with addictions to identify and change the thought processes and beliefs underlying substance abuse. Twelve-step programs can reinforce those lessons, too, helping to sustain recovery.
This category of drugs is also called sedatives or tranquilizers. Like other benzodiazepines, Ativan works by attaching to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain. One effect of Ativan is to slow down the chemical messages nerve receptors receive, which causes an overall calming effect ” and usually without impairing the cardiovascular or respiratory system.
Ativan is mainly used to treat anxiety; however, in medical practice doctors have discovered that Ativan can have therapeutic effects across a range of different conditions.
- Manic bipolar disorder (as an adjunctive treatment)
- Vomiting associated with cancer drugs and chemotherapy
- Chronic sleep problems
- Muscle spasms
- Symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal
- Psychosis associated with abrupt withdrawal from alcohol
Ativan is highly addictive. For this reason, prescribing doctors should inquire with patients about their history of drug abuse, if any, or whether addiction issues are common in their families.
To avoid addiction taking hold, many doctors will only prescribe Ativan as a short-term treatment for 3-4 months.
Dependence and Addiction
Ativan, like many drugs, can cause physical dependence. There are two main hallmarks of physical dependence on Ativan. Firstly, over time, the Ativan user’s body will develop a tolerance to this tranquilizer and require increased dosages to get the desired therapeutic effect or recreational “high.”Unfortunately, as tolerance builds and dosage increases, the margin of risk increases. In other words, drugs begin to operate more dangerously in the body. Secondly, due to increased tolerance, Ativan abusers will often experience withdrawal when they cease taking this prescription sedative or significantly reduce the familiar amount.Physical dependence is distinguishable from addiction. Dependence is a component of addiction; all individuals who are addicted are physically dependent, but not all persons who are physically dependent will become addicted. A person who becomes addicted to Ativan will generally display psychological and behavioral signs. For instance, there is generally an increased amount of time, energy, and resources dedicated to getting and taking Ativan, which negatively impacts work, family, school, and/or personal obligations.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations and delirium
Withdrawal symptoms from Ativan can be particularly dangerous. For this reason, high dose and/or long-term users are strongly encouraged to undergo medically supervised detox. In general, withdrawal from Ativan requires a tapering process, as suddenly stopping this drug can lead to the above symptoms as well as more severe complications.
Harrowing personal accounts of benzodiazepine withdrawal abound online. Sophie Saint Thomas, a freelance writer, shared her Ativan withdrawal story with the drug abuse informational site The Fix. She recounts how she was working on her yoga teacher certification when she abruptly stop taking her daily 1 mg pill of Ativan. Despite her overall good health and advanced daily yoga practice, Saint Thomas experienced a severe panic attack that she mistook for a heart attack. Saint Thomas shares that she initially received a prescription for Ativan to treat her general anxiety. After this experience, she resumed taking Ativan but only to avoid withdrawal. After another cold-turkey detox attempt, she ended up in the emergency room with seizure-like symptoms. Ultimately, Saint Thomas accepted that she could not be impulsive about ending her Ativan dependence and instead needs to taper off the drug.
Recognizing substance abuse is not always easy or straightforward. As Ativan is a prescription medication, a person who abuses the drug may fall into any one of the following relevant categories:
- Has a legitimate need and prescription for Ativan
- Has feigned symptoms to procure a prescription for Ativan
- Sources Ativan from individuals with prescriptions
- Buys Ativan illegally on the street
- Engages in “doctor shopping”to get multiple prescriptions
In most of the above cases, Ativan derives from a prescription, which means prescription bottles may be in evidence in the person’s home, car, or workplace. A person who is using Ativan in compliance with a doctor’s orders will only have one prescription per month (and generally not for more than four months) from one doctor. If you see multiple prescription bottles, with overlapping months, that is a strong indication that Ativan abuse is occurring. In addition, when Ativan abusers go “doctor shopping,”they also fill prescriptions at different pharmacies to avoid detection. It is helpful to pay attention to where prescriptions are being filled.
Ativan abuse can also have recognizable physical side effects. For this reason, it is helpful to learn about the side effects associated with high doses of benzodiazepines, such as:
- Poor decision-making ability
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Cessation of breathing, leading to death
- Slurred speech
In some cases, Ativan abusers may not consume a high dose but rather a heavy dose over a long period of time. These individuals are considered to be chronic abusers. Symptoms of chronic abuse of Ativan include:
- Memory problems
Even still, there is another layer to benzodiazepine abuse. Many individuals who abuse benzodiazepines like Ativan do so as part of a more expansive drug abuse routine. These individuals are considered to be poly-drug users who consume a varying range of drugs at once. A research paper published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reviewed 200 research studies related to co-occurring benzodiazepine and opioid abuse. It appears that these two drugs are a popular combination not only in the US, but also around the world. The researchers attempted to understand why these two drug types are often paired together.
Among their conclusions, they noted that benzodiazepines are mainly abused for their recreational value. In other words, opioid abusers who also abuse benzodiazepines may not be trying to self-medicate insomnia, mania, or anxiety. Rather, co-users of these drugs reported that they liked benzodiazepines because of their ability to enhance the effects of the opioid “high.”The researchers urged further study in the area of the interaction between opioid and benzodiazepine abuse, especially because the combination can be particularly lethal and present greater challenges in the treatment context.
A comparative review of drug rehab centers will reveal that there is a core set of treatment services and also complementary services designed to support the core recovery plan.
In Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, a National Institute on Drug Abuse publication, core services include pharmacological interventions and psycho-behavioral therapy. Pharmacological intervention refers to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain drugs for the treatment of addiction to certain drugs of abuse. Today, most MAT services center on opioid abuse. At present, there are no medications specifically approved to treat benzodiazepine abuse (other than using benzodiazepines in the tapering process). However, it is important to take note of MAT for opioid abuse in the Ativan abuse context because of the high co-occurrence of abuse of these two drug types.
Although MAT is not generally available in the Ativan treatment context, a core set of services focused on psycho-behavioral therapy is a pillar of rehab. Different psycho-behavioral therapy techniques are based on varying theories about what causes psychological stress leading to addiction, and the most effective approaches to achieve and maintain a drug-free mind.
Some of the most commonly used psycho-behavioral therapies in drug rehabs are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Community reinforcement approach
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Contingency management interventions
- Dialectical behavior therapy
In rehab, psychotherapy is provided on both an individual and group level. For instance, in a one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session, the therapist will work with the recovering individual to identify the thought processes and beliefs underlying the substance abuse. CBT has a strong focus on learning processes and posits that drug abuse is a maladapted form of coping with stress. After the underlying causes of the Ativan abuse are acknowledged, the next step is to develop new drug-free strategies to cope with stressor (e.g., triggers that cue the person to abuse drugs rather than engage in other behaviors, such as taking a walk or calling a friend for support). CBT has proven to be effective and long-lasting; even after sessions end, recovering persons report they still use the strategies they learned in CBT to maintain abstinence and make healthier life choices in general.
Twelve-step programs are such an integral part of the rehab landscape that these meetings are often considered to be synonymous with recovery. Twelve-step programs may be considered ancillary treatment options, although many would argue that they belong at the core of all rehab programs. These programs are different from psychotherapy group work. In a 12-step program, the members organize and lead the group, not a psychotherapist. For this reason, a drug rehab center can serve as a host of a 12-step group but does not actually control it. Also, the sober sponsors who work with members of 12-step groups are not compensated by a rehab center, as their role is entirely voluntarily. Twelve-step work is not only instrumental to the recovery process during inpatient or outpatient treatment, but also after graduation, as part of an effective aftercare program.
The importance of family therapy, when available, cannot be overlooked. Families and other concerned individuals are often credited with the being the interventions who got the substance abuser into treatment in the first place. Drug rehab centers offer different types of family-oriented services, including, for example, group therapy for the family, drug education for family members, and on-site “family day”social events. Family members and other loved ones are encouraged to explore individual psychotherapy to heal from co-dependency (if present) as well as the painful ripple effects of a loved one’s drug abuse.
There are numerous examples of complementary ancillary services available at drug rehab centers. Much of the time, the level of complementary services depends on funding. A large subset of ancillary services revolve around wellness. Some examples of ancillary wellness services on offer at drug rehabs include:
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Adventure therapy (such as hiking)
- Art therapy
- Equine-assisted therapy
- Physical training at an on-site gym
Even a recovering person with a supportive family may need additional help from public systems that offer help with housing, free or low-cost legal services, transportation, public benefits, childcare, and/or job placement.
- What is SAD?
- Signs and symptoms
- Causes and risk factors
- Self-help tips
- More help for SAD
- Resources and references
- Back to top
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Recognizing and treating seasonal depression and the winter blues
The shorter days and colder weather of winter can make anyone feel down, especially if you live a long way from the equator. The reduced light, warmth, and color of winter can leave you feeling melancholy, irritable, or tired. But if these feelings recur each year, make it tough to function during the winter months, and then subside in spring or early summer, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal depression can affect your health, your relationships, and your everyday activities. But no matter how hopeless you feel, there are things you can do to keep your mood and life stable throughout the year.
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year, usually in winter. Otherwise known as seasonal depression, SAD can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, taking a toll on all aspects of your life from your relationships and social life to work, school, and your sense of self-worth. You may feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love. While a less common form of the disorder causes depression during the summer months, SAD usually begins in fall or winter when the days become shorter and remains until the brighter days of spring or early summer.
SAD affects about 1% to 2% of the population, particularly women and young people, while a milder form of winter blues may affect as many 10 to 20 percent of people. Since the amount of winter daylight you receive changes the farther you are from the equator, SAD is most common in people who live at least 30 degrees latitude north or south (north of places such as Jacksonville, Florida, Austin, Texas, Cairo, Egypt, and Hangzhou, China, or south of Perth, Australia, Durban, South Africa, and Cordoba, Argentina). No matter where you live, though, or how dark and cold the winters, the good news is that, like other forms of depression, SAD is treatable. The more you understand about seasonal depression, the better equipped you’ll be to manage or even prevent the condition.
Could I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
If some of these feelings seem to happen each year, have a real impact on your life, and improve during certain seasons, talk to your doctor, you may have seasonal affective disorder.
- I feel like sleeping all the time, or I’m having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
- I’m tired all the time, it makes it hard for me to carry out daily tasks
- My appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
- I’m gaining weight
- I feel sad, guilty and down on myself
- I feel hopeless
- I’m irritable
- I’m avoiding people or activities I used to enjoy
- I feel tense and stressed
- I’ve lost interest in sex and other physical contact
Source: BC Mental Health
Signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder
The signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are the same as those for major depression. SAD is distinguished from depression by the remission of symptoms in the spring and summer months (or winter and fall in the case of summer SAD).
Common symptoms of seasonal depression include:
- Depressed mood, low self-esteem
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair
- Feeling angry, irritable, stressed, or anxious
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Appetite and weight changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy; reduced sex drive
- Use of drugs or alcohol for comfort
As with depression, the severity of SAD symptoms can vary from person to person—often depending on genetic vulnerability and geographic location. For many, the symptoms usually begin mildly at the start of fall and get progressively worse through the darkest days of winter. Then, by spring or early summer, the symptoms lift until you’re in remission and feel normal and healthy again.
To be clinically diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, you need to have experienced these cyclical symptoms for two or more consecutive years. Regardless of the timing or persistence of your symptoms, if your depression feels overwhelming and is adversely affecting your life, it’s time to seek help.
Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder
The changes in seasons can trigger mood changes in some people with bipolar disorder. Spring and summer may trigger symptoms of mania or hypomania, while the onset of fall and winter can bring on symptoms of depression. While the depression symptoms of SAD and bipolar disorder can look alike, there are significant differences, especially when it comes to treatment. To learn more about bipolar disorder, see Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms.
If You Are Feeling Suicidal…
Whatever the season, when you’re feeling depressed your problems may not seem temporary—they can seem overwhelming and permanent. But you will feel better. If you are feeling suicidal, know that there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time, so please reach out for help.
Causes of seasonal affective disorder
While the exact causes of seasonal affective disorder are unclear, most theories attribute the disorder to the reduction of daylight hours in winter. The shorter days and reduced exposure to sunlight that occurs in winter are thought to affect the body by disrupting:
- Circadian rhythms. Your body’s internal clock or sleep-wake cycle responds to changes between light and dark to regulate your sleep, mood, and appetite. The longer nights and shorter days of winter can disrupt your internal clock—leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times.
- Production of melatonin. When it’s dark, your brain produces the hormone melatonin to help you sleep and then sunlight during the day triggers the brain to stop melatonin production so you feel awake and alert. During the short days and long nights of winter, however, your body may produce too much melatonin, leaving you feeling drowsy and low on energy.
- Production of serotonin. The reduced sunlight of winter can lower your body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. A deficit may lead to depression and adversely affect your sleep, appetite, memory, and sexual desire.
Summer of SAD
The less common form of SAD, summer depression, begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall. Instead of being attributed to shorter days and reduced sunlight, experts believe that summer SAD is caused by the opposite—longer days and increased heat and humidity, possibly even an upswing in seasonal allergies.
Many summer SAD symptoms are the same as those for winter depression, although there are some differences. The longer daylight hours and shorter nights mean that if you have summer SAD, you’re more likely to sleep too little rather than too much. To promote sleep, your doctor may suggest taking melatonin supplements to make up for your body’s lower production. Changing your sleeping patterns by going to bed earlier at night (as soon as it gets dark in some cases) and rising earlier in the morning can also help to reset your body’s circadian rhythms.
As with any form of depression, there can be many different causes and contributing factors for seasonal affective disorder. Always consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and see the lifestyle changes outlined below for help to boost your mood and manage your depression symptoms.
Seasonal affective disorder can affect anyone but is most common in people who live far north or south of the equator. This means you’ll experience less sunlight in the winter months and longer days during the summer. Other risk factors include:
- Your gender. While 3 out of 4 sufferers of SAD are women, men often experience more severe symptoms.
- Your age. In most cases, winter SAD is first diagnosed in people aged 18 to 30 and is less likely to occur as you get older.
- Your family history. Having relatives who’ve experienced SAD or another type of depression puts you at greater risk.
Self-help tips for seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal depression can make it hard to motivate yourself to make changes, but there are plenty of steps you can take to help yourself feel better. Recovery takes time but you’ll likely feel a little better each day. By adopting healthy habits and scheduling fun and relaxation into your day, you can help lift the cloud of seasonal affective disorder and keep it from coming back.
Tip #1: Get as much natural sunlight as possible–it’s free!
Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun without wearing sunglasses (but never stare directly at the sun).
- Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside if you can stay warm enough.
- Increase the amount of natural light in your home and workplace by opening blinds and drapes and sitting near windows.
- Some people find that painting walls in lighter colors or using daylight simulation bulbs also helps combat winter SAD.
Tip #2: Exercise regularly—it can be as effective as medication
Regular exercise is a powerful way to fight seasonal depression, especially if you’re able to exercise outside in natural daylight.
- Regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. In fact, exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
- Exercise can also help to improve your sleep and boost your self-esteem.
- Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days. Even something as simple as walking a dog, for example, can be good exercise for you and the animal, as well as a great way to get outdoors and interact with other people.
Tip #3: Reach out to family and friends—and let them help
Close relationships are vital in reducing isolation and helping you manage SAD. Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. It may feel more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will boost your mood. Even if you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect or start new relationships.
- Call or email an old friend to meet for coffee. Or reach out to someone new—a work colleague or neighbor, for example. Most of us feel awkward about reaching out, but be the one to break the ice.
- Join a support group for depression. Sometimes, just talking about what you’re going through can help you feel better. Being with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and provide inspiration to make positive changes.
- Meet new people with a common interest by taking a class, joining a club, or enrolling in a special interest group that meets on a regular basis. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that’s fun for you.
- Volunteer your time. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself, expand your social network, and overcome SAD.
Tip #4: Eat the right diet
Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings.
- While the symptoms of SAD can make you crave sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and white bread, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. Foods such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas can boost your feel-good serotonin levels without the subsequent sugar crash.
- Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats—such as oily fish, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds—can also improve your mood and may even boost the effectiveness of antidepressant medication.
Tip #5: Take steps to deal with stress—by making time for fun
Whatever the time of year, too much stress can exacerbate or even trigger depression. Figure out the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
- Practicing daily relaxation techniques can help you manage stress, reduce negative emotions such as anger and fear, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
- Do something you enjoy every day. Having fun is a great stress buster, so make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be painting, playing the piano, working on your car, or simply hanging out with friends.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder
While your doctor may also suggest treatment such as medication or psychotherapy, the mainstay of winter SAD treatment is light therapy, otherwise known as phototherapy. Light therapy aims to replace the missing daylight of winter by exposing you to bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Daily exposure can suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin to help you feel more awake and alert, less drowsy and melancholy.
Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of SAD cases. However, the timing and length of exposure needed can vary according to your symptoms and circadian rhythm, so you’ll need guidance from your doctor or mental health professional to find the right dosage. Your doctor or therapist can also help you choose a light therapy product that’s both effective and safe.
Light therapy has to be continued daily throughout the winter months to be effective. Starting light therapy before the onset of symptoms in the fall may even help prevent seasonal affective disorder.
There are two different ways of administering light therapy.
- A light box delivers light that with up to ten times the intensity of normal domestic lighting. In most cases, you simply sit about 12 inches in front of a 10,000 lux light box for 15 to 30 minutes each morning. The light box emits a controlled amount of white light, with harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays filtered out. While the light needs to enter the eyes, you shouldn’t stare directly at the light box, but rather continue your morning routine, such as eating breakfast, reading the newspaper or working at the computer. Most people notice an improvement in their SAD symptoms after a few days and experience the full antidepressant effect in about two weeks.
- A dawn simulator is a device that gradually increases the amount of light in your bedroom in the morning to simulate the rising sun and wake you up. The light gradually increases, just as natural sunlight does, over a period of 30 to 45 minutes. Instead of waking in darkness, you wake to what looks like a sunny morning. This can help reset your circadian rhythm and improve your mood. While light boxes may trigger hypomania or mania in those with bipolar disorder, there is no such risk with a dawn simulator.
While tanning beds generate sufficient light, they should never be used to treat SAD as the UV rays they produce can be harmful to the skin and eyes.
Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder: What you need to know
Light therapy involves daily sessions of sitting close to a special light source that is far more intense than normal indoor light. Some people feel better after only one light treatment, but most people require at least a few days of treatment, and some need several weeks. You do not need a prescription to purchase a light box to treat SAD; however, it’s best to work with a professional to monitor the benefits of the treatment.
Some SAD light boxes look like medical equipment, while others are more like regular table lamps. The prices vary. Although professional groups and government agencies endorse light therapy, your insurance company in the U.S. may balk. If you are counting on coverage, you better check first.
There are few side effects to light therapy, but you should be aware of the following potential problems:
- Mild anxiety, jitteriness, headaches, early awakening, or eyestrain can occur.
- There is evidence that light therapy can trigger a manic episode in people who are vulnerable.
- While there is no proof that light therapy can aggravate an eye problem, you should still discuss any eye disease with your doctor before starting light therapy. Likewise, since rashes can result, let your doctor know about any skin conditions.
- Some drugs or herbs (for example, St. John’s wort) can make you sensitive to light.
Adapted with permission from Understanding Depression, a special health report published by Havard Health Publications.
Medication and psychotherapy for seasonal affective disorder
While light therapy is often a highly effective treatment for SAD or the winter blues, it doesn’t work for everyone. If that’s the case, don’t despair, there are other effective treatment options available and plenty of self-help techniques to help you feel better.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly beneficial for people with seasonal depression. The right therapist can help you curb negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that make the disorder worse and help you learn how to manage symptoms and deal with stress in healthy ways. For many people, CBT can be as effective at treating seasonal affective disorder as light therapy or antidepressants, but without any risky side-effects.
- Medication. If light therapy doesn’t work for you, your doctor may suggest antidepressant medication. SSRI antidepressants work by acting on serotonin levels in the brain to reduce SAD symptoms. In the U.S., the FDA has specifically approved the drug bupropion (Wellbutrin) to treat seasonal affective disorder. However, as with all antidepressants, there may be adverse side effects, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. It’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting on medication.
Whatever treatment plan you settle on, it’s important to combine it with self-help techniques to help manage your depression symptoms and even help prevent seasonal affective disorder returning next year.
More help for seasonal depression
Depression Help Center: Learn what you need to know to identify, understand, and successfully solve the challenges of depression.
Seasonal depression help
- Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs: How to Recognize Depression Symptoms and Get Effective Help
- Depression in Women: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help
- Teenager’s Guide to Depression: Learn Tips and Tools for Helping Yourself or a Friend
- Dealing with Depression: Self-Help and Coping Tips to Overcome Depression
Types of depression
- Depression Treatment: Therapy, Medication, and Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Depression
- Helping a Depressed Person: How to Reach Out and Help Someone While Taking Care of Yourself
- Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression: Learn the Signs and How You Can Help Your Teen
Resources and references
Seasonal affective disorder: causes and treatment
Seasonal Affective Disorder – Outlines the diagnostic criteria for winter SAD as well as tips on treatment and how to cope with symptoms. (BC Mental Health)
Causes of seasonal affective disorder – Discusses how the amount of sunlight you receive affects some of your body’s hormones and the chemicals in the brain. (NHS)
Seasonal affective disorder: When winter brings the blues – Causes and treatment for winter SAD. (Havard Health Publications)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Outlines the symptoms of winter and summer SAD, as well as treatment and self-help tips. (Mayo Clinic)
Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder: bring on the light – Blog about the value of bright light therapy and how to choose a light box. (Havard Health Publications)
Light Therapies for Depression – Discusses using and buying a dawn simulator or light box, including price guides and comparison of different units. (PsychEducation.org)
- What is GAD?
- “Normal” worry and GAD
- Signs and symptoms
- Look at your worries in new ways
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Learn to calm down quickly
- Connect with others
- Change your lifestyle
- When to seek professional help
- More help
- Resources and references
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help
Do you worry excessively about things that are unlikely to happen, or feel tense and anxious all day long with no real reason? Everyone gets anxious sometimes, but if your worries and fears are so constant that they interfere with your ability to function and relax, you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is mentally and physically exhausting. It drains your energy, interferes with sleep, and wears your body out. But you can break free from chronic worrying and learn to calm your anxious mind.
What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?
Carrie has always been a worrier, but it never interfered with her life before. Lately, however, she’s been feeling keyed up all the time. She’s paralyzed by an omnipresent sense of dread, and worries constantly about the future. Her worries make it difficult to concentrate at work, and when she gets home she can’t relax.
Carrie is also having sleep difficulties, tossing and turning for hours before she falls asleep. She also gets frequent stomach cramps and diarrhea, and has a chronic stiff neck from muscle tension. Carrie feels like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension.
Unlike a phobia, where your fear is connected to a specific thing or situation, the anxiety of generalized anxiety disorder is diffuse—a general feeling of dread or unease that colors your whole life. This anxiety is less intense than a panic attack, but much longer lasting, making normal life difficult and relaxation impossible.
If you have GAD you may worry about the same things that other people do: health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. But you take these worries to a new level.
A co-worker’s careless comment about the economy becomes a vision of an imminent pink slip; a phone call to a friend that isn’t immediately returned becomes anxiety that the relationship is in trouble. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. You go about your activities filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke them.
Whether you realize that your anxiety is more intense than the situation calls for or believe that your worrying protects you in some way, the end result is the same. You can’t turn off your anxious thoughts. They keep running through your head, on endless repeat.
- “I can’t get my mind to stop… it’s driving me crazy!”
- “He’s late—he was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago! Oh my God, he must have been in an accident!”
- “I can’t sleep—I just feel such dread… and I don’t know why!”
The difference between “normal” worry and GAD
Worries, doubts, and fears are a normal part of life. It’s natural to be anxious about your upcoming SAT test or to worry about your finances after being hit by unexpected bills.
The difference between “normal” worrying and generalized anxiety disorder is that the worrying involved in GAD is:
For example, after watching a news report about a terrorist bombing in the Middle East, the average person might feel a temporary sense of unease and worry. If you have GAD, however, you might be up all night afterwards, then continue worrying for days about a worst-case scenario in which your small hometown is attacked.
|“Normal” Worry vs. Generalized Anxiety Disorder|
|“Normal” Worry:||Generalized Anxiety Disorder:|
Your worrying doesn’t get in the way of your daily activities and responsibilities.
Your worrying significantly disrupts your job, activities, or social life.
You’re able to control your worrying.
Your worrying is uncontrollable.
Your worries, while unpleasant, don’t cause significant distress.
Your worries are extremely upsetting and stressful.
Your worries are limited to a specific, small number of realistic concerns.
You worry about all sorts of things, and tend to expect the worst.
Your bouts of worrying last for only a short time period.
You’ve been worrying almost every day for at least six months.
Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder
The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder fluctuate. You may notice better and worse times of the day, or better and worse days in general. And while stress doesn’t cause generalized anxiety disorder, it can make the symptoms worse.
Not everyone with generalized anxiety disorder has the same symptoms. But most people with GAD experience a combination of a number of the following emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms.
Emotional symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder
- Constant worries running through your head
- Feeling like your anxiety is uncontrollable; there is nothing you can do to stop the worrying
- Intrusive thoughts about things that make you anxious; you try to avoid thinking about them, but you can’t
- An inability to tolerate uncertainty; you need to know what’s going to happen in the future
- A pervasive feeling of apprehension or dread
Behavioral symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder
- Inability to relax, enjoy quiet time, or be by yourself
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on things
- Putting things off because you feel overwhelmed
- Avoiding situations that make you anxious
Physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder
- Feeling tense; having muscle tightness or body aches
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because your mind won’t quit
- Feeling edgy, restless, or jumpy
- Stomach problems, nausea, diarrhea
Children and generalized anxiety disorder
In children, excessive worrying centers on future events, past behaviors, social acceptance, family matters, their personal abilities, and school performance. Unlike adults with GAD, children and teens with generalized anxiety disorder often don’t realize that their anxiety is disproportionate to the situation, so adults need to recognize their symptoms. Along with many of the symptoms that appear in adults with generalized anxiety disorder, some red flags for GAD in children are:
- “What if” fears about situations far in the future
- Perfectionism, excessive self-criticism, and fear of making mistakes
- Feeling that they’re to blame for any disaster, and their worry will keep tragedy from occurring
- The conviction that misfortune is contagious and will happen to them
- Need for frequent reassurance and approval
Generalized anxiety disorder treatment tip 1: Look at your worries in new ways
The core symptom of generalized anxiety disorder is chronic worrying. It’s important to understand what worrying is, since the beliefs you hold about worrying play a huge role in triggering and maintaining GAD.
You may feel like your worries come from the outside—from other people, events that stress you out, or difficult situations you’re facing. But, in fact, worrying is self-generated. The trigger comes from the outside, but an internal running dialogue maintains the anxiety itself.
When you’re worrying, you’re talking to yourself about things you’re afraid of or negative events that might happen. You run over the feared situation in your mind and think about all the ways you might deal with it. In essence, you’re trying to solve problems that haven’t happened yet, or worse, simply obsessing on worst-case scenarios.
All this worrying may give you the impression that you’re protecting yourself by preparing for the worst or avoiding bad situations. But more often than not, worrying is unproductive—sapping your mental and emotional energy without resulting in any concrete problem-solving strategies or actions.
How to distinguish between productive and unproductive worrying? If you’re focusing on “what if” scenarios, your worrying is unproductive.
Once you’ve given up the idea that your worrying somehow helps you, you can start to deal with your worry and anxiety in more productive ways. This may involve challenging irrational worrisome thoughts, learning how to postpone worrying, and learning to accept uncertainty in your life.
Generalized anxiety disorder treatment tip 2: Practice relaxation techniques
Anxiety is more than just a feeling. It’s the body’s physical “fight or flight” reaction to a perceived threat. Your heart pounds, you breathe faster, your muscles tense up, and you feel light-headed. When you’re relaxed, the complete opposite happens. Your heart rate slows down, you breathe slower and more deeply, your muscles relax, and your blood pressure stabilizes. Since it’s impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time, strengthening your body’s relaxation response is a powerful anxiety-relieving tactic.
If you struggle with GAD, relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation can teach you how to relax.
The key is regular practice. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day. As you strengthen your ability to relax, your nervous system will become less reactive and you’ll be less vulnerable to anxiety and stress. Over time, the relaxation response will come easier and easier, until it feels natural.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. When anxiety takes hold, progressive muscle relaxation can help you release muscle tension and take a “time out” from your worries. The technique involves systematically tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body. As your body relaxes, your mind will follow.
- Deep breathing. When you’re anxious, you breathe faster. This hyperventilation causes symptoms such as dizziness, breathlessness, lightheadedness, and tingly hands and feet. These physical symptoms are frightening, leading to further anxiety and panic. But by breathing deeply from the diaphragm, you can reverse these symptoms and calm yourself down.
- Meditation. Many types of meditation have been shown to reduce anxiety. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, shows promise for anxiety relief. Research shows that mindfulness meditation can actually change your brain. With regular practice, meditation boosts activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for feelings of serenity and joy.
Generalized anxiety disorder treatment tip 3: Learn to calm down quickly
Many people with generalized anxiety disorder don’t know how to calm and soothe themselves. But it’s a simple, easy technique to learn, and it can make a drastic difference in your anxiety symptoms.
The best methods for self-soothing incorporate one or more of the physical senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Try the following sensory-based, self-soothing suggestions when your generalized anxiety disorder symptoms are acting up:
- Sight – Take in a beautiful view. Go to an art museum. Walk around a pretty neighborhood. Look at treasured photos or an interesting picture book.
- Sound – Listen to soothing music. Enjoy the sounds of nature: birds singing, ocean waves crashing on the beach, wind rustling through the trees.
- Smell – Light scented candles. Smell the flowers in a garden. Breathe in the clean, fresh air. Stop by a bakery. Spritz on your favorite perfume.
- Taste – Cook a delicious meal. Slowly eat a favorite treat, savoring each bite. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or an uncaffeinated beverage.
- Touch – Pet your dog or cat. Take a warm bubble bath. Wrap yourself in a soft blanket. Sit outside in the cool breeze. Get a massage.
To Cope with Anxiety, Remember A-W-A-R-E
The key to switching out of an anxiety state is to accept it fully. Remaining in the present and accepting your anxiety cause it to disappear.
A: Accept the anxiety. Welcome it. Don’t fight it. Replace your rejection, anger, and hatred of it with acceptance. By resisting, you’re prolonging the unpleasantness of it. Instead, flow with it. Don’t make it responsible for how you think, feel, and act.
W: Watch your anxiety. Look at it without judgment – not good, not bad. Rate it on a 0-to-10 scale and watch it go up and down. Be detached. Remember, you’re not your anxiety. The more you can separate yourself from the experience, the more you can just watch it.
A: Act with the anxiety. Act as if you aren’t anxious. Function with it. Slow down if you have to, but keep going. Breathe slowly and normally. If you run from the situation your anxiety will go down, but your fear will go up. If you stay, both your anxiety and your fear will go down.
R: Repeat the steps. Continue to accept your anxiety, watch it, and act with it until it goes down to a comfortable level. And it will. Just keep repeating these three steps: accept, watch, and act with it.
E: Expect the best. What you fear the most rarely happens. Recognize that a certain amount of anxiety is normal. By expecting future anxiety you’re putting yourself in a good position to accept it when it comes again.
Adapted from: Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective by Aaron Beck and Gary Emery
Generalized anxiety disorder treatment tip 4: Connect with others
Generalized anxiety disorder gets worse when you feel powerless and alone, but there is strength in numbers. The more connected you are to other people, the less vulnerable you’ll feel. The catch-22 is that GAD can lead to problems in your relationships.
For example, anxiety and constant worrying about your close relationships may leave you feeling needy and insecure. Perhaps you tend to read into what people say or assume the worst when a friend or partner doesn’t respond the way you expected or hoped. As a result, you may need lots of reassurance from others or become paranoid and suspicious. These things can put a huge strain on your relationships.
- Identify unhealthy relationship patterns. Think about the ways you tend to act when you’re feeling anxious about a relationship. Do you test your partner? Withdraw? Make accusations? Become clingy? Once you’re aware of any anxiety-driven relationship patterns, you can look for better ways to deal with any fears or insecurities you’re feeling.
- Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to live in isolation. Connecting to others is vital to your emotional health. A strong support system doesn’t necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you.
- Talk it out when your worries start spiraling. If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, call a trusted family member or friend. Just talking out loud about your worries can make them seem less threatening. It’s helpful to bounce your worries off someone who can give you a balanced, objective perspective.
- Know who to avoid when you’re feeling anxious. Remember that there is a good chance that your anxious take on life is something you learned when you were growing up. If your mother is a chronic worrier, she is not the best person to call when you’re feeling anxious—no matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem.
Generalized anxiety disorder treatment tip 5: Change your lifestyle
A healthy, balanced lifestyle plays a big role in keeping the symptoms of GAD at bay. Read on for a number of ways you can stop chronic anxiety and worry by taking care of yourself, and commit to making any necessary anxiety-reducing lifestyle changes.
Adopt healthy eating habits
Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel anxious and irritable. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only do complex carbs stabilize blood sugar, they also boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter with calming effects.
Limit caffeine and sugar
Stop drinking or cut back on caffeinated beverages, including soda, coffee, and tea. Caffeine can increase anxiety, interfere with sleep, and even provoke panic attacks. Reduce the amount of refined sugar you eat, too. Sugary snacks and desserts cause blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling emotionally and physically drained.
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. For maximum relief for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days. Aerobic exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals.
Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but it actually causes anxiety symptoms as it wears off. Drinking for generalized anxiety disorder relief also starts you on a path that can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Lighting up when you’re feeling anxious is also a bad idea. While it may seem like cigarettes are calming, nicotine is actually a powerful stimulant. Smoking leads to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Get enough sleep
Anxiety and worry can cause insomnia, as anyone whose racing thoughts have kept them up at night can attest. But lack of sleep can also contribute to anxiety. When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to handle stress is compromised. When you’re well rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with anxiety and stopping worry.
When to seek professional help for generalized anxiety disorder treatment
Self-help strategies are enough for many people with generalized anxiety disorder. Others need additional therapy and support to get anxiety under control.
If you can’t seem to shake your worries and fears, despite trying the self-help treatment tips, it may be time to seek professional help. But remember that professional treatment doesn’t replace self-help. In order to control your GAD symptoms, you’ll still want to make lifestyle changes and look at the ways you think about worrying.
Is it really generalized anxiety disorder?
When seeking professional treatment, it’s important to make sure that your symptoms are truly due to generalized anxiety disorder. If you’ve struggled with anxiety and fears your whole life, it’s likely that your anxiety symptoms are due to GAD.
However, if your anxiety symptoms are relatively new, this could be a sign of a different problem. For example, many medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety. Traumatic experiences can also cause symptoms similar to that of generalized anxiety disorder.
To get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, it’s best to see a mental health professional. GAD is often accompanied by other problems, such as depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders. For treatment to succeed, it’s important to get help for all of the problems you’re dealing with.
Therapy for generalized anxiety disorder
Therapy is a key component of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Many studies show that therapy is as effective as medication for most people. And best of all, therapy for generalized anxiety disorder is side-effect free.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of therapy that is particularly helpful in the treatment of GAD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy examines distortions in our ways of looking at the world and ourselves.
Your therapist will help you identify automatic negative thoughts that contribute to your anxiety. For example, if you catastrophize—always imagining the worst possible outcome in any given situation—you might challenge this tendency through questions such as, “What is the likelihood that this worst-case scenario will actually come true?” and “What are some positive outcomes that are more likely to happen?”.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for GAD involves five components:
- Education. CBT involves learning about generalized anxiety disorder. It also teaches you how to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful worry. An increased understanding of your anxiety encourages a more accepting and proactive response to it.
- Monitoring. In CBT for generalized anxiety disorder, you learn to monitor your anxiety, including what triggers it, the specific things you worry about, and the severity and length of a particular episode. This helps you get perspective, as well as track your progress.
- Physical control strategies. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation help decrease the physical over-arousal of the “fight or flight” response that maintains the state of fear and anxiety. CBT for generalized anxiety disorder trains you in these techniques.
- Cognitive control strategies. Through CBT, you learn to realistically evaluate and alter the thinking patterns that contribute to generalized anxiety disorder. As you challenge these negative thoughts, your fears will begin to subside. CBT also teaches you to test the beliefs you have about worry itself, such as “Worry is uncontrollable” or “If I worry, bad things are less likely to happen.”
- Behavioral strategies. Instead of avoiding situations you fear, CBT teaches you to tackle them head on. You may start by imagining the thing you’re most afraid of. By focusing on your fears without trying to avoid or escape them, you will begin to feel more in control and less anxious. Time management and problem-solving skills are also effective behavioral techniques for generalized anxiety disorder.
Medication for generalized anxiety disorder
Medication can be effective for generalized anxiety disorder. However, it is generally recommended only as a temporary measure to relieve symptoms at the beginning of the treatment process, with therapy the key to long-term success.
There are three types of medication prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder:
- Buspirone – This anti-anxiety drug, known by the brand name Buspar, is generally considered to be the safest drug for generalized anxiety disorder. Unlike the benzodiazepines, buspirone isn’t sedating or addictive. Although buspirone will take the edge off, it will not entirely eliminate anxiety.
- Benzodiazepines – These anti-anxiety drugs act very quickly (usually within 30 minutes to an hour). The rapid relief the benzodiazepines provide is a major benefit, but there are serious drawbacks as well. Physical and psychological dependence are common after more than a few weeks of use. They are generally recommended only for severe, paralyzing episodes of anxiety.
- Antidepressants – A number of antidepressants are used in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. However, the relief antidepressants provide for anxiety is not immediate, and the full effect isn’t felt for up to six weeks. Some antidepressants can also exacerbate sleep problems and cause nausea.
More help for generalized anxiety disorder
Anxiety Help Center: Explore the various types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms, and what you can do to get relief.
Self-help strategies for chronic worriers. Have fears and “what ifs” taken over your life? Is your worrying out of control? The good news is that chronic worrying is a mental habit you can learn how to break. You can teach yourself to stay calm and collected and to look at your fears from a more balanced perspective. Read: How to Stop Worrying
- How to Stop Worrying: Self-Help Strategies for Anxiety Relief
- Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Other Options
- How to Sleep Better: Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
- Relaxation Technigues for Stress Relief: Finding the Relaxation Exercises That Work for You
- Anxiety Medication: What You Need to Know About Anti-Anxiety Drugs
- Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being
Resources and references
General information about generalized anxiety disorder
When Worry Gets Out of Control: Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Booklet on generalized anxiety disorder, including its symptoms and treatment. (National Institute for Mental Health)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Havard Medical Schoo-endorsed guide to the signs, symptoms, and treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. (Aetna InteliHealth)
Self-help tips for generalized anxiety disorder
What? Me Worry!?! – Series of self-help modules for generalized anxiety disorder. Includes step-by-step tips for dealing with anxiety and worry. (Centre for Clinical Interventions)
Generalized anxiety disorder in children and adolescents
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Learn what generalized anxiety disorder looks like in children. Includes red flags to watch out for. (WorryWiseKids.org)
Generalized Anxiety – Guide for parents on the signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in children and teens. Includes a video and story examples. (AnxietyBC)
What other readers are saying
“Thanks for the article on GAD. I’ve struggled with it all my life and sometimes it’s so overwhelming it scares the crap out of me. I started practicing some of the techniques . . . and they do work.”~ Massachusetts
“I struggle with anxiety . . . commingled with panic attacks, making me miserable and frightened and feeling like I’m slowly going bonkers. It is a lonely, scary feeling—wondering what is wrong with me and why I cannot function like “normal” people. . . . As I was reading the article about GAD, I started crying. In a perfectly nice, friendly, and calming way it discussed EXACTLY how I felt. I just sat there bawling my eyes out because it was just so straightforward, so positive, and so precisely what I needed.”~ Canada