Medication, Meditation, and Moderation: Battling Anxiety Disorders
Having an anxiety disorder of my own (ADHD) coupled with a desire to avoid medications whenever possible, I have discovered there are many methods that can help one manage anxiety. One way is to use tools to organize one's thoughts or schedule throughout the day, week, or further. There is much research showing the impact of anxiety and related disorders on working memory (Owens, Stevenson, Hadwin, & Norgate, 2012), and this can cause difficulty remembering important tasks throughout the day, completing simple logic problems, and impede on an individual's ability to be productive in many social settings throughout his or her day. Anxiety also impacts physiological processes and can cause sleep disturbances, and these disturbances can in turn further levels of anxiety and negatively impact working memory and physical health (Talbot, McGlinchey, Kaplan, Dahl, & Harvey, 2010). Many individuals have the option to take medications, and many solutions are even available without a prescription. However most, if not all, of these options have negative side effects and others are loosely shown to be effective.
In today's society there are more alternative options to health and symptom management than ever before thanks to technology. Some tools have been improved -- such as exercise equipment for health management, while others have simply been made more convenient -- such as replacing the paper daily planner with easy to access apps on one's phone. With easy to use exercise equipment it is possible for an individual of any age or mobility level to find a comfortable way to manage health and stress levels, and exercise has been clearly shown to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other disorders (Hering, O'Connor, & Dishman, 2010). Using a daily planner app on the phone can allow an individual to improve memory by inputting important dates and times so he/she can then remind himself/herself by simply reviewing a date and the event(s) scheduled. Nearly all of these apps also have built in alarms that can be set to remind the user, and this can help decrease the anxiety of remembering numerous important dates and events. On a broader scale technology has increased the ability of many to receive therapeutic interventions to battle symptoms of anxiety disorders by creating more accessibility to professionals and advice while making many of these options more affordable through interaction using web-cams rather than in person office visits (Newman, Szkodny, Llera, & Przeworski, 2011). Technology is an incredible tool to help manage anxiety symptoms in conjunction with or in lieu of medication, but it is only one of many resources.
Another method that is becoming increasingly popular among those struggling with anxiety and its related symptoms is mindfulness and meditation. Complimentary and alternative treatment methods have greatly increased in popularity and availability over the last few years with mindfulness-based interventions like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) increasing in use (Edenfield & Saeed, 2012; Hoffman, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010). Anxiety is identified as the cognitive state related to the inability to control one's emotional response to a perceived threat, and meditation and mindfulness have been shown to help an individual identify and regulate many of these emotions (Zeidan, Martucci, Kraft, McHaffie, & Coghill, 2014). There are numerous techniques available that are founded in history throughout much of Eastern philosophy, which makes this option more applicable for a large population. Meditation is free to practice and can be done anywhere, making it a very viable option to manage anxiety and related disorders for many.
Having alternative or supporting therapeutic interventions such as those discussed above are great resources, however there are always difficulties or complications with any method one chooses. Technology can be intrinsically limiting based upon age, ability, or financial status. Technology can be confusing or thoughtless when it comes to older generations, and this may limit its usefulness and accessibility by a large portion of our aging population. Also, those who have physical disabilities may not be able to utilize certain technologies. Finances also come into play as it is not possible to have a useful app or speak to a professional online if one can not afford the equipment or services needed to do so. Mindfulness and meditation practices are always available for free and for everyone, but can be difficult for many to grasp or understand how to utilize properly without any guidance. All that being said, it is nice to live in a society where a majority of our population has the option to choose between many methods to battle anxiety and many other disorders. Increasing awareness, use, and access to these methods would be the next logical step for society to progress.
Edenfield, T. M., & Saeed, S. A. (2012). An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychol Res Behav Manag, 5, 131-41.
Herring, M. P., O’Connor, P. J., & Dishman, R. K. (2010). The effect of exercise training on anxiety symptoms among patients: a systematic review.Archives of internal medicine, 170(4), 321-331.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 78(2), 169.
Newman, M. G., Szkodny, L. E., Llera, S. J., & Przeworski, A. (2011). A review of technology-assisted self-help and minimal contact therapies for anxiety and depression: is human contact necessary for therapeutic efficacy?. Clinical psychology review, 31(1), 89-103.
Owens, M., Stevenson, J., Hadwin, J. A., & Norgate, R. (2012). Anxiety and depression in academic performance: An exploration of the mediating factors of worry and working memory. School Psychology International, 33(4), 433-449.
Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., & Harvey, A. G. (2010). Sleep deprivation in adolescents and adults: changes in affect.Emotion, 10(6), 831.
Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2014). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief.Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 9(6), 751-759.
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