Dr. Thomas W. Dorell, MD talking about anxiety. Anxiety is a condition people experience.

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is a condition people experience when they begin to lose control of their environment and must deal with the unknown. It stimulates our fight or flight reaction. This in turn causes catecholamine releases, which are stress hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin, and cortisol. These prepare us to leap into action to fight or flee in the traditional predator-prey relationship.

Woman In Mask with Anxiety. Anxiety is a condition people experience.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

The problem with this scenario is that it is unsettling physically and mentally. Many people live on the edge of this all the time based on their neurohormone mix genetically. When faced with uncontrollable stress or stimulus they may be in this fight or flight state all the time. It can give them a sense of impending doom. They will get emotional, fearful, and paranoid. It may cause rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, chest tightness, and the sensation of not being able to breathe. The brainstem monitors CO2 levels in the bloodstream and tells us when to breathe. It is an involuntary reflex. When we breathe too rapidly, we lower our CO2 levels, and this inhibits that involuntary reflex. Being awake we know that we need to breathe but have no physiologic stimulus to do so.

This gives us the sensation that we can not get a deep breath and makes us feel short of breath even if our oxygen saturation is high at 100%. We also will begin to see skin disturbances and numbness from hyperventilation, the face and hands are common areas. The fingers can even begin to cramp up. Eventually, we pass out and stop breathing for a short period until the CO2 levels rise and the lights come back on.

Physical Symptoms 

Hyperventilation like this is an extreme example of anxiety. Most people never get that far. Most folks just feel like they are going to die from something soon. They have frequent doctor and ER visits looking for the cause that eludes them. If their doctor is intuitive, they can spot this early on and save thousands of dollars of medical evaluation. Convincing the patient can be difficult and some medical testing to disprove their concerns is usually necessary. Once the patient understands the issue, they will have an easier time of it. Medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and occasionally short-term sedatives can be useful.

Their doc can determine which class of medications are best for each individual situation. Preventative drugs that correct serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain are better treatments versus sedatives like Xanax that just suppress symptoms temporarily.

Self-Care Goes A Long Way

Try to stay strong, eat healthily, drink less alcohol, exercise, and stay hydrated. Vitamin C and zinc might help. They are studying other treatments and a vaccine. Americans are resilient; please do not let the anxiety get the best of you. Turn off the boom box and talking heads off for a while and read a book. Pay no attention to your retirement, you still have the same number of shares unless you panic and sell. It will all come back. Go fishing if the wind ever dies. Have a great week, Doc Tom


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