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Copyright 2017 Davis Square Family Practice
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260 Elm Street #105
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 666-9577
Fax (617) 666-3190
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Davis Square Family Practice
Office Hours
Monday - Thursday
8am to 6pm
8am - 5pm
Deborah Bershel, MD
Michelle Clark, NP
Carmen Phillips, NP
"Call our office to receive logon credentials."
Barbara Kaplan, LICSW
Andrea Dandridge, NP
Anxiety Disorders
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What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be a normal "alarm system" alerting you to danger. Imagine coming home and finding a burglar in your home. Your heart beats fast. Your palms get sweaty: Your mind races. In this situation, anxiety can add an extra spark to help you get out of danger. Under more normal but busy times, it can give you energy to help you get things done. But sometimes anxiety can be out of control, giving you a sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason. This kind of anxiety is a real problem and can disrupt your life. Anxiety disorders refer to a number of conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, which are explained in this handout.

I find that chronic anxiety is amongst the most common disorders that our patients suffer from. Anxiety can range from a mild nuisance to totally disabling as can be seen with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is generalized anxiety disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing, excessive worry or fear that is out of proportion to what you would expect -for instance, constantly worrying about a child who is perfectly healthy. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include the following:

Muscle tension
Trembling or shaking
Shortness of breath
Fast heartbeat
Dry mouth
Loss of sleep
Not being able to concentrate

Panic disorder is another type of anxiety: It occurs when you have episodes of intense fear that starts abruptly: These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks feel like your body's alarm system has been triggered when there is no danger. Panic attacks can include the following symptoms:

Chest pressure or check fast heartbeat
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Shortness of breath or tightness in the throat
Trembling or shaking
Fear of losing control
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Fear of dying

What causes anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders can begin during or after a stressful event in your life, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, financial problems, work stress and relationship issues. Acquired anxiety can occur as the result of physical or psychological abuse or from the stress of war.  Some people say they have been anxious their whole lives. Other people suddenly become anxious without being able to point to a reason. Anxiety may also be related to a side effect of a medicine or to an illness. Anxiety disorders often run in families.

Tips on coping with anxiety

Exercise regularly.
Get plenty of sleep.
Avoid abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Avoid caffeine.
Learn and practice ways to relax.

Can anxiety disorders be treated?
Yes. Talk to us if you think you have a problem with anxiety. We can help you form a plan to develop skills to cope with your anxiety: We may also suggest counseling, medicine, or both. Sometimes medication can be used to dampen down the anxiety level while you work with a therapist on a non-medication approach. A specific form of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be very helpful in treating most anxiety disorders. If anxiety is preventing you from living life to the fullest, please contact us.

Last modified by Dr. Bershel 1/2010