Health News: Anxiety

Barb Green, Parish Nurse

Milton, WI


Anxiety, a natural response to stress and danger, becomes pathological when excessive and uncontrollable. Anxiety disorders share common features of excessive fear and irrational anxiety that lead to changes in behavior and certain physical disturbances including panic attacks. The long-term effects of undiagnosed and under-treated anxiety result in psychosocial and occupational dysfunctions, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and increased risk of suicide. They are one of the major contributors to disability, costing over $42 billion annually.

The body’s stress response is designed to be acute and limited to a short period of time. When stress becomes chronic, it disturbs physical and mental health. Stress elevates blood pressure and heart rate, increases blood sugar levels, and diminishes inflammatory and immune responses. Other symptoms include pounding heartbeat, sweating palms, dizziness, headaches, stomach upsets, tunnel vision, and shaking. Psychologically, people report feeling a state of apprehension or uneasiness along with complaints of depression and crying spells.

People with unhealthy lifestyles, poor coping skills, and environmental stressors including emotional, physical or sexual abuse, are more prone to anxiety disorders. Anxiety may be a learned behavior or have a genetic risk factor.

In the past 30-50 years, we have experienced a great deal of environmental and social disorder. It is difficult to adjust to the increased pace of modern society and rapid technological change. Faced with a barrage of differing worldviews and moral standards, Biblical standards such as the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule seem outdated. Researchers have found that religion and faith play a significant role in health and response to illness. It is likely changing societal factors and lack of spirituality play a role in anxiety today.

There is no single treatment that can relieve anxiety. Approach to treatment should always start with supportive listening and education about anxiety and fear. Patients need to know that anxiety is treatable, manageable, and in some cases, curable. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been shown to be as effective as medication and is a commonly used therapy in treating anxiety. It involves multiple sessions with mental health professionals trained in CBT techniques. Faith-based CBT replaces negative ideas through the use of Biblical scripture or concepts that recognize God as Creator, one who is interested in the well-being of humans. Some use scripture as a guide for therapy and as a model for living. Other psychological therapies are available.

Anxiety medications have increased in the past decade. The selection of a specific drug is based on symptoms and the existence of other diseases. Medications, although effective, need to be prescribed with caution and accompanied by other interventions. It sometimes takes time to find the right one to help a specific person. Taking medication does not show a lack of faith or character. It is one more way that God helps His people.

A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, exercise, and stress-coping mechanisms is important for reduction of stress. Massage therapy, relaxation techniques, music and art therapy may be helpful. For Christians, practicing thankfulness, choosing to do what is right, worshipping, meditating on scripture, and praying help decrease anxiety.

Christians believe God’s Word brings healing and offers wisdom for dealing with anxiety. The word “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “shalom” meaning soundness, health, prosperity, and general well-being. It is the peace that results from a spirit, soul, and body completely at rest because of perfect trust in God. One of the blessings of salvation is redemption. God wipes away our past and encourages us to remember the miraculous ways we have experienced Him and His presence. He is the healer of hearts and the lifter of heads. Those who want to experience the peace of God’s presence are encouraged to spend time getting to know Him well. He wants to be our resource — nothing can love the soul or soothe the mind better than the Creator.

Adapted from Anxiety: Etiology, Treatments and Christian

Perspectives; Journal of Christian Nursing; April-June 2014

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