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The only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
All human beings experience fear, a necessary signal of real danger. As children, most of us had fears of the dark. The fear of physical pain and emotional suffering is a natural part of being alive. When the word anxiety is used in this book, it refers to mild to moderate anxiety, not to an anxiety disorder. Herbs are most useful for mild to moderate anxiety.
Feelings of anxiety come in many forms: alarm, anguish, dread, anger, fright, horror, panic, and terror. Physical complaints can include jumpiness, racing heart rate, trembling, cold and/or clammy hands, dizziness, upset stomach, diarrhea, flush, faintness, rapid breathing, numbness, tingling, strain, and fatigue. Anxiety can strike like lightning or rumble, ever present, in the background. It can be the natural fear that accompanies life's challenges and major difficulties (e.g., losing a job or becoming seriously ill). It can also be marked by chronic edginess and worry. The feelings and physical sensations of anxiety are the same whether it occurs spontaneously or in direct response to a major threat.
Anxiety is an overreaction in the first stage of the body's stress response, the alarm ("fight or flight") reaction. Mild to moderate anxiety, in particular, may be a more exaggerated and intense stress response. Remember, if you suffer from inappropriate fears or persistent worrying, you are not alone. Research has shown that:
*Each year sixty-five millionAmericans experience some symptoms of anxiety, of whom thirty million have a full-blown disorder. Medicine uses terms like subclinical, syndromal, minor, and shadow syndromes to describe the mild to moderate anxiety of the thirty-five million people whose symptoms are not severe or numerous enough to qualify as an anxiety disorder. One of every two people will experience mild to moderate anxiety for at least a two-week period during their lifetime; one of four people will suffer from an anxiety disorder.
*Anxiety in its various forms--worry, insomnia, heart palpitations, muscle aches and pains, rapid shallow breathing, nausea, headaches, fatigue--is one of the more common complaints heard by doctors. Anxiety can provoke or worsen overeating, alcoholism, premenstrual syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and other medical problems.
*Despite the fact that more people suffer from anxiety than any other mental health problem, less than 25 percent receive adequate help. This means that some eighteen million people continue to suffer unnecessarily from a treatable condition.
*More than twice as many women suffer from anxiety as men. It is not known whether this is because women are more likely to be anxious or because men are more likely to deny being afraid. Men are more likely than women to turn to alcohol and drug abuse to mask their anxiety.
*According to a 1997 Gallup poll, as much as 25 percent of the U.S. workforce suffers from anxiety and chronic stress, which it is estimated costs U.S. businesses sixty to seventy-five billion dollars a year.
Do you experience anxiety? We all do in some form or another, but the question is how much and how often. The quizzes below will help you determine the degree to which you suffer from anxiety. These self-assessments are also a way of measuring your progress as you heal. You should consult your physician or a trained mental health professional to diagnose your anxiety accurately and appropriately.
The measurement of anxiety has height and width--the degree of anxiety you are experiencing and the frequency with which you experience it. When you can recognize and label the symptoms of anxiety, they often become less frightening. Remember the dictum, "When you label me, you negate me." These quizzes are a measurement of your anxiety level, not of you. You are a magnificent being, much more than the momentary quantifying of the "noise" or "static" in your nervous system.
Remember that while herbal treatments are best for mild to moderate anxiety, even severe anxiety is highly treatable with psychiatric medications, and as your symptoms lessen, herbs can be used. Also, you will learn a potent natural self-healing program of emotional fitness, stress reduction, exercise, nutrition, vitamins, and supplements that can help heal any level of anxiety and maintain your well-being.
Quiz 1: Situational Anxiety
For each situation below, indicate the degree of anxiety you experience on a scale from 0 to 3:
0 = no anxiety
1 = mild anxiety
2 = moderate anxiety
3 = severe anxiety
Situations that might elicit anxiety, fear, or tension:
*Coming home to an empty house
*Going to sleep or waking up
*Going to a doctor or dentist
*Driving a car
*Taking a plane flight
*Entering an elevator
*Being in a crowd
*The thought of death
*Taking a business call
*Making a major purchase or investment
*Speaking to a group
*Eating alone in a restaurant
*Being in enclosed places
*Waiting in line
*Packing for a trip
*Making "cold calls" at work
*Giving or receiving a gift
*Socializing at a party
*The sight of blood
*Talking to people in authority
*Going to a public restroom
*Feeling stared at
*Confronting a loved one about a problem
*Financial obligations, unpaid bills
*Deadlines, evaluations, or tests
*Heavy commuter traffic
*Being on time for appointments or events
*Keeping things neat and orderly
*Being seen naked or in a bathing suit
*Making a mistake, failing
*Rejection in love or at work
20 to 39 = mild to moderate anxiety
40 to 59 = moderate anxiety
60 and over = a possible anxiety disorder