Standing in front of a group of De Smet Parent Teacher Association® (PTA®) members, I was to play a trumpet solo. My teacher thought I was prepared, but unfortunately, I was not. My fears brought my heart up into my throat, I became short of breath, my heart pounded and, indeed, I stumbled and had to start over again. Although my failings were likely amusing to some in the audience, they were certainly not indicating any musical skills. It was a devastating experience for me.
During our lifetimes, all of us experience physical and psychological ailments. People will admit to physical trouble but don’t like to admit to psychological problems, and most of us are reluctant to ask for help. Many of these feelings increase adrenaline levels which, in turn, cause fast heart rate, shaking, shortness of breath, dizziness, diarrhea, urinary frequency, sleeplessness, headache, sweating and generalized discomfort. Sometimes these feelings of anxiety are normal, and sometimes not.
A reasonable level of anxiety can keep us driven to hunt for food, fix something, discover another frontier and improve what we can improve. Without stressors and the anxiety that follows, some experts believe we would become lazy, stop dealing with troubles and civilization would end. On the other hand, when feelings of anxiety expand out of proportion to the trouble we are facing, or come on easily and frequently, anxiety can sometimes interfere with a normal functioning life. Too much anxiety can be harmful to an individual.
We are all thrown off-balance by one kind of psychological challenge or another as we struggle through the typical encounters of daily living. Who hasn’t experienced periods of anxious moodiness that follow the reduced sunlight of winter, or anxiety following the loss of a job or facing the demands of a new job? How does anyone handle a severe illness in a child or a spouse? Who can deal with divorce without anger, disappointment and, you guessed it, anxiety? Life is often very difficult; every individual will confront stressors in different ways and sometimes we just need help.
Bottom line: Each of us must deal with our own physical and mental illnesses throughout our lifetime, sometimes minor, like forgetting a trumpet solo, sometimes major, like a prolonged sense of anguish after a death in the family. When our ability to live a normal life is being interrupted by anxiety, it’s time to see the doctor.
Richard P. Holm, MD is founder of The Prairie Doc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.