Identifying anxiety attacks in anticipation of Iranian threat

Science and Health

Amid the tense security climate and UAV attacks from Iran, the Israeli public may experience heightened anxiety. Even for those accustomed to dealing with security threats, these feelings can intensify, potentially disrupting daily life.

Distinguishing between natural fear and clinical anxiety can be challenging. This distinction can be gauged by evaluating the intensity of one’s response: Am I avoiding activities far more than others? Is my routine significantly disrupted compared to others in my environment? Do thoughts of the situation cause distress even at home in a safe setting? It’s crucial to understand that while anxiety is a natural reaction to stress, in extreme cases, it can degrade life quality.

Anxiety originates from interactions between nerve cells in the brain and the neurotransmitters they release. When faced with sudden stress or a genuine threat, our “fight or flight” response kicks in, triggering several physiological reactions:

– Increased heart rate, preparing more muscle blood flow for action.

– Enhanced blood flow to muscles, causing tremors in preparation for physical activity.

– Reduced blood flow to the digestive system, leading to nausea.

– Difficulty processing new stimuli as the brain focuses on the threat.

Typically, the “fight or flight” system deactivates once the threat passes and the body resumes its rest state. However, for those suffering from anxiety, this system may remain active longer, prolonging anxiety feelings unnecessarily.

It’s important to note that anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to stressful circumstances. However, when anxiety persists and affects everyday functionality, seeking professional help is crucial. Psychological treatment can aid in understanding the root causes of anxiety and developing effective coping mechanisms.

Despite being a natural stress response, anxiety can become overwhelming and debilitating if it is intense or prolonged. Here are some steps to manage anxiety effectively:

1. Maintain routine:

   – Adhere as closely as possible to a daily routine, including work, study, social activities, and personal life.

   – A stable routine provides control and security, helping the brain recognize safety.

   – A healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and regular physical activity enhance overall well-being and mood.

2. Identify anxiety:

   – Sometimes, it’s hard to tell fear from anxiety. Assess the severity of your response compared to others:

     – Am I avoiding activities more than others?

     – Is my daily routine significantly impacted?

     – Are my thoughts troubling even in a safe home environment?

3. Share and connect:

   – Avoid isolation by discussing complicated feelings with friends, family, or professionals like psychologists.

   – Sharing experiences can validate feelings, help process thoughts, and provide emotional support.

4. Active engagement:

   – Undertake distracting activities that shift focus from anxiety and restore a sense of control, like hobbies, sports, or volunteering.

   – These activities reduce feelings of helplessness and reinstate control.

Remember, anxiety is common and treatable. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a step towards improving your quality of life. Various therapeutic techniques cater to individual needs and circumstances.

Pressure, stress, anxiety (credit: INGIMAGE)

In cases where psychological methods are insufficient or when functioning is significantly impaired, consider medication therapy:

– Medication Therapy Role:

– Prevent overwhelming anxiety: Medications reduce symptom severity and improve handling stressful situations.

– Address secondary symptoms such as mood dips, sleep issues, and concentration difficulties.

– Note: Initial treatment should not rely on calming medications as they may impede cognitive processing of traumatic events, increase the risk of post-trauma, and lead to long-term dependency.

– The most effective anti-anxiety medications include SSRIs and SNRIs, known for their high safety profile and non-addictive nature. These typically start working within 4-6 weeks.

Immediate assistance is vital: the more extended treatment is delayed, the more challenging it becomes to manage anxiety, which could worsen.

For mental distress:

– ERAN – First Psychological Aid: 1201

– National Resilience Center helpline *5486, available Sunday to Thursday, 08:00-20:00

– Health maintenance organizations’ distress lines:

– Meuhedet *3833

– Leumit *507

– Maccabi *3555

– Clalit *8703