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Everyone naturally suffers from some amount of anxiety.Some medical conditions or diseases can be discovered with the help of a doctor’s sharp eye or a laboratory test, but anxiety is a different creature altogether.


A bit of anxiety, here and there, exists in all of us. But for some, a high level of anxiety can impact happiness and lifestyle dramatically.

Throughout Portland, help is available for those who suffer from the debilitating symptoms of anxiety.

Dr. Scott Fields is a family physician and professor and vice chair of the Oregon Health & Science University Department of Family Medicine.

“All of us deal with episodes of anxiety because of activities of daily life,” Fields said, noting a specific event during the day may make us feel anxious. “The problem occurs when these types of feelings take over one’s ability to function and lasts, from a technical perspective, over six months. That’s when it’s defined as a medical problem.”

According to Fields, anxiety is broken down into three major areas: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorders (for instance, phobias).

In generalized anxiety disorder, Fields said a person may be a worrier and have trouble relaxing. In day to day activities, “they find that it’s difficult to not worry about things,” Fields added. “Another issue would be having difficulty with sleep (awake and worrying) - they’re worried about everything that’s going on in their lives.”

Panic disorder, on the other hand, can be associated with physical symptoms, including heart pounding. shortness of breath and sweating. This disorder can include intense feelings of fear.

Social anxiety disorder, Fields said, can make it difficult to interact with others. These people, in some cases, may think they’ll offend or disappoint others.

In today’s society, Dr. Heidi Meeke, licensed clinical psychologist with the Portland Anxiety Clinic, sees two factors that can influence anxiety: social media and healthcare.

“Instead of people going out, facing their fears, learning how to be comfortable and speaking one-on-one (in person), they use a computer to do it, where it doesn’t create as much anxiety for them,” Meeke said, noting that people may use social media to avoid fear. Meeke notes some feel an unease when communicating with friends or acquaintances in person. “I see it more as a situation that may promote more anxiety and depression in certain people.”

Meeke also finds patients, these days, overwhelmed with health care issues. “People have less time to speak with their doctors,” she said. “They may not feel heard or receive answers to their questions. It’s an anxiety-provoking situation for them.”

Some may feel overwhelmed and hopeless about finding answers for health issues, Meeke said, “This is not necessarily the fault of their primary care provider, but the lack of the time doctors are allowed with their patients.”

Meeke adds that you should meet with your primary health care provider to rule out any type of physical illness that could be causing anxiety symptoms.

“The mind and body are very interconnected,” Meeke said. “When seeing your primary health care provider, be cautious in choosing to take medication as your first approach to treating anxiety, especially if your symptoms are not that severe.”

If a therapist is needed, Meeke suggests finding a therapist who specializes in evidence-based treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Whether we’re talking about a simpler time, “back in the day,” or today’s high-stress world, one thing is certain, according to Fields. “Anxiety has always been with us.”


Scott Keith is a freelance writer with the Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group. If you have a health tip, or a story idea, contact Scott at: scottbkeith@yahoo.com.

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