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BW Businessworld

Anxiety At The Workplace

Anxiety disorders involve more than just temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time

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"Facing each day, each morning is becoming difficult. The thought of just going through the day, entering my office and facing people at work, makes me nauseous. I keep pre-empting the worse and have lots of negative thoughts. 

I have a continuous sense of dread , like something bad is going to happen , or that I am going to make a mistake and my superiors are going to pull me up or that I am going to get fired. 

I keep feeling I am not good enough and I have lost confidence. I get that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach all the time and it doesn't just go away. I can feel my heart pounding inside my chest most of the time and sometimes when I get the attack I feel like I am going to collapse or die of a heart attack. 

I start sweating, my vision starts blurring, feel cold and clammy on my palms. I feel shaky and uneasy most of the times. Sometimes the simplest of decisions to be made seem impossible. 

My peers feel that I sometimes freeze or I am too slow. This ends up with me procrastinating and I lose out on crucial aspects of work. Can't concentrate and focus too, so I have stopped going to office now since a week. 

I don’t feel like getting out of the house or meeting my friends as I have lost all confidence. Feel week, fatigued and embarrassed. Keep thinking what if these attacks happen when I am out or alone or if it happens in front of my boss or colleagues at work or whilst I am driving or in a crowded lift? 

My appetite has reduced and I can't shut down my mind with all these negative thoughts. I can't sleep at night and wake up feeling tired and weary. The pre-emptive anxiety is the worst. 

I have gone through a blood test, several ECGs and a stress test. Everything is normal. I feel so helpless because I just don't understand what is happening to me. I have never been like this before. “This is sadly a common narration for many working youth in our generation today. 

In the list of the top diseases that affect corporate executives and work life - depression/ Anxiety (42 per cent) ranks at the top, followed by obesity or weight related issues (23 per cent), high blood pressure (9 per cent) and diabetes (8 per cent). 

Roughly half the respondents admitted to feeling exhausted too often, over a quarter said that headaches were a common feature of their working lives. What is more worrying is the age distribution where over half (55 per cent to be precise) were under the age of 30 and a quarter were between 30 and 40 years.

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of one’s life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem or stress at work, before taking an exam in school, or making an important decision like choosing a new job or making a financial decision. 

Could one attribute this to when midlife arises? At this stage in one’s life there are so many realisations and unfulfilled expectations, disappointments and disappearing aspirations. People describe this phase as being stuck with no growth at the job level in position, title or remuneration. Regret about missed chances and opportunities seem to hit hard and one then starts the existential questions about life and questioning one’s self. 

We wonder whether we will get an opportunity to fulfil all our dreams, passions and aspirations-thus end up disgruntled like one is in a rut following the same mundane routines of life, with no quality time for one’s self.

Anxiety disorders involve more than just temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. These feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, academics or social functioning. This also has an impact on relationships and affects marriages and intimacy. 

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses affecting almost 18 per cent of the world’s population, yet very few cases are detected or diagnosed and only a third receive treatment for the same. 

Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, neuro-biological factors, personality or life changing events. It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa.

Cognisance – First, always rule out an underlying medical cause by doing a routine health check-up and a complete blood profile. Sometimes hormonal imbalances may also lead to these symptoms. Always rule out Vitamin B 12/D 3 deficiencies and do a complete lipid / cardiac profile as well as a Thyroid work up. Thyroidism often manifests with anxiety symptoms. 

Read up and create awareness with regards to understanding anxiety and panic attacks to know that it is like being diagnosed with any other routine medical condition. 

Reach out to a mental health professional or psychologist to rule out any underlying stressors and perhaps confirm the diagnosis for you. Only a psychiatrist then should initiate treatment and medication for the same. 

Science and research have created medications which are now freely available, cost effective and are side effect free. They do not cause drowsiness, tolerance or dependency in any way. They have to be taken for a prescribed duration of time, to complete the course. One does not get 'addicted' to these medications, neither do they 'make the brain numb or dull ' and they definitely do not have to be taken for life. 

These are some of the main reasons why individuals, families or care givers procrastinate seeking professional health. There are many myths regarding psychiatric medications. However, when we need to take a pill or a treatment course for any other medical condition we do not question, doubt, worry or think twice regarding the same. Neither do we turn to Google for answers! 

The same attitude and approach needs to be taken for treating mental health conditions. Counselling, psychotherapy or Cognitive behaviour therapy is also very important for individuals going through anxiety so that they feel understood, reassured, secure and confident that it is a highly treatable condition with very positive outcomes.  

There should be no guilt, embarrassment, shame or stigma when approaching or sharing these highly prevalent mental health concerns.

Thus, we need to spread awareness at the workplace, have regular workshops or talks on mental health issues- this makes employees more productive, engaging, creative, motivated and happy. 

It is important to have a stress free work culture that prioritises work-life balance. People in leadership roles need to be more cognisant of these aspects and more sensitive towards the needs of their employees with importance given to their mental health. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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lifestyle diseases anxiety depression holistic health

Dr. Zirak Marker

Dr. Zirak Marker is a renowned child and adult psychiatrist and psychotherapist and is currently the Medical Director of the Aditya Birla Integrated School; for children with learning disabilities and psychological/emotional problems & also a Senior Psychiatrist & Medical advisor at Mpower – The Centre

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