Anxiety

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Overview

The word “anxiety” is often used to describe both the unpleasant apprehension which is a natural reaction to stressful life events (recruit training, deploying on short notice, financial, work and social obligations). Normal anxiety decreases once these challenges subside.

Anxiety which continues beyond the original stressor interferes with sleep, work or relationships may indicate a psychiatric disorder.

Anxiety is a very real medical and psychological condition which has many scientifically proven treatments which are endorsed by the DoD. Anxiety does not discriminate - it affects all age groups, genders, rates and ranks.

There are multiple types of anxiety including Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS

Anxiety Symptoms

While anxiety many be marked by a sense of nervousness, symptoms are often presented in physical format. This may lead the Sailor to believe the underlying problem to be physical health. Examples may include chest pain, rapid heart beat, or shortness or breath. These physical symptoms can be significant and should always be evaluated to rule out medical conditions. Other symptoms may include:

  • Diminished concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Dread
  • Irritability
  • Physical symptoms - chest pain, muscle tension, shortness of breath, racing heart
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Intrusive thinking or preoccupation

Work and Anxiety

Anxiety can have an adverse effect on the work place. Productivity or accuracy may be affected by diminished concentration. Workplace safety may become an issue as a Sailor's preoccupation with worry eclipses safety procedures. Conflict with fellow Sailors or their supervisors may ensue due to the irritability or anger resulting from anxiety.

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TREATING ANXIETY

Treatment Options

Anxiety is most often treated on an outpatient basis. Treatment for anxiety disorders is highly effective. The type of anxiety predicts the treatment modality and duration. While generalized anxiety and panic may be treatable in a short term therapy approach, PTSD may require longer duration of treatment to realize the same success. Active Duty members who do not improve substantial within a 12 month course of treatment are usually presented for a Medical Evaluation Board.

Barriers to Treatment

Sailors of all rates, ranks and ages are apt to avoid treatment if they ill-informed about available and effective treatment. Additionally the stigma of depression may actually prevent a Sailor from reaching out toward the treatment needed.

WHAT LEADERS CAN DO

LEADERS CAN HELP

The role of Commanding Officer, Department Heads, Division Officers, Chiefs and front line supervisors is to assist the service member in getting help. Leaders are not expected to act as counselors.

  • Communicate to the Sailor
  • Asking for help is sign of strength not weakness
  • Address concerns (career consequences for seeking and not seeking help)
  • Help Dispel Myths regarding PTSD
  • It can be effectively treated
  • PTSD does not “make you dangerous”
  • Educate your chain
  • Rely on those who see the Sailor daily to offer feedback on behavioral changes

References

  • PTSD Centers of Excellence http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/index.asp
  • Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders; DSM-IV-TR. (2000). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Harold, K., & Benjamin, S., Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry VI eds. (1995). Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

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