Dr. Kevin Most: Sexual Harassment & News Related Anxiety Depression
We have seen an increase in sexual harassment issues being raised this past week. The stories have been mainly with media individuals on TV, this has raised the issue and actually we know it is not limited to only movie stars and media individuals. This reporting is being noted in all of our communities. Unfortunately we have focused on the individual being charged as that is where the story is.
These large media stories have highlighted that we have this issue locally as well, in non media settings. In local communities, many individuals are turning to their friends for advice and insight, unfortunately their freinds have not been trained to deal with the mental impact this may be having on the individual. We need to realize this goes beyond reporting.
Many of those reporting have issues that need to be identified and treated. Many have feelings of guilt as they have waited before raising the issue, knowing the individual has often continued with that behavior on others, and that they should have reported sooner. Other have feelings of embarrassment. Individuals often will turn to a friend for advice. Getting advice from a close friend may feel like a good idea, however seeing your physician is a better idea. The physicians have been trained to help individuals who are confused, feeling guilty or embarrassed. They also will know if they need any additional medical testing.
Physicians are also a great resource for helping with the reporting as well as with the treatment. We all have to realize that although an individual reports an incident, the report is not the end. These patients now will need help dealing with the incident going forward. We focus on the report when in fact we should be focusing on the needs of the individuals involved. If a friend confides in you, be supportive and recommend that they see their physician. Offer to bring them to their doctor, again these individuals are often dealing with guilt and embarrassment so seeing a professional will be key to their recovery.
Anxiety – with all of the recent public incidents
The past few weeks have unfortunately been filled with very unfortunate incidents, the shootings in Las Vegas, the truck incident in New York and the shootings yesterday in Texas. Each of these occurred in settings we would all normally feel safe and comfortable in. Very few of us would have any anxiety going to a concert, going out for a run or going to church. Unfortunately these incidents have an impact on the general public, even those thousands of miles away. As physicians, we expect to see an increase in individuals with anxiety issues and even depression as the media coverage of each incident is essentially 24/7 and difficult to avoid or miss. Couple this with the normal increase we see around the holidays and we thought it would be a good topic to discuss.
Anxiety is very common, many patients have anxiety about issues or situations that make no sense. For example, I hate heights, I strongly dislike driving over high bridges. This makes no sense, bridges don’t collapse yet it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am sure many of you have something that makes you have some anxiety. This is common and normal. For some it may be completing a work task or meeting a new person. Anxiety disorders are however different, these are conditions that stop you from carrying on your normal day or life.
This is an extremely common condition. 40 million adults in the US are felt to have an anxiety disorder. Only 1/3 of those individuals actually get professional help, most suffer thru it or have found coping measures. This is a condition that has a wide spectrum of ages. We see it in children as young as 6 years old and it is common in Seniors as well.
The recent incidents will definitely have many individuals a bit more anxious in normal comfortable safe settings. For some the incidents may be the tipping point from a simple anxiety to a true anxiety disorder as they now refuse to go to church or work as the incident has impacted them in a way we may not see as logical. We have to realize that most anxiety situations have very little logic as a basis, yet something has triggered a concern in the individual that impacts how they live.
Patients may think, when do I need to get professional help versus trying personal coping measures. As physicians we get concerned when the anxiety gets to a point where it interferes with your daily living. Anxiety disorders include anxiety, panic attacks, palpitations PTSD and in some cases obsessive compulsive disorders. Often these will impact their daily living and require some professional help. Some patients may not even know that they are suffering from Anxiety. As I share some of the symptoms, you may say, “I feel like that when ……”
Feeling restless or insomnia
Sweaty, tingling of hands or feet
Racing or unwanted thoughts
Shortness of breath
Overall feeling of anxiousness
So what can you do about this, first make sure you see your physician to rule out serious conditions that share these symptoms. After that many can actually “treat” this themselves with some basic relaxation techniques, increasing physical exercise, avoiding alcohol, cutting back on caffeine. However if the anxiety gets to a point where it impacts your work or family life it is time for some professional help. Starting with your primary care physician is best, they will discuss some initial strategies and be a great resource if further treatment is needed
Professional help may include behavioral therapy, this is where you are taught to recognize the trigger for the anxiety. It helps you identify it is starting and teaching you to think of other things or do an activity, to eliminate the anxiety. Meditation may also help as the individual is taught to get to a point of relaxation by themselves. Others may need more professional help with psychotherapy and perhaps medication.
One big thing that we need to consider is the impact this may have on children. With 24/7 news it is difficult to shield children from these incidents. Most recommend that minimizing or eliminating the viewing of this in front of young children is best. Children do not have the grasp of how big the world is, so when they see something happen at a church or a school their minds may jump to their small world and this may cause anxiety. Parents need to be aware of this and reassure their children that they are safe and will be kept safe. Teaching adolescents to be more aware of surroundings is good but not to a point where you instill fear into their daily activities. Minimizing the TV exposure of these incidents to children is best as there is no gain to exposing a child to an event. Others say they see this in their video games but hopefully those are being monitored for appropriateness as well.