American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Coping With Anxiety and Fear

Woman watching television news programAnxiety and fear can be triggered by a number of environmental factors, including exposure to alarming or emotionally-charged events depicted in the media. From natural disasters to acts of violence, disturbing media images can have lasting emotional and psychological effects on both survivors and spectators.

“Chronic stress, which can be provoked by viewing repeated visual images of natural disasters or violence, enhances the size and sensitivity of the part of the brain that increases the potential to feel fear and anxiety,” explains Steven Pitt, DO, an osteopathic forensic and general psychiatrist from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well. They also encourage your body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.

Coping with Fear and Anxiety

Dr. Pitt suggests these simple actions to help patients and families cope with fear and anxiety:

  • Eat well, exercise and rest

  • Try to avoid smoking or drinking

  • Take breaks each day to relax

  • Speak with friends and family about your concerns

  • Participate in local activities that might help individuals or a community

“It's important that you speak openly with friends and family about any anxiety you might be experiencing,” he advises. “If the anxiety and fear persist, visit your family physician for recommended treatments of trauma.”

Visiting Your Physician

Dr. Pitt explains that the preliminary visit to the physician would consist of a few brief questions about the effects that current events are having on your health. In addition, questions about similar experiences in your or your family’s history may assist in finding an appropriate routine or treatment to cope with the stressors. A stressor is any type of event that might stimulate the anxiety.

“Your primary care physician will identify whether the addition of a mental health professional would be advantageous,” Dr. Pitt explains. “But oftentimes, a simple change in your daily routine can make a substantial difference in stress levels.”


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