Todd McPherson (L), a consulting psychologist at JPMC, speaking to the public on eliminating as well as understanding anxiety and panic attacks. Picture: Courtesy of JPMC
THE Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) yesterday held a talk for the public on eliminating as well as understanding anxiety and panic attacks.
According to Todd McPherson, a consulting psychologist at JMPC, anxiety is the most common psychologically-related problem that people face. "It affects one in five people," he stated, adding that awareness on overcoming anxiety is crucial.
"Worrying is a normal function we all do, however when it is interfering in one's life, then it is considered to be problematic anxiety," he said.
Problematic anxiety also applies to excessive worrying that is sometimes accompanied by physiological symptoms, such as muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping and trouble breathing. "In many cases, anxiety becomes severe enough to be considered one of the anxiety disorders," said McPherson, who has over a decade of experience in psychotherapy and counselling.
He noted that a large number of people suffer with an "extreme" kind of anxiety that can occur suddenly and without warning, which is accompanied by intense physical symptoms including rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing and an overwhelming feeling of fear or dread.
"These panic attacks can be quite debilitating and often result in people going to the hospital believing they're having a heart attack or stroke," he said.
He explained that panic attacks, like anxiety, can be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which research has shown to be the most effective way to eliminate anxiety issues.
Medications can be helpful in reducing anxiety symptoms, but do not treat the underlying issues.
During the talk, McPherson also highlighted the the issue of childhood anxiety, which he said often goes unrecognised. "Often, children who are clingy; refuse to go to school; won't sleep or won't sleep alone; have frequent stomachaches or headaches are presumed to be 'difficult' or sick," he said.
However, the speaker pointed out that in many cases they are struggling with anxiety. "It is important for these symptoms to be recognised so children can receive treatment," he said.
The talk, held at JMPC, was organised as part of the organisation's corporate social responsibility program to increase awareness on mental health issues.
The Brunei Times