A Way Out of Anxiety
Are you prone to mild panic attacks?

Anxiety, intense worrying....even fear?

It feels like you just cant stop these feelings.

In fact you can, says this new book from the Institute of Mental Health.

Doctors are saying that anxiety disorders are still not well understood in Singapore.

While mental illness is no longer a taboo topic, it remains something of a mystery to most Singaporeans.

Dr Alex Su is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental health,

"Over the last three years we have seen more and more cases of anxiety disorder coming to our hospital to seek earlier assessment and treatment so thats a good sign. However really we still Know that because we give public talks and all that and we get feedback from the public, that a lot of people are still suffering quietly at home fearful of coming forward for treatment. I think a lot of people suffering from anxiety disorder basically suffers it very quietly for many years before seeking treatment. A lot of people, even in Singapore assumes that anxiety is normal, its just a passing phase and a lot of people will try to bear with it or try to find other ways of overcoming it but actually anxiety disorder is easily diagnosed.,easily treated."
And this is why his Institute decided to come up with a new book.

Its called A Way Out of Anxiety.

"Its really a collective experience, clinical experience, from all our psychiatrists, and collectively I think we have really a lot of experience. Case studies and treatment options that we have provided in the book are all locally based. I think a lot of books and even Internet available websites are sort of Western based so I think this book is very relevant to Singapore. Treatment options in terms of medication, psychological options as well as social problem solving are all locally based." 

The problem is people are unaware of the many treatment options.

For those who fear taking anxiety medication there may be alternative options,

"Well...they can still go for some psychological treatment first for example teaching them relaxation therapy, and using some other cognitive behavioral therapy, psycho therapy methods to help them to try for another period of time. If they find that that helps them alleviate most of their anxiety then they may not go onto an anti depressant."
But in fact he says there is no reason to fear today's anti depressants.

"There are different groups of anti depressants available in Singapore and under each group again there are even many different types of anti depressants available so if one anti depressant is not suitable for the patient, it can easily be switched to another type and sometimes for patients who are more sensitive we can actually start at a lower dose and then slowly try and treat it upwards according to the clinical improvement and also the side effects experienced by the patients but most of our patients actually may only experience some side effects in the initial phase, maybe the first week of starting any medication. Usually these side effects are very mild, for example like dry eyes, dry mouth or some wind in the stomach. Usually the body will get used to it because our body adjusts to any types of medication within a week or two." 

One common misconception is that tranquillizers, not anti depressants, are a long term solution.

"Anti depressant basically treats the specific bio chemical imbalance in the brain, tranquillizers basically just help them to calm down. Tranquillizers has more immediate effect because the patients will feel calmer but it shouldn't be used in the longer term because it also can lead to dependence on tranquillizers so some patients without tranquillizers feel even more anxious. Tranquillizers is only used in the initial phase and also for a short term whereas anti depressant their effects will have a more long lasting...longer lasting effect. " 

Not seeking any appropriate treatment-psychological or medical, Dr Su warns will have a very serious long term impact,

"If untreated they will probably continue to disrupt a person's life and causes more disfunction, affect the person's confidence, and a lot of patients when they come to us after years of suffering actually thought that they were going crazy. A lot of untreated anxiety disorder also goes into depression and more severe complications." 

The book is available at the Institute of Mental Health's pharmacy and at the Mental Health Education office.

-By Devika Misra