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Helping someone dial down anxiety

August 11, 2018

In 1977, Mel Brooks made a parody of Alfred Hitchcock suspense films (Hitchcock worked with Brooks on the screenplay) called “High Anxiety,” in which Brooks played Dr. Richard Thorndyke of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. It’s a ridiculous send-up, and the film certainly doesn’t take itself seriously.

But if someone you know has an anxiety disorder — where those minor stresses cause major life disruptions or trigger phobias such as a fear of heights, crowds, closed spaces or, heaven forbid, doctor’s offices — then you know it’s no laughing matter.

Fortunately, we’ve gained insight into how to dial back those apprehensive feelings, so a person with anxiety can enjoy life and escape the health issues (headache, heart woes, digestive upset, depression) that they can trigger.

If you have a loved one with anxiety issues, here are smart steps to improve both your lives:

• Discuss anxious feelings — gently (don’t say, “Calm down!”). Stress that there’s no shame in needing help with something that is so difficult to control on your own.

• Be aware of and kind about your partner’s issues, but don’t distort the environment to accommodate his or her symptoms. In other words, don’t alter your life to placate people with anxiety. Instead, support them when they don’t give in to their symptoms.

• Encourage the person to seek treatment; it is remarkably effective these days.

• Talk about the benefits of combining talk therapy with medications.

• Check out the Anxiety Scale at www.doctoroz.com.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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