Are You ‘Just’ Anxious Or Is It Anxiety Disorder?

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Most attorneys have more than their share of situations where they feel anxious. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious from time to time; from the pressure of working extended hours to the feeling of always having to be in the right; anxiety can easily creep in. The problem with anxiety occurs when it becomes a lifestyle versus an occasional emotional or physical setback. Left alone, anxiety can affect your daily functioning and anxiety disorders. Side effects of anxiety disorder range from irritability and obsessive thoughts to difficulty concentrating, a sense of worry or impending doom. Physical side effects include sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, sweating, fatigue, and muscle tension. This is not a situation that will go away on its own or that can be left untreated.  

Anxiety Assessment & Attorney Wellness

The attorney wellness movement is drawing attention to mental health issues that attorneys face. State bars and other legal organizations are finally taking steps to let attorneys know that they are not alone when facing mental health concerns or issues. For example, the State Bar of California posted information on social media to assess whether you might be suffering from anxiety1 – some of the questions from the self-assessment: 

Constant Worry and Axiety
  • Have you had at least a six-month period in which you experienced constant, exaggerated, worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities?  
  • Have you been trapped in a distressful and time-consuming pattern of unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors?  
  • Have you experienced or witnessed a traumatic event after which you have had persistent nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of depression or irritability?  
  • Have you experienced repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning? Physical symptoms can include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress.  

Seeking Help 

Asking for Help

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “anxiety disorders, as a group, are the most common mental illnesses in America.” 2 The good news, anxiety is also one of the most successfully treatable mental health problems. Healthy coping mechanisms are available and are proven to reduce anxiety and depression among lawyers. 

The practice of meditation is gaining momentum in the legal profession. For example, law schools like Yale, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of San Francisco are offering mindfulness courses. The key is to recognize that something can be potentially more than what you can handle on your own. Knowing your limitations starts with you start being honest with yourself and taking a self-assessment. As cliché as it may sound, you need to take control of anxiety before it takes control of you, your career and even your life. 

Disclaimer –Self-assessments are not intended to take the place of a professional evaluation. If you have any questions or concerns, you should talk to a mental health professional.  

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