The Daily Illini

Fear-be-gone: new potential cure for anxiety

By Jessie Webster

I remember one of the scariest moments of my life with remarkable clarity.

It was August 2003, and my parents and I were spending the last two weeks of the summer at our house in Prouts Neck, Maine. I was 9 years old.

On the morning before we left for home, I ignored my mother’s explicit instructions to avoid swimming in the ocean. There was no one to supervise me, but as a perpetually pigheaded child, I elected to tread into the water anyway.

I knew I was in trouble by the time the water reached my waist. The relatively puny Lake Michigan waves I’d experienced before were nothing compared to those of the Atlantic Ocean.

Before I knew it, a powerful riptide knocked me off my feet and pulled me under the water. I don’t remember how I escaped the current’s grasp, only the feeling of drowning in cold, salty water.

Ever since that day, I’ve had a paralyzing fear of open water and swimming by myself. Even thinking about it still causes my anxiety levels to spike.

So, what if there was a drug available that could permanently cure phobias and anxiety disorders? Would you take the medicine?

I sure would.

New research suggests that it may be possible to take a drug that will erase the emotional fear response to a situation that causes individuals anxiety.

Merle Kindt, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues, have discovered that giving a beta-blocker called propranolol to individuals with anxiety or phobias can, over time, erase them for at least a year.

To others, phobias such as thalassophobia (fear of the ocean) may seem trivial, but it’s important to know that fears like this are in no short supply. According to research from the National Institute of Mental Health, phobias and anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older. http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

General Anxiety Disorder can usually be managed with a combination of medication, therapy and meditation. That being said, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that anxiety could be cured once and for all.

A common argument against taking medicine to combat fear and anxiety is that the only way to overcome one’s demons is to confront them head on and actively work through them.

Medicating the problem is nothing but the weak way out. That suggestion is not only offensive and outrageous, but entirely untrue.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the two most effective methods to treating/curing anxiety disorders in young people are cognitive behavioral therapy and, yes, medication.

As with many other ailments, medication can drastically improve the lives of people who are so paralyzed by their fear and anxiety that it prevents them from living a normal life.

“[The drug] sounds like a good thing for people who constantly have panic attacks,” Daniela Flax, an undeclared sophomore, said. “But if it’s just regular social anxiety then it seems like a little too much. I guess you’d have to draw a line somewhere.”

It’s hard for some people to understand that there are those who condemn others who are struggling with anxiety and phobias, or any medical issue for that matter, simply for trying to get help, even if that includes taking medication (I’m looking at you, anti-vaxxers).

Statistically, there are a tremendous amount of you who struggle with the same types of phobias and anxieties that I do.

A study, also from the National Institute of Mental Health, has found that around thirty percent of Millennials, defined as any individual between the age of 18 and 29, suffer from an anxiety disorder of some sort.

As we navigate college classes or job interviews, where we deal with the everyday pressure of grades, finances, and the minefield that is social interaction, such a disorder can be debilitating to one’s development as a student and a human being in general. Of course, every single fear can’t be eradicated from society; fear has its natural purposes to keep us alive.

Jeffrey Weinberg, a sophomore in Engineering, believes that medication to handle fear would be beneficial only if used responsibly.

“For something like a fear or anxiety that would prevent people from living their life, [the drug] would be helpful.” Weinberg said. “But certain things, there’s a reason to fear them. You have to draw the boundary and know to still fear what can actually harm you.”

Still, for the benefit of the millions affected by anxiety and crippling phobias, drugs that can cure severe anxieties and phobias for an extended period of time, perhaps even permanently, must be made available to the general public.

I very much look forward to the propranolol treatment developed by Kindt being released on a global scale, so those with crippling anxiety and fear can resume the life of a fully functional citizen.

Jessie is a junior in Media.?

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