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Coping skills can alleviate anxiety better than medication

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18 percent of US adults have some form of an anxiety disorder, and women are 60 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the United States and can include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias.

While anxiety disorders are treatable, and a wide a range of medications are prescribed to sufferers, science is finding more and more that in the long term, these treatments cannot be solely relied upon to relieve symptoms, and some can have unpleasant side-effects.

Coping methods such as mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapy, exercise, and art therapy have been shown to be even more effective than medication in treating anxiety.

A new study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference shows how coping methods are crucial in treating anxiety disorders. Those who have a strong coping system in place were found to have a greater sense of self-worth and be less likely to exhibit anxiety symptoms.

Specifically, the study examines how coping methods can help women deal with anxiety, especially those in deprived communities or adverse situations.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, led by Olivia Remes, surveyed 10,000 women over the age of 40 taking part in a wide reaching study.

The researchers assessed the participants’ mental and physical health and used census data to determine deprived living conditions. The research team also measured each woman’s sense of fulfillment and meaning in their lives.

Of the 10,000 women participating, almost 300 (2.6 percent) had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The researchers found that in deprived communities, women without coping skills were nearly twice as likely to have anxiety than those who lived in wealthier areas.

But the women who had solid coping methods weren’t nearly as affected by anxiety no matter their living conditions.

“Individuals with this sense of coherence, with good coping skills, view life as comprehensible and meaningful. In other words, they feel they can manage their life, and that they are in control of their life, they believe challenges encountered in life are worthy of investment and effort, and they believe that life has meaning and purpose. These are skills which can be taught,” said Remes.

The new research has exciting implications for mental health professionals and for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Finding and learning coping methods can prove, as Remes shows, a more powerful therapy than medication.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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