1. Realize that you have a problem-When I was in high school, I could always tell in November that symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) were coming on when the niggling thoughts in my mind became obsessive, and I was on constant alert for the sky falling. It wasn't until my late 20's/early 30's when I began to deal with my anxiety disorder. When anxiety becomes crippling; you can't get out of bed; or your consumed with worry that you can't focus on anything else, it's time to get help.
2. Recognize it's not your fault that you suffer from anxiety-The cause can be physical, environmental, or a combination of reasons. I can tell that my anxiety disorder is part environmental and part physical.
3. Talk to your doctor--S/he will be able to direct you to professional help. You may also need to get testing down to see if there's a specific physical reason for your anxiety. My family physician gave me a checklist to answer about how I responded to certain situations and if I worry a lot. And my OB/GYN tested my thyroid. All of this is to pinpoint the exact source of my anxiety.
4. Get counseling-I found counseling very healing. I learned to deal with my anxiety as well as understanding the root causes of it. I also found compassion. I've had Biblical counselors who were older women, that took me under their wings. They were like mothers to me--comforting me and urging me to grow. They listened sympathetically, and sometimes empathetically, as I cried and told them my story.
5. Join a support group-Get to know others who deal with the same issues that you have. It reminds you that you are not alone. I must confess, I never joined a support group solely based on anxiety and depression. However, I've met people along the way, through books and in person, who've had the same kinds of issues that I did. I sighed a breath of relief as I realized I wasn't a weirdo, but one of thousands who deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). We can empathize with each other and share our stories to give hope and opportunities for growth.
6. Journal, pray, join a religious group-Develop the spiritual aspects of your life. It will give you hope when you feel low. Plus, it's another outlet to meet friends and spiritual advisors to be with you during your darkest moments. I know my faith in Christ is what continues to keep me grounded. The Bible has given me hope, and prayer I keep a prayer journal, which allows me to express my feelings to Father God. Plus, a Biblically-based church can be a home to those who suffer from anxiety, depression, as well as many other mental health issues. The key is finding the right church, and that can take time and prayer.
7. Learn more about your anxiety disorder-Knowledge can help you become informed, take control of your disorder, and help you in healing. I'm a journalist, so a big part of my job is research. I've researched my anxiety disorder on sites like http://www.nih.gov/ and www.about.com, which has other helpful links to other mental health websites. And, your local library will have a chock full of books on mental health issues.
Don't be ashamed of your disorder. We aren't perfect and this life can be topsy-turvy at times. There is help and hope out there. I know because I live with GAD. Just don't give up.