Dubai Health Authority psychiatrists hold 'Twitter clinic’

Staff Reporter
Filed on April 20, 2014

DHA doctors answer questions received on the authority’s Twitter account @DHA_Dubai every Thursday.

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) psychiatrists discussed ways to tackle anxiety, panic attacks and phobias during their live ‘Twitter clinic’ held on Thursday.

Dr Mohammed Fayek, head of department of psychiatry at Rashid Hospital, said: “Anxiety is a normal reaction to certain events that occur in life. However, most of us can overcome it after a brief period, which can range from few hours to a few days. But in extreme cases, anxiety persists for a long period. When it starts to affect daily functioning of life, a person needs to consult a psychiatrist or a psychologist.”

DHA doctors answer questions received on the authority’s Twitter account @DHA_Dubai every Thursday.

Elaborating on the factors ‘affecting the daily functioning of life’, Dr Adil Karrani, consultant psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital and president of the Emirates Psychiatric Society, said: “If anxiety prevents the person from going to work, or driving the car or going to sleep ... it means ... the person’s daily life (has been) affected and that is a significant sign that the person needs to consult with a mental health professional.”

Anxiety, he said, has physiological and physical symptoms. However, most people are only aware of the physical symptoms, which include increased heartbeat, inability to take deep breaths, palpitation, nausea and sweating.

“These symptoms are sometimes felt when a person is in a fearful or strange situation and can occur at various stages of life. For example, pupils may experience some of these symptoms during exams or people with claustrophobia may experience these symptoms when they are in an enclosed space.

Dr Adil Karrani and Dr Mohammed Fayek. — Supplied photo

“These feelings are normal. However, when they occur frequently and are long lasting, the person suffers from anxiety. If the anxiety is intense and if the person feels like he is going to die or gets dizzy, it’s called a panic attack.”

In terms of phobia he said, most people are afraid of “two to three things”, but the extent of fear will determine whether consultation with a medical professional is needed.

“An anxiety of harmful animals or things is a natural protection mechanism that warms human beings of potential danger, for example, fear of snakes. However, there are some strange phobias of things that are not harmful such as fear of colours, fear of driving ... People with such fears need psychological consultation.”

Dr Karrani said that visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist early on prevents further complications. “As soon as you feel you have some symptoms of anxiety which start to affect your education, work or social life, it is advisable to consult a mental health specialist ... Unfortunately, people who suffer from anxiety consult psychiatrists very late which leads to the usage of medications and difficulty in helping them lead a normal life.”

Karrani added that treatment for anxiety is psychological, which consists of talk therapy, or changing the thought process of the anxious person.

In more severe cases, medications are also prescribed.

“I recommend avoiding hypnotics, which is a type of medication that reduces anxiety but causes dependence over the long term. Most anti-anxiety medications take time to work and therefore the best treatment is to combine talk therapy and medication.”

In addition to therapy, he said, patients should adopt a healthier way of life that includes allocating time for spirituality, exercise, healthy diet and good sleep habits.

Dr Karrani said: “Exercise in such cases should be for minimum 20 to 60 minutes and no less than three times a week. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol and tobacco as studies have shown they increase anxiety. It’s also important to make sure that you are part of a circle of friends.”

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