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The Observer Paper 10/31/14

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By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

His hands are sweaty, he's having trouble breathing, and he feels as if his heart will explode.

He's not getting ready to leap from an airplane or face an audience of hundreds, he's standing in line at the supermarket waiting to check out.

A woman vacuums the living room rug and gets ready to put away the machine. She takes another look and wonders if she vacuumed the spot in front of the couch. She vacuums the spot again and then wonders if the area in front of the chair is clean enough. Just to make sure, she starts over and does the whole room again. She may repeat this process three or four times.

The man in line at the supermarket and the woman who is forever cleaning may suffer from two types of anxieties, says Dr. Joel Rice of La Grande.

"We have thermostats in our brains that regulate the ‘fight or flight' reaction," Rice said. "All animals have it, but it can malfunction."

The same can be true for what Rice calls the "worry thermostat." Some people "cannot let go of worries, and that can cause you to do things over and over in what becomes obsessive-compulsive behavior," he said.

People may not always recognize anxiety disorders, Rice said. He will be at Grande Ronde Hospital to lead a free anxiety screening at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Mount Emily classroom on the hospital's third floor. The screening is confidential.

The La Grande psychiatrist said that a number of things can cause anxiety disorders, including genetic patterns or post-traumatic stress. Many of those who lived through the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center are suffering post-traumatic stress, as are some of the thousands of volunteers who searched the ruins. People living miles from the center suffer, too.

"I have seen an increase (in anxiety) since 9-11," Rice said. "People think the world is less safe; their thermostats are more ready to go off. If they have a tendency to worry, they may be more likely to be affected negatively by these things."

Anxiety is treatable, he said, and "only rarely do people have to stay on medication for life."

He said a combination of treatments works best.

"With anxiety, we start with reading and self-help; move into therapy and medications," he said. "Medication alone shouldn't be used."

Wednesday's screening involves a series of written questions that can be answered in about 10 minutes, followed by a five-minute interview.

"Every time we put this on we get a few people whose lives are changed," Rice said.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Mount Emily classroom, Grande Ronde Hospital's third floor

Reach Linker at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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