Anxiety… A word that we have all heard. It is one that is often used without much thought without considering the weight of what it means. In all reality anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It is so prominent that it affects 40 million adults in the U.S. in the age 18 or older, which turns out to be 18% of the population. With 18% of the population affected it is over double the next most prominent disorder is depression which 6.9% of American adults have. While there is such a high occurrence of anxiety it is highly treatable, however only one-third of those with anxiety receive help. A lot of this has to do with a misunderstanding of treatments, stigmas, and lack of education on anxiety.
Like most things in the medical field anxiety is a broad term that actually encompasses many forms of anxiety. While many organizations have their own lists the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) recognizes three main types of anxiety disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia). While these three types all fall under anxiety that have certain aspects that make them unique:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common. It normally is seen by having anxiety that is more intense than a situation warrants. People who have GAD tend to have a harder time sleeping, relaxing, concentrating, and can be startled easily. While most people with GAD can carry out normal day activities, those with severe GAD can find it very difficult.
- Panic Disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as prominent in women than men. Panic attacks can occur at any time and usually reach their max intensity within 10 minutes. Where as some attacks occur once some people may experience reoccurring attacks. This can make going about a daily routine hard especially if one has to encounter the panic attack trigger everyday. An example of this could be having to change apartments because of elevators causing panic attacks.
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) is an anxiety disorder that most people have experienced with speech anxiety on a small scale. It is normally manifested through being anxious to being with and engaging with people. People with Social Phobia will be self conscious and are very afraid people will judge them.
While there has been leaps in understanding anxiety many researchers have had trouble narrowing down a singular cause. Instead, many researchers have narrowed down two main causes. The first is that it is possible that it runs in the family. There has been a strong connection between parents experiencing anxiety and their children experiencing it as well. When that isn’t the case researchers believe that it can be caused by several parts of the brain, which can come through chemical imbalances.
Despite not knowing the exact cause researchers have progressively gotten better at creating treatments for anxiety. Two main treatments involve medicine or a psychotherapist, both of which have been proven to be extremely effective in helping individuals. Sometimes both of these are needed in tandem, and in extreme cases sometimes people will choose to be committed to a hospital to remove the stimulus that causes anxiety. Regardless of the cause there are many treatments available that have been proven to help those who suffer from anxiety.
Overall anxiety disorders are one of the more common mental health issues. Despite being so common there is a horrible stigma around anxiety. This stigma has created a standard of shame in our society that prevents people from getting the help they need. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety there are a few things you can do. The first thing is know that you are not alone and that what you or they are experiencing is normal. The next step is tell a loved one and get help. Now with getting help the important thing to remember is that it takes time and that not everything will work. Sometimes it will take different medicines or different psychological approaches to find the one that works. Lastly, don’t be discouraged. Anxiety can be controlled, sometimes it will take more effort than other times but with help and determination it will be conquered.
Be mindful of the mind.