Anxiety Awareness: Why It’s So Important
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the world? According to the World Health Organization, one in every thirteen people globally suffers from anxiety, with approximately 8% of children/teenagers developing symptoms before the age of 21.
So what exactly is an anxiety disorder? Anxiety disorders are defined as specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, including general anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, specific phobias, and panic disorders. Many suffering from anxiety experience symptoms from more than one type of anxiety disorder. Recent studies have shown that anxiety disorders may develop from a diverse array of risk factors like genetics, brain chemistry, diet, personality, and life events. In short, anxiety disorders are nothing like the everyday nervousness that we all experience.
Some important differences distinguish normal anxiety and nervousness from actual anxiety disorders. Instead of being worried about things like paying bills, landing a job, or other important life events, people with anxiety disorders suffer from constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life. While being embarrassed or self-conscious in socially awkward situations is completely normal, anxiety patients actively avoid social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated. People with anxiety disorders experience seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of having another one, as opposed to only having them in stressful situations. Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event that occurred several months or years ago are another sign of anxiety disorders.
Many misconceptions surrounding anxiety disorders exist, the most common ones being the following: anxiety is a sign of personal weakness, anxiety is not a real medical illness, and people with anxiety could snap out of it if they wanted to. And although the majority of people don’t hold these views (9 out of 10 people believe an anxiety condition is a real medical illness, 86% say they don’t consider anxiety a personal weakness, and 86% don’t believe anxiety is something you can just snap out of*), even perceived stigma can prevent anxiety patients from seeking treatment. Almost two in three people suffering from anxiety disorders believe that others will see it as a sign of personal weakness; this perception reduces the chance that they will seek support, both formally (therapists, etc.) and informally (friends and family). Seeing as anxiety patients are better off when treated earlier, we must do away with stigma.
The key to eliminating perceived stigma is mental health literacy. What does that mean? It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and educate yourself about prevention and management techniques.
*According to a study commissioned by Beyond Blue
Check out these links for more information and ways you can help out: ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), anxiety.org, Beyond Blue
Are you or someone you know suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse? Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)