In today’s fast-paced, high-pressure society, it’s almost impossible not to feel anxious at some point in life. But occasional worry or feeling anxious isn’t the same as suffering from anxiety. Here are eight helpful facts about anxiety and anxiety disorders:
Fact #1: It’s normal to worry or feel anxious about some things in life. In fact, it can often be helpful. For example, worrying about how you’ll pay the mortgage and then going out and getting a better-paying job as a result of being motivated by that concern is good.
How can you tell if you’re just a normal worrier or if you’re suffering from anxiety? According to a Johns Hopkins Health Alert, it depends on how much time you spend worrying or obsessing over things. It’s been found that symptoms are much more frequent when the condition known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is present. General worriers tend to spend an average of 55 minutes a day worrying, while people with GAD often spend over 300 minutes a day worrying — over five times as much.
Fact #2: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety — roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population. Of those 40 million people, almost 7 million of them suffer from GAD, with 15 million suffering from social anxiety disorder, 14.8 million suffering from major depressive disorder, and 7.7 million affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fact #3: There are many types of anxiety disorders. Different kinds of anxiety disorders include:
- General anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Phobic disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
Of all of the anxiety disorders, GAD is the most common, affecting 5 percent of all Americans at some point over the course of their lives, particularly women.
Fact #4: Women have double the risk for anxiety disorders than men do. With the exception of PTSD, women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety disorders as men are. The ADAA states that anxiety disorders typically occur at a younger age in women than they do in men, and that anxiety disorders strike women most often between puberty and age 50.
Fact #5: Anxiety disorders are often accompanied by other related disorders. GAD rarely occurs alone, frequently occurring along with depression or substance abuse. According to the ADAA, half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and people who suffer from anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who don’t have an anxiety disorder. Along with depression, anxiety disorders are often also present in cases of eating disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Fact #6: Anxiety can cause or exacerbate physical illnesses. Besides physical symptoms or discomfort directly associated with anxiety— such as an upset stomach, for example — evidence suggests that people who suffer from anxiety are also at greater risk for developing a number of chronic health conditions.
Most doctors acknowledge a mind-body connection — a relationship between your physical health and your emotional state — and it’s logical to suspect that a mind in a continual state of anxiety or emotional distress could make a body more susceptible to disease. Anxiety has been linked to multiple chronic health conditions including heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory ailments. Anxiety is also a prime suspect as a contributor to substance abuse because many people who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to turn to alcohol or drugs to calm or numb their anxious feelings.
Fact #7: Anxiety may be hereditary. Many people who suffer from and have a family history of anxiety believe they inherited it. Many researchers and medical professionals also believe there’s such a thing as inherited anxiety, while others think it has more to do with learned behavior than genetics. Others believe that physical or psychological markers from genetic factors may exist, which predispose a person to developing anxiety disorders. The general consensus, however, appears to be that anxiety results from a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Fact #8: Anxiety can be managed and treated effectively. A variety of treatment options exist that have proven effective in treating anxiety disorders, including:
- Talk therapy (psychotherapy)
- Coping strategies
- Alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation and acupuncture
One or a combination of any of these may be the right treatment for anxiety. Through awareness and treatment, people with anxiety disorders can lead healthy, happy, productive lives free of excessive worry and fear.
Unfortunately as many as 30 percent of people with anxiety disorders never seek treatment. If this is you or someone you love, seek or encourage treatment. There may be no such thing as a worry-free life, but a life spent in a continual state of anxiousness doesn’t have to be.