According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population each year. Despite the fact that it’s so common in the U.S and highly treatable, less than 40% of suffers get help for their condition.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors. Genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits, and life events all contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders. In our world of constant stimulation, tight deadlines, hectic schedules and never-ending to-do lists, it’s easy to see why anxiety is so ubiquitous. Anxiety is a blanket term for a number of specific occurrences that can affect your daily life significantly. Anxiety can present itself in General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder or Specific Phobias. Individuals can also suffer from conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Generally, most of these conditions develop in adolescence and are more prevalent in women than men. Symptoms include an overall sense of dread, nervousness in social situations, rapid heartbeat and inability to control worry and negative thoughts. For some people, anxiety can be a small yet controllable issue throughout their day, but for others, it can take over their existence and cause extreme problems in all areas of their lives.
You often hear anxiety and depression being mentioned together and there is a good reason for this. Almost 50% of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. It’s a combination that can contribute to substance abuse issues and higher instances of divorce and even suicide.
So, what do you do if you believe that you have anxiety? As mentioned before, it’s a common problem but relatively under-treated. The best way to start treating your anxiety is to document times when you feel overwhelmed, nervous, full of dread or worried. Having documentation about your feelings and how often they happen is a great way to begin a dialogue with a medical professional. Your therapist will ask you about when you feel anxious and how it affects your daily life, so having a good record of it will help facilitate a smooth conversation. After you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, you may be asked to employ various methods to reduce your anxiety like breathing exercises, visualization, journaling, physical exercise, or meditation. These exercises are a great way to help train yourself to better navigate anxious episodes so you can learn how to react to stress in a positive way. Various methods of talk therapy may also be used as a way to understand the underlying cause of your anxiety and work towards a resolution.
The most important thing to remember when you’re thinking about your anxiety is that it’s a treatable condition that can get better. Implementing therapy, journaling, meditation, breathing exercises and medication are all great ways to help combat this common condition. With consistency and a little work, your anxiety is an easily treatable condition that will get better.
Anna M. Hickey, Counseling Macomb, works with couples and families struggling with relationship issues