Anxiety is a disorder that is more common than most people realize. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America shares some eye-opening statistics about anxiety.
Those facts are the following:
- 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the adult population in the United States, struggles with anxiety.
- Only 36.9% of the people who are diagnosed with the disorder receive any treatment.
- Anxiety sufferers are six times as likely to seek in-patient mental health care for other psychiatric ailments than those who do not have it.
Despite the prevalence of this affliction, the general public still stigmatizes the disease, often classifying those who receive treatment for the disorder as mentally or psychologically inferior. Worse, some label this group of Americans as feigning illness to seek attention.
The truth is that anxiety is a genuinely disruptive disorder, and those who have anxiety disorders need help to overcome it. We hope to demystify the disease by sharing six facts that everyone should know about this disorder.
1 – Anxiety often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed
One reason that people diagnosed with this disorder spin into a spiral is that it is not uncommon for it to be misdiagnosed. Or, it goes undiagnosed altogether.
This mislabeling of the disease stems from the fact that the symptoms coincide with so many other physical and mental health illnesses. Take a look at a few of the indicators:
- Stomach cramps
- Digestive pains
- Sleep deprivation
- Lack of concentration
- Increased heart rate or respiration
Some who suffer exhibit a majority of these symptoms. However, when people only express two or three of these symptoms, doctors can chalk it up to something else mistakenly.
2 – There is more than one kind of anxiety
Anxiety is a general term. Indeed. “generalized anxiety” is a term for anxiety that’s triggered randomly. Some of the other types of this disorder are:
- Social anxiety: This disorder is the fear of failing in social scenarios or being humiliated in public. Those who suffer often isolate themselves rather than face rejection.
- Phobias: Inexplicable fear of a certain object or activity. A couple of examples are overwhelming fears of things like roller coasters or snakes.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Yes, OCD is an anxiety-related ailment. OCD patients feel overly anxious or expect dire outcomes if they don’t follow compulsive rituals.
- Hypochondriasis: Hypochondriacs have an irrational fear of developing health concerns. This disorder makes them lack enjoyment of life as they consistently avoid contact with germs (i.e. other people).
- Separation anxiety: Some people have a specific trigger for their anxious feelings—being away from a particular object, place, or person.
3 – Anxiety doesn’t always exist alone
Anxiety does not always exist as a stand-alone diagnosis. Indeed, it’s often present along with other mental health challenges. When a patient has anxiety plus one or more additional diagnoses, doctors call these “co-occurring disorders.”
Some of the usual sidekick mental illnesses you’ll find paired with anxiety are:
- Gambling addictions
- Drug abuse
- Depression disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Also, those who struggle can have two types of anxiety. For example, a patient diagnosed with social anxiety disorder might also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
4 – Anxiety is treatable
When a person is diagnosed with anxiety, all is not lost. This illness is treated with great efficacy once diagnosed, and treatment is sought out.
Through therapeutic interventions, counselors can teach those diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders to manage their symptoms. Some of the techniques professionals employ take a holistic approach to facing symptoms through the acronym BAM: Body, Action, and Mind.
- Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Stay hydrated to keep the body well-functioning.
- Nourish the body with lean protein and whole grains.
- Implement sleep hygiene standards to facilitate restful sleep.
- Make exercising at least 4 days weekly a priority; it releases negative energy
- Practice mindfulness and focus on breathing when facing triggers.
- Learn to relax by trying yoga, meditating, pampering with a facial or massage, or listening to music; these actions clear the mind.
- Begin volunteering in the community. Becoming a volunteer enables patients to interact with others and reduces feelings of depression and isolation.
- Keep a journal during periods of anxious feelings to find the common thread.
- Remain positive even when facing the possibility of failing, treating each as a learning opportunity.
For the patients who suffer the most pervasive symptoms or deal with co-occurring disorders, doctors may prescribe medication to minimize the episodes along with counseling.
5 – Anxiety causes physical discomfort
Anxiety kicks the human body’s natural fight or flight response into high gear. As a consequence of that response kicking in, the brain doses the body with neurochemicals to fuel the body to either do battle or flee the danger.
These neurochemicals are potent enough to cause shortness of breath, digestive issues, headaches, muscle aches, and sweating. Once released, they can take 30 minutes or longer to subside in most patients. So, when somebody says they feel so anxious that they have a headache, they are telling you an absolute truth.
6 – There’s a clear connection between anxiety disorder and suicide
In 2014, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center released findings of a study they conducted on anxiety patients over a span of twelve years. Of the patients monitored during that period, a staggering 6% attempted to commit suicide. More alarmingly, one factor that elevates the risk of suicide is previous attempts.
This study clearly connects anxiety disorder and suicide and underscores the need to raise awareness of the affliction. Anxiety disorder is a real disease. It requires treatment via therapeutic counseling sessions, prescription medication, or sometimes a combination of both.
Stigmatizing the condition causes those who struggle to delay seeking treatment or sharing their experiences with others. Over the long term, episodes can escalate and, in the worst cases, may even culminate in an eventual suicide. Everyone should know about anxiety disorder—it affects roughly one American out of every six. Are you one of those people? Seek the treatment you need.