Getting Real About Anxiety

by Alkmini Hormovas, LMFT, The Anxiety Relief Center

Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health and The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18% of the population or 40 million adults are affected by anxiety disorders in the United States. Did you also know that anxiety disorders are highly treatable? It is therefore troubling to discover that only 1 in 3 people suffering from an anxiety disorder seek out treatment. Acknowledging and addressing the reasons why people do not access mental health care is of extreme importance to our society.

The truth is we all experience anxiety. It is absolutely normal and common.

It is important to clarify that experiencing anxiety does not necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is an evolutionary advantage developed so that we, humans, pause and look out for potential threats in our environment and err on the side of caution. This hyper-vigilance system doesn’t quite serve modern society the way it served ancient humans. It crucial to remember that anxiety itself is not the problem. The issue occurs when anxiety is heightened to the point that it is paralyzing and functioning is impaired.

Research shows that similar mechanisms underlie all types and degrees of anxiety.

The way anxiety shows up is different for every person. Symptoms usually include a variety of emotional, somatic, behavioral and cognitive elements. This is especially striking as 80% of doctor visits are caused by anxiety-related symptoms. Taking the time to better understand your own personal experience of anxiety can help you better understand your thinking and coping style. Anxious people often feel there is something essentially wrong with their natural self. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning to acknowledge, accept, appreciate and work with your nature is key to successfully navigating anxiety.

Managing symptoms, such as excessive worry, doubtfulness, rumination, perfectionism and fear of criticism, can help you shift your thoughts and behaviors when it is beneficial for you to do so. Whether you have an anxiety disorder or are just anxiety-prone by nature, confidence in your capacity to use helpful information and tools to improve your quality of living is a must.

References:
Mental Health Facts and Statistics. NIMH website. National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. Web. 1 September 2016.

Facts and Statistics. ADAA website. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, n.d. Web. 1 September 2016.