What is Anxiety?

accepting uncertainty

Anxiety is becoming more and more prevalent across the UK and in other western cultures. But do we fully understand what anxiety is and the many different forms it can materialise in.

In this article we are going to discuss some of the most recent definitions and statistics from the US to understand the many forms of anxiety and the scale of the problem.

Defining Anxiety Disorders:

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders distinguished by feelings of intense distress and worry, and in many cases, are disruptive and unsuccessful attempts to deal with these feelings. These include phobias; social phobia, panic attacks, general anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and stress disorders.

It’s likely if you are suffering with one type of anxiety you are more likely to experience another; for example if you are experiencing high levels of social phobia in a stressful situation this could instigate a panic attack.

What is generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)?

GAD is relatively common, with a lifetime prevalence of 6% (Kessler et al., 2005) and it is seen twice as frequently in women as in men. Patients with GAD are visibly worried all of the time.

What are the stats?

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., and they affect 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third (28%) of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders
  • More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment

Anxiety disorders need to be taken more seriously

‘I’m so stressed out’ or a friend saying ‘The weather is depressing’ or ‘my house is so messy my OCD can’t cope’. Psychological disorder terminology is used way too commonly taking away the seriousness of these conditions.

Just because women are twice as likely to be affected by anxiety disorders than men doesn’t mean men should be excluded from the conversation. Everyone openly and honestly talking about these issues can help people suffering feel supported and welcomed to speak up.

External factors or stressors that can have an impact of peoples behaviours and start to reshape the way we think are build up slowly and don’t take long before becoming something bigger and harder to shift. Increase your awareness and check in with yourself daily with tools and techniques like mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Read next ‘5 quick tips to reducing stress

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