Many of the clients I deal with in my online therapy practice suffer from anxiety. Anxiety is the disorder of our modern times and the amount of people suffering from it is increasing every year. In fact, the American Anxiety and Depression Association published these facts: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,60(7), July 1999).
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 hospitalised for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
On the same subject, I came across an extremely interesting piece of research on the rise of anxiety. It described it as the “modern disease” and that our modern lifestyles are mostly responsible. Psychologists have identified a long list of modern experiences that evoke generalised anxiety. In this list, I add a few others.
We wake to an unpleasant alarm as though in a war.
The news is a long catalog of disturbing events.
We work to an unnatural schedule such as an eight-hour day that ignores fatigue and boredom.
We drive to work at the same time as everyone else creating unnecessary congestion, anxiety, and frustration
We watch too much television that is believed to act as a depressant.
We avoid talking to “strangers” even if we see them every day.
Constant loud noise, smog, and other industrial stressors.
Emphasis on competition for academic success, sports trophies, salaries, etc
We move frequently, losing social support.
We prefer to live in cities rather than in the countryside or small towns.
We are hassled by marketers in our spare time.
Rising narcissism is now recognised as a factor in modern depression and social media does not help.
Doctors and therapists have long tried to negate the effects of the above with medication and therapeutic interventions. However, we have it in our hands to change the way we live and at least try to reduce the effects of our modern world. Just as psychologists and doctors are well aware of many everyday experiences that promote anxiety, we are also aware that modern lifestyles omit many of the off buttons for anxiety enjoyed by people in more laid back communities.
Physical activity increases not just fitness and health but psychological well-being.
Relaxation time regularly scheduled.
Distracting hobbies and activities.
Playing games, including electronic games.
Relaxation training, meditation, yoga, and other techniques that lower blood pressure.
Aimless conversation with friends and acquaintances.
Having a large social network and feeling that we belong in the community
Embracing and kissing intimate companions
Caring for children and others.
Having dogs and other pets.
Artistic pursuits such as playing music, painting, and creative writing.
Slow-paced activities such as fishing, or shopping.
Appreciation of natural beauty.
Time out from news and social media.
Eating the right foods and at the right time
As our world becomes inevitably more and more fast paced, it is sensible to believe that anxiety is here to stay. However, it is possible to reduce it by making a few changes to our lifestyles and the way we do things. Most of the “off” buttons mentioned are well within our control and we can make the choice to take action. I leave you with a quote :
“Such anxieties are a natural aspect of being alive and being designed by natural selection to remain that way as long as possible. Yet, our regular anxiety levels are unnaturally elevated. It is as though modern conditions are flipping far too many on buttons and and far too few off buttons”.