Anxiety: Facts, Statistics, and Treatment
That feeling of a looming danger – as though something terrible is about to happen – can be crippling and overpowering. But while many of us might feel unease or apprehension when foreshadowing future events, individuals suffering from anxiety might be wholly hindered by fear. Anxiety disorder can interfere with occupational and social activities and is characterized by a severe feeling of concern, worry, or fear.
Today, it’s estimated that 40 million adults in the United States deal with anxiety disorder. And while the numbers might be overwhelming, there are effective treatments that can help individuals move beyond their anxiety to function in their daily lives without worry and apprehension.
Fast Facts: Anxiety in Numbers
- 284 million people worldwide struggle with anxiety
- 8 million adults suffer from General Anxiety Disorder in the United States
- 8% of adults with anxiety experienced severe impairment in everyday functioning
- Anxiety in adolescents is more common among females than in males
- Approximately 31.1% of all US adults have experienced anxiety at some time in their life
- Of individuals reporting to have had a suicide attempt, 70% had anxiety
- Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms associated with every other mental health problem
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Many different conditions have anxiety as one of their main symptoms. These can be categorized based on the cause of the stress or the specific situations when the symptoms manifest. Some of them include:
- Panic disorder: Characterized by sudden panic attacks or fear with no apparent cause. These episodes can come with a whirlwind of physical and mental symptoms that can hinder an individual.
- Phobias: This specific anxiety disorder has a known trigger but is rarely an actual threat. For instance, some individuals might experience claustrophobia – or fear of enclosed spaces – which might not be a real danger.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: Previous traumas might trigger an individual, thus causing physiological distress. A good example would be war veterans experiencing panic, fear, or anxiety when confronted with loud noises that remind them of the battlefield.
- Social anxiety disorder: This specific disorder manifests when an individual faces a social situation. Social phobias can manifest anxiety symptoms when making a phone call, ordering at a restaurant, visiting distant relatives, and any other kind of situation that calls for interaction.
On the other hand, general anxiety disorder or GAD is characterized by symptoms of anxiety with no specific cause. That is, an individual may experience stress in various situations and not just one. People who struggle with GAD will typically feel anxious on most days, making it difficult to ease up or relax even when there isn’t anything to cause the feelings. GAD can cause various symptoms and may even go hand in hand with panic disorder if the symptoms are severe enough. Some of the symptoms include:
- A sense of impending danger
- Increased heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Feeling faint or weak
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Stomach pains
- Constipation or diarrhea
- No appetite or overeating
Remember that for these symptoms to qualify under general anxiety disorder, the cause must be either unknown or irrational. If the reason for the distress is a known danger that can impose actual harm or pain on the individual, then the symptoms would be justified. That brings us to the difference between anxiety and fear. Anxiety happens when an individual feels nervous or worried about a perceived however unreasonable threat, while fear occurs when an individual is faced with real danger.
On the one hand, it’s normal for an individual to experience anxiety. In many ways, it’s a survival instinct that kicks in and helps us to avoid situations that could potentially harm us. However, on the other hand, unreasonable anxiety or GAD can interfere with everyday functioning. A person will likely receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder when these symptoms:
- Get in the way of work, relationships, responsibilities, and personal care
- become too tricky to control
- Persist over long periods, making it difficult for the individual to calm his or herself
- Urge an individual to seek alternative methods to remain calm, such as illicit drugs and other harmful substances
- Produce suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Are potentially linked to another underlying health condition