Anxiety, for many of us, is a normal feeling of worry and tension which comes and goes according to the situation we’re in. It is described as a vague, uneasy feeling which we may experience when we’re in a stressful situation, like while giving an important exam or interview, before our marriage, before an important dance performance or even before a date. But what happens when this feeling of worry and fear does not seem to fade away even when the stressful situation is over?
Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. This excessive anxiety can make you avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms. American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety disorder as any of a group of disorders that have, as their central organizing theme, the emotional state of fear, worry, or excessive apprehension.
Common symptoms to look out for anxiety are:-
- Having an increased heart rate
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Feeling weak or tired
- Feeling as if a danger is always upon you
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Hyperventilation (breathing rapidly)
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Tendency to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Types of Anxiety Disorders
1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)– The American Psychological Association (APA) defines GAD as excessive anxiety and worry about a range of concerns (e.g., world events, finances, health, appearance, activities of family members and friends, work, school) accompanied by such symptoms as restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, muscle tension, and disturbed sleep. Hence in this disorder, the person is unable to control their worry and fear irrespective of the fact that whether there is a stressful situation or not.
2. Panic Disorder– People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden rushes of intense fear that arise quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Attacks can be brought on by a trigger, such as a feared object or situation, or without any trigger, out of the blue. Physical symptoms during a panic attack include heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, breathlessness, etc.
3. Specific Phobia– This is a disorder characterized by a marked and persistent fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Phobia is an intense and out of proportion fear of an object or event. Examples of specific phobia are fear of dogs, flying, height etc.
4. Social Phobia– The American Psychological Association (APA) defines Social Anxiety Disorder/ Social Phobia as an anxiety disorder that is characterized by extreme and persistent social anxiety or performance anxiety and that causes significant distress or prevents participation in social activities. Chances are that the feared situation is avoided completely, so as to not experience that debilitating feeling of fear. Examples include fear of malls, hospitals, birthday parties etc.
5. Agoraphobia– The American Psychological Association (APA) defines agoraphobia as an excessive, irrational fear of being in open or unfamiliar places, resulting in the avoidance of public situations from which escape may be difficult, such as standing in line or being in a crowd.
Now to highlight the prevalence of anxiety disorder, let’s look at some statistics. Globally, around 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders, which is around 4% of the global population. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States alone, aged 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Even though anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
Women are more likely to experience an anxiety disorder than men.
In 2017, a total of 197.3 million people had mental disorders in India, out of which 44.9 million suffered with anxiety disorders.
This data is sufficient to tell us that anxiety disorder is very much present around us, and is an issue which needs to be dealt with seriously and consciously. If you know someone or feel you experience some of the symptoms mentioned above on a regular basis, then do seek professional mental health. You should seek help because you deserve it, and you deserve to grow, better yourself and reach your full potential.
Facts and Statistics- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative Mental Disorders Collaborators (2020). The burden of mental disorders across the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2017. The lancet. Psychiatry, 7(2), 148–161. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30475-4
Sean Fleming (2019). This is the world’s biggest mental health problem – and you might not have heard of it. World Economic Forum.