Anxiety disorders are no joke. In fact, it’s become the most common mental illness in the western world.
Unlike depression, anxiety disorders seem to strike certain people more than others. Studies about depression typically indicate no correlation to any demographic. But the same cannot be said about the different types of anxiety disorders found in today’s society.
While the precise causes of anxiety disorders are not known, we do know about the factors of anxiety itself. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that disorders spawn from a mixture of unique genetic and environmental elements present in an individual’s unique life.
And then this is also brain chemistry to consider. Some of us lack certain nutrients in our bodies that are conducive to optimal mental health.
Mental disorders from anxiety will take place in the presence of other mental health conditions. Among them are depression and substance abuse. Too many individuals attempt to ease the misery from anxiety by using drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, any relief offered from these measures is temporary. In the end, the traditional substances used to mask a mental anxiety disorder like nicotine, drugs, and alcohol tend to make these disorders even worse.
Anxiety is rising in the United States
Dealing with anxiety has been very elusive yet is on the rise – especially in the United States. Mental health professionals have yet to discover why anxiety has become so common. But all of them agree about some of the societal factors that play a significant role in this troubling trend.
They believe that factors in today’s modern world such as poor sleep habits, social media usage, and lower stigma play a massive part in anxiety increases and anxiety disorders.
Let’s examine some facts about anxiety in the US:
- Anxiety levels in the United States are almost 7% higher than in other countries.
- About one-third of adults in America reported feeling more anxious from 2018 to 2019.
- Google trends indicate online searches of “anxiety” have constantly increased over the last five years.
- About one-fifth of US adults struggle with an anxiety disorder every year.
- Around one-third of US adults will have an anxiety disorder sometime during their life.
In addition to the above facts, here’s another one. The American Psychological Association (APA) claims that millennials are experiencing more stress and less able to cope with it than any other generation in US history.
The APA further states that 12% of American millennials have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, nearly twice the percentage of baby boomers.
Needless to say, mental health professionals have focused on the things that play a larger role in millennials’ lives compared to other generations. Among them are using the internet and social media.
People online tend to share lifestyles – among other things – which propagates the fear of missing out for those who don’t compare favorably with them. This causes a lot of anxiety and actually causes people to feel lonely on social media, ironically.
Because of this, it seems that millennials and anxiety are hopelessly entangled.
Common causes of anxiety
Regardless of the type of anxiety disorder, they typically begin with anxiety itself. And it’s a good idea for everyone to understand the factors that boost the risk of developing one.
The anxiety causes are quite commons and a good starting point for assessing any discomfort that a person feels anxious about.
All of us have to deal with stress as it is a part of the daily human experience. We discover that stress is behind many things that ail us – both mentally and physically. The problem comes in when we experience excessive stress as well as prolonged stress levels that go unresolved.
This is how many anxiety disorders begin. Several neurobiological studies over the years have linked stress and anxiety. Certain regions in our brains are affected whenever we process threatening and fearful events. Such events often evolve into overall anxiety.
Whenever a person in our family has anxiety disorders, we also have a greater chance of getting one. Economic and social factors also play a significant role. But as we learn more, there is growing evidence indicating genetic factors are contributing to these disorders.
A 2019 study found a solid correlation between genetic features, anxiety, along with stress-related disorders. Thus, researchers concluded that certain genetic features would make us more prone to having anxiety – meaning that anxiety could be hereditary.
People that have particular personality traits have a greater chance have anxiety and anxiety disorders.
When a research team evaluated almost 500 first-year university students over six years, they discovered their tendencies to experience negative thoughts, introversion, and extraversion increased the risk of feeling anxious and depressed.
They learned that the students who were overly critical of themselves, struggled with criticism, and had many negative feelings as young adults were more apt to experience panic disorder, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) over time.
Traumatic events like experiencing abuse or taking part in military combat significantly increase our risk of anxiety. In fact, it can even happen if you’re close to another person who’s been a victim of trauma.
Types of anxiety disorders
Mental disorders caused by anxiety come from many sources. Here are the five primary types of anxiety disorders that are most common in the United States.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is an anxiety disorder stemming from chronic anxiety, exaggerated tension, and worry. With GAD, there’s a tendency to manifest in the absence of little or no circumstances for it to exist.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by recurrent thoughts (or obsessions) followed by repetitive behaviors (or compulsions). Typical behaviors have been observed like counting, hand washing, cleaning, and checking, or cleaning in the hopes of either preventing these obsessive feelings or making the thoughts go away altogether.
Sadly, these behaviors provide little or no relief, but not doing them at all sharply increases the victim’s anxiety levels.
Panic disorders come from an anxiety disorder where repeated episodes of incredible fear cause physical symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, dizziness, and even abdominal distress.
These panic episodes are often unexpected and unpredictable.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that has received some notoriety because of American involvement in recent wars abroad. This disorder stems from exposure to terrifying or life-threatening events where the victim experienced terror or great trauma. The kinds of events that can spark PTSD are violent personal assaults, accidents, disasters, or military combat.
Recently, a complex form of PTSD known as CPTSD has been identified. This affliction pertains to people who have been subjected to abuse for prolonged periods. Most of these victims have suffered from domestic physical or mental abuse.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive self-consciousness and crippling anxiety when interacting in daily social situations. This form of social phobia can also be restricted to a certain kind of scenario like the fear of speaking in formal or informal environments or even dining with other people.
The most severe cases render a person incapable of being around other people for any reason in any circumstance.