Anxiety: Pervasive, and Often Untreated
Anxiety has always seemed such a “natural” part of life to me that I never thought of it as a “disorder” that needed to be treated. This makes sense when you realize that anxiety is useful in warning us of impending danger. If we’re white-water rafting, skiing a difficult slope, or walking home in a dangerous neighborhood, anxiety keeps us alert so that we watch out, stay focused, and perform at our best.
At times like these, anxiety can be very useful. The problems start when we feel anxiety for no reason at all. Or when we feel such intense anxiety – in a panic attack, for example – that we are unable to perform. Because there is such a thing as normal anxiety, it’s often hard to tell when it reaches the disorder stage. Many people simply cope as best they can without getting help. And many of us blame ourselves for “over-reacting” to minor stresses.
In a new study reported by CBS News, researchers studied 965 patients at health clinics in 12 states and found that 20% of them had at least one anxiety disorder. These were family practice or internal medicine clinics, so the patients were not pre-selected for mental illness. The fact that one-fifth had an anxiety disorder made me wonder if our culture is especially stressful.
We’re not the prey of wild animals any more, but our complicated modern lives do somehow seem very difficult. For one thing, we get more information now than we ever did, and there is a sense that we should keep up with it and manage our lives so that we and our families reap the bountiful rewards we are continually bombarded with on radio, TV, and the Internet.
The other disturbing part of the above survey is that 41 percent of those who were found to have an anxiety disorder said they were not getting any treatment for it. I have a sister and a stepson who take medication for anxiety, but somehow I never thought of getting help myself. I am bipolar, and that has taken center stage for me. The anxiety seemed like a minor side-effect. It isn’t, of course, and therapy has helped me deal with the worst of it. I know I still have more work to do.
Do you know someone who has an anxiety disorder and doesn’t realize it?
Published On: April 09, 2007