As I’ve grown older and dealt with anxiety more, I’ve hidden it less. In my teens and 20’s I only told my boyfriend and spouse. I didn’t think anyone else I knew dealt with it. If they do, it certainly wasn’t as severe. It was a weakness, a big weakness. I kept it to myself.
In my 30s, I mostly hid it, but admitted it to a few very close friends. I learned one of my dearest friends dealt with relatively minor anxiety in waking hours, but had severe night terrors. I had no idea.
Now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve continued to have times of very severe anxiety which has caused me to finally do the work needed to learn how to work through them. A side effect of my studying and self-work is that I have less compulsion to hide it. It’s a real condition that is not, in fact, rare. A lot of people have anxiety.
At work, not long ago, I noticed the look on a face of a coworker and asked if she was ok. She confided in me that she has anxiety some times and she was feeling it right then. She’s young, early twenties. I shared some of my experiences and gave her some resources to look into.
I was talking to an acquaintance not long ago and she mentioned a close friend of hers has such severe social anxiety that he often takes Xanax multiple times during the work day.
I think there are more people with anxiety around me than I ever realized. Imagine if we all were able to support each other and help each other through our moments of hell instead of generally trying to process it alone.
Here are some interesting facts from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
- Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized 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.
Initially, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – it was my diagnosis for many years. GAD is persistent worry or fears on more days than not for 6 months or longer not related to specific stressors (although specific stressors can certainly trigger it). Difficulty with stopping the worry cycle and a feeling of loss of control is part of it. GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age (ADAA, n.d.).
My anxiety diagnosis was shifted to Panic Disorder a few years ago. Panic disorder is diagnosed when people have spontaneous, out-of-the-blue panic attacks. They also become fearful of recurring panic attacks, which can cause panic attacks. The fear of having panic attacks can cause the person to restrict their lives to attempt to avoid or control occurrences. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep. Panic disorder usually begins in adulthood (after age 20), but children can also have panic disorder and many children experience panic-like symptoms (“fearful spells”). About 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women than in men (ADAA, n.d.).
Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.