Anxiety Disorder Jumps By Over 400% Since 2007!
Welcome back to The Well Mind, the blog exploring the latest findings in the world of mental health.
This week: data gathered over the last 5 years has shown some unbelievable jumps in the arena of anxiety disorders. Now, the reason for the numbers spike is the question on everyone’s minds - and there are some very decided opinions in that regard.
Let’s get to it.
If you were to look at all the news headlines over the past 5 years, “anxiety” is one of words you'd see the of. And no wonder! With the economy in trouble, millions of jobless workers, scares over illnesses and natural disasters galore, there is no shortage of issues to feel anxious about.
What may surprise you however, is the number of people that are not just “anxious”, they’re” anxiety disordered”.
According to the NHS Information Center, outpatient appointments for patients with either anxiety disorders or panic attacks rose from 3,754 patients between 2006 and 2007 to 17,470 patients between 2011 and 2012!
Now, the task is to determine just exactly why that is.
There are a few obvious culprits, those news stories we mentioned above for one, and an increasing knowledge and acceptance of anxiety disorders and mental health conditions in general for another. Few would argue that those changes bear some responsibility for the spike. It’s another potential cause that has people divided.
When it comes to the whole concept of an anxiety disorder in fact, there are skeptics - and Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, a consultant psychiatrist is among them.
“The pharmaceutical industry is always looking for new markets, and anxiety disorder is increasingly the diagnosis given to people who are distressed and upset. GPs don’t have time to talk to patients about why they are really unhappy; it is easier to treat situations as a standard disorder.” said Moncrieff.
Anxiety Vs. Anxiety Disorder
In her mind, there is no threshold at which anxiety passes from normal, natural, short-lived and healthy to something decidedly otherwise - and that’s where many, myself included, take issue.
Though, undoubtedly there are cases of misdiagnosis, of anxiety mistaken for anxiety disorder, that’s hardly enough to dismiss the condition outright. There is and should be a clear distinction between anxiety and anxiety disorder.
Of course, anxiety in and of itself, is a normal and necessary state of being in humans. Without anxiety, it’s hard to imagine our species would have made it as long as we have. Fear teaches us to avoid danger and pain. Unfortunately, in the case of anxiety disordered people, that same mechanism that is normally helpful has gone haywire.
Fear is no longer specific or short lived in these people. It’s not about being scared to give a speech, or about a credit card bill you’re expecting. It may not even be triggered by anything specific. It’s consistent generalized fear for your health or your social standing and considering what science has shown in regards to stress and your health (Let me summarize - it’s horrible.), the idea that people don’t need help to get their anxiety under control is ridiculous.
Help, But Not In a Bottle
And yet, I must agree with Dr. Moncrieff when she says that at the very least, these patients would be better off with counseling and talk therapy than a bottle of pills.
Despite a real risk of side-effects, abuse and long-term addiction, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorder, Valium, has seen a 13% increase in sales in the last four years. There are certainly those that would disagree, but those hoping Valium will solves their problems may be disappointed. It’s a quick-fix patch-job that simply masks the real issues at work rather than correcting or improving anything. I’ve seen firsthand what it can do, and that’s NOT “cure anxiety.”
Talk therapy and counseling is another arena entirely.
There, patients can examine the roots of their anxiety problem and find real, useful ways to manage it. Ultimately, I think, whether or not you believe anxiety should be considered a “condition” is beside the point. When it affects so many facets of a person’s life, they should do something about it!
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