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January 6, 2012 at 3:53 PMComments: 10 Faves: 0

Anxiety Disorder Jumps By Over 400% Since 2007!

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

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!


Photo Credit: FlikrJunkie

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  • "Fear teaches us to avoid danger and pain."

    This thought process is the reason that anxiety has turned into a disorder. Yes, anxiety exists on a daily basis, but the choice to allow the anxiety to snowball is just that, a choice. The argument that some can't help it is an effect, not the cause. At one point in time, the person allowed their fears to take root and that has led them to the "disorder."
    Living in fear is living a half-life and it all starts with choice.

  • Actually, there have been studies released just recently showing how stress - not every day stress like running late for work, but life changing events - car accidents, the loss of a loved one, a divorce... actually shrink our prefrontal cortex - responsible for our personality and our self-control among other things. People that have been through several traumatic events are actually physically different than those that haven't. That's not to say that we can't fight back against what nature and nurture has given us, but to label all anxiety as chosen is incorrect. In the case of people with severe, debilitating anxiety, I don't think there is any shame in enlisting the help and support of others.

  • Those tests are given after prescription drugs are administered. These drugs that "treat" anxiety disorders actually shrink the prefrontal cortex, not an emotion.
    Medical professionals don't just hand out tests in multi-million dollar machines without some money lingering on the other end.

  • Everyone is out to get everyone else, huh? There are no good people left in the realm of science or medicine? :)

    Had a feeling you'd have something to say about this article, E.

    I stand by what I said already though - if you have a problem with anxiety invading in your life, there is no shame in calling on others for help. Too many people are under the mistaken impression that they must always deal with severe anxiety and panic attacks. Too many in that mistaken belief take desperate measures to end it.

    This isn't the case.

    It is not weakness to learn from others how to deal with and reduce anxiety's influence in your life nay more than it is weakness for a student to go to school. Shaming others for their anxiety problems does no one any good.

  • Never once did I discount Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a viable option for anxiety treatment. But, as I stated earlier, all of what you are speaking about is an effect, not the cause. The cause is a lack of individual identity, a lack of consciousness, a lack of awareness. We spend so much time identifying with a group, tying the threads of our life to a "larger purpose," we have forgotten what it means to have our own thoughts, to work through our own struggles, to question the ideas of the whole.
    Having anxiety isn't a choice, it's a natural fight or flight type response, allowing that anxiety to rule your life is absolutely a choice, and a weak one.
    Shame is a rather funny word to choose, especially taking into account it's defining qualities, more precisely the awareness that a feeling like that would exist in regards to personal anxiety.

  • "Having anxiety isn't a choice, it's a natural fight or flight type response, allowing that anxiety to rule your life is absolutely a choice, and a weak one."

    Your stance in based on the idea that anxiety and anxiety disorder are one and the same. As I've voiced before, I would disagree with this and I would disagree with the idea of it (always) being "allowed."

    "Shame is a rather funny word to choose, especially taking into account it's defining qualities"

    Exactly my point in choosing it - anxiety disordered people already have enough of that.

  • They are exactly the same thing, just packaged differently. Separating the two is a personal choice. We all feel anxiety, some take that anxiety and turn it into a problem instead of a motivating factor. People with anxiety disorders feeling shame is also a choice, just like taking any other comment from another person to heart is a personal choice.
    Genetic diseases are serious, ignorance is serious, consequences imposed without actions are serious, the fact that anxiety disorders are on the rise is a serious disappointment.

  • "We all feel anxiety, some take that anxiety and turn it into a problem instead of a motivating factor."

    We all feel anxiety, yes, but our experiences and even our brains vary widely from person to person. Some people are naturally wired in a way that makes them more prone to anxiety and combined with traumatic life experiences, an anxiety disorder may be triggered - anxiety that is beyond normal stress - anxiety that leaves them feeling literally like they are about to die at the idea of leaving their home. Is this something you can honestly say you've experienced? I can't imagine a sane person "choosing" that.

    I understand your point and I AM a big believer in the power of the mind and in choosing a perspective, but even so, I am not in total control of my every emotion. I am not a computer. I am human and failable. I am better equipped than others in some ways and less equipped than other in many ways. I can not judge others for being less adept in my areas of strength.

  • I wouldn't have an opinion if I didn't have the experience to back it up. As this is continuing to go in circles, I will say this: The experience of a fear so large that it prevents you from living your daily life doesn't just happen, it is built over time and ignorance. We continue to point fingers at external causes for our individual symptoms, conveniently forgetting that we chose to ignore what was right in front of us. We choose our reactions to circumstances, that is always in our control. We choose to allow circumstances to control our emotions, and by extension our lives. We choose to live in fear. Bowing to the idea that we have no control over our thought processes, when anxiety is concerned, is giving up the small amount of control that we actually have over our lives.

  • "Bowing to the idea that we have no control over our thought processes, when anxiety is concerned, is giving up the small amount of control that we actually have over our lives."

    But that's just the thing - KNOWING that we shouldn't let things get to us is well and good, but actually PRACTICING that is much more difficult. We just can't always be in control of our emotions. Unfortunately or fortunately, emotions are built into us.

    It's not that we have NO control over our thought process. It's just that we do not have ALL control over it.

    We're not black or white, one thing or another. We are complex.

    It's good to have ideals, but life is messy. We mess up and break sometimes. Certainly we have power over the course of our lives, but not all of the power and so to place ALL blame on the anxiety disordered person makes no sense. We don't live in a bubble. Just as we put out an influence, so one is put back on us. People do not choose to be anxiety disordered.

    I feel like you are still speaking from the stance that all people are the same or that there is always a wrong and right way.They're not and there isn't.

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