Anxiety’s grip grows to today’s top mental concern

Sadly, we live in a world that is increasingly overcome with anxiety.

At first, I thought I was seeing much more of it through my work at Still Here Mindfulness, which draws a fair number of people with stress-related problems, not the least of which is anxiety.

It’s one of the reasons we began offering a five-week course dealing specifically with anxiety.

But was this just at Still Here, or was it a problem in society in general?

In the last several months, I’ve backed up to look beyond the classes, and saw an alarming number of people, largely children and youth, with troubling levels of anxiety.

Statistics support my observations.

Recent reports out of the U.S. indicate anxiety is now overtaking depression as the most prevalent mental malady.

The National Institute for Mental Health is now reporting that one in four kids between 13 and 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. Out of that, 20 per cent of boys are stricken with it while 30 per cent of the group are girls.

The picture gets worse as we age.

From 18-29 years old, that average climbs to 30.2 per cent, and in the next 15 years, it shoots up to more than 35 per cent. Then from 45 to 59 years old, it drops back down to 30 per cent, and falls to half of that after 60.

In all, women are 60 per cent more likely than men to develop an anxiety disorder, the report indicates.

Some reports say women’s fight or flight response is more active, while it seems women don’t process the neurotransmitter serotonin as efficiently as men.

There are several published positions about the potential causes of anxiety: the constant barrage of alarming stories in the news; the rapid delivery of information through all types of social media; the seeming addiction to cell phones, which offer texting, email, social media and myriad other avenues for instant information delivery; our diet, with high levels of sugar and caffeine, increasing numbers of broken homes, the economy, and a host of other potential angst-provoking problems.

Any or all of these things could be contributing factors. While a better diet and more responsible use of electronics might help, isolating ourselves from all of the above would likely be more of a temporary fix, than a long-term solution.

If you, or someone you love, is suffering from anxiety, your best course of action is to speak with your doctor about it.

He or she will likely have a number of recommendations.

Your doctor will likely have a medical response by way of medication, and may recommend seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.

You should also ask them about mindfulness training.

Mindfulness is a way of attending to this moment, without judgement or attachment, in a calm and deliberate manner. In short, becoming more self aware without judgment.

It won’t solve all your problems, but in all likelihood, it will greatly mitigate the amount of anxiety or stress-related problems you are experiencing.

Medical service provider Aetna started implementing mindfulness among its employees about 10 years ago, and saw a 28 per cent drop in stress levels among the 289 employees taking part in the pilot. (Aetna now offers mindfulness and yoga to it’s full 50,000 employees).

The numbers are even higher among lawyers, who saw drops in stress levels of 32 per cent.

Studies show that mindfulness practice is comparable in efficacy to medical interventions.

That is not to suggest it should be used at the absence of medical attention, but the two together would offer a much greater arsenal against anxiety.

At the start of each class, I ask my students to check with their doctors and/or therapists before committing to our eight-week mindfulness fundamentals course.

Not one has been advised not to undertake a mindfulness practice.

On the contrary, every one so far have been pleased to see patients practicing self care.

Interested in Mindfulness? And our practice at Still Here?