Anxiety is Becoming the New Normal

What You Should Know and Do About the Rise of Anxiety

Speed trails

When I was a teenager, the movie Top Gun was a hit, and my buddies and I would quote the movie to each other. One cheesy line, in particular, was ”I feel the need, the need for speed” and when we drove around town in my 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, it was clear that I was not Tom Cruise.

 

Cheesy lines aside, the movie was all about speed and pushing the limits on a motorcycle or in a Fighter Plane. I remember the loud roar of the jet engines and that feeling of exhilaration and anxiousness, all at the same time.

Those feelings of course left as soon as I exited the theater…. but what if they didn’t?  

What would it feel like to be that amped up all the time…24/7?

It might feel like someone who’s living with anxiety, and this is becoming the new normal for too many of us.  

Anxiety is the New Normal

Before we get to the clinical symptoms for anxiety, how do those that suffer from anxiety disorders describe living with anxiety:

“Anxiety is like an adrenaline rush without the actual roller coaster! Heart races, palms sweat, knees get weak. You have all the physical symptoms of a thrill ride, but your brain has no actual event to tie the symptoms to.”

“My anxiety takes over my body. My breathing is irregular, my heart is racing despite minimal activity, and my muscles are tense unless I consciously relax them. My mind doesn’t shut off. I think about things that could go wrong, things that went wrong in the past, and things I have absolutely no control over. Despite having the knowledge that I cannot control everything that happens, I struggle with these consuming symptoms daily.”

“Anxiety takes you to a place where you’re outside of your body and cannot determine fantasy from reality. It’s debilitating, scary and downright gut-wrenching.”

See what I mean? It can be like a movie that never ends and more and more of us are experiencing this emotion every day.

Rising Levels of Anxiety Means We’re Not Alone

Why it’s becoming the new normal is partially due to the prolonged state of COVID 19 and the influence of social media, just to name a few. This has resulted in many of us experiencing a level of anxiety that has never been seen before. So how do you know if what your experiencing is just normal stress, an actual anxiety disorder, or depression?  

US Anxiety Rates 2019

  • 7.4% – 8.6%

Range of average monthly percentages of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety, January–December 2019 1

US Anxiety Rates 2021

  • 28.2% – 37.2%

Range of average sub monthly percentages of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety, April 2020–August 2021 2

While reading this, you may think of someone you love or even yourself. Just know one thing, you’re not alone and there are options for help.  

Is Being Anxious the Same as Being Depressed?  

Depression is also becoming more prevalent, increasing approximately three-fold over the past few years. Anxiety and depression often coexist and can be found in approximately 50% of patients diagnosed with anxiety. They may seem similar, sharing symptoms like insomnia, trouble concentrating, and fatigue, however, they are uniquely different.  

To help us better understand how they can be similar and different, the following can help differentiate the two. Recognizing, however, we are all unique and your symptoms can overlap either.  

People with depression generally experience a lack of energy, whereas those with anxiety tend to be more worked up and nervous as thoughts race through their minds. 

People with anxiety can often have more worries, oftentimes unsubstantiated, about the future. Where those struggling with depression are less likely to be concerned about future events because the future is often viewed as hopeless and almost non-existent.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety? 

It’s normal to worry about things like the economy, your job, and your family. Where it can become more problematic is when those worries become more constant, or you begin to worry about things that do not affect your day to day, (i.e. Generalized Anxiety Disorder).

The following are common symptoms experienced by those diagnosed with anxiety disorders. A licensed healthcare professional can help you determine if the symptoms are normal or need further attention.

  • Excessive Worry
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of Memory
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Change in Appetite
  • Anger and Irritability
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Muscle Tension 

What Can You do to Help Yourself or Someone You Love?

This is the good news; you’re not alone and below are a few resources to help.

Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy:  

Conducted by a licensed practitioner either virtually or in person.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally, a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety.
  • Consult your health insurance provider’s directory of licensed mental health professionals 
  • Consider online platforms like: betterhelp.com

Medication:

  •  Prescriptions are available and a licensed healthcare professional can help you determine what’s best for you

Natural Alternatives:

  • Chamomile. Limited data shows that short-term use of chamomile is generally considered safe and can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. 
  • Lemon balm. Preliminary research shows lemon balm can reduce some symptoms of anxiety, such as nervousness and excitability. 
  • Valerian. In some studies, people who used valerian reported less anxiety and stress.
  • CBD, has been shown in several studies to help reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety and PTSD.
  • Exercise, helps reduce anxiety levels. The form does not seem to matter, (i.e., run, walk, weight train, Yoga, etc.), doing it consistently does.

Last month I wrote about litter and how we could live in a world without litter if we all did a few simple things.  If anxiety is the new normal, my ask this month is simpler, choose kindness.  One small, simple act of kindness like a smile, hello, or a wave to someone you don’t know can make their day by making them feel seen.

Most importantly if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, don’t suffer in silence. Tell the people you know and love how you’re feeling. This can be a courageous step; may require some vulnerability and can help you feel heard.

If you ever find yourself in a place of hopelessness and consider harming yourself, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours per day: 1-800-273-8255

Be well!

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Sources:

1 Terlizzi, E. P., & Schiller, J. S. (2021). Estimates of mental health symptomatology, by month of interview: United States, 2019. National Center for Health Statistics. Available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/mental-health-monthly-508.pdf.

2 National Center for Health Statistics Household Pulse Survey data on anxiety and depression collected between April 23, 2020, and Oct. 11, 2021. Available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm.