Prior to March 2020 (the beginning of the pandemic), only 8.1% of adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder, but after March 2020, that percentage has consistently been upwards of 26-36%. (1) While the pandemic has, by far, not been the only stressor impacting the prevalence of anxiety symptoms and disorders, it is clear that more people are experiencing that thing we call anxiety.
But, what exactly is anxiety and why does it matter?
Anxiety is actually a normal response to a stressor in the environment. When our brains detect a potential danger, it emits stress hormones that cause changes in our body. Our body gets ready to fight the threat or run from it. The heart races, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate, digestion slows, and breathing becomes shallow. Anxiety, in its best form, protects us from danger. However, in excess, anxiety can cause significant problems in an individual’s life.
One person, a 22-year-old male, had this to say about anxiety: “It feels like an internal, silent panic attack – it feels like someone is squeezing my heart, my stomach gets upset, and I feel on edge and scared. It typically happens over things that aren’t scary, like driving, riding a bus, or missing an assignment. Thoughts rush through my head, which makes me worry, then scared, then more thoughts happen. It’s a vicious cycle. I shut down, fall asleep very quickly, and have a really hard time communicating.”
Others report that anxiety interferes with their ability to sleep, causes irritability and agitation, and makes it difficult to be around others. Every person’s experience with anxiety is unique, and its impact on a person’s life can be mild, debilitating, or anywhere in between. For some, anxiety can cause physical health problems, relationship problems, or problems with functioning at work or school.
If you or someone you love is experiencing problems related to anxiety, it might be time to ask for some help. Many people who seek treatment for their anxiety find that counseling really helps them understand their anxiety and manage their symptoms. The 22-year-old male mentioned earlier reported, “Therapy has really helped me identify my emotions and communicate them easier. When I talk it out with my therapist, the fear subsides, and I can function again.” He also added that his medication is “top notch.”
To learn more about therapy or counseling for yourself or a loved one, visit www.cuevergreen.com.
(1) Based of self-reported frequency of anxiety as compiled by CDC, NCHS, and US Census Bureau and reported by Statista.
Brittney Homann, MSW, MS Ed., LCSW, has over 15 years of experience working with children and their families in Central Illinois. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a BS in Special Education in 2004 and a MS in Education in 2013. Brittney completed the MSW program at UIUC in 2019, and she has extensive training and experience in treating childhood and family-based trauma, anxiety, depression, disruptive behaviors, and other mental health disorders. Brittney is LBGTQ+ affirming and welcomes children and adolescents with co-occurring Autistic or cognitive disorders, as well as parents/caregivers and young adults.