by Jomel Bajar, PT,DPT,MS
You may have heard different kind of fears. Fear of something bad that is going to happen, or fear of being watch and being judge, the fear of losing control, or the fear of uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen. There are different manifestations and forms of uncontrolled anxieties, but why is this disorder are getting more common and where do all these anxiety disorders come from?
There are bodies of knowledge that tells us that there is a possibility that these anxieties are transferred from family that is inherited. If you have a parent with anxiety, you are more likely to be anxious yourself and research shows that women are up to two times more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men are. Anxiety also seems to have something to do with the balance of chemicals in your brain, probably the most famous is the imbalance level of serotonin which is also responsible for cause of depression. People with depression often do have anxiety but the link is not well understood, and it turns out no surprise there is not just one neurotransmitter or chemical in the brain that seems to be responsible for somebody to have anxiety. Research also shows that the origin of anxiety can also be planted by traumatic experiences, not everyone though who has experienced a traumatic event from their past means that they will develop an anxiety disorder. There are the factors of personality type, brain chemistry, and genetics that we also need to consider. There is also a theory stating that some of us are biologically predisposed to anxiety and that the traumatic event that happened is the catalyst that triggered the anxiety.
Numerous experts are now stating that, social media apparently is the one to blame with the rise of anxiety and depressions. Social media is a fun activity and a good distraction to our daily grind; however, studies shows that it can cause social anxiety. Scrolling on Instagram or Facebook feed and seeing everyone else has a wonderful, amazing life. If you are someone, who is vulnerable to experiencing anxiety you might experience it more in that situation. Majority of social media platforms are made to hold our attention. Teenagers who spend more hours looking at screens are more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety and people who spend more time on social media feel more isolated which can make the symptoms of anxiety worse. Experts still need to answer though – “Are anxious and lonely people are just more drawn to screens? Or social media really driving an increase in anxiety?”
Our brain is an association machine, and it connects everything that happens to us. It can be a very good thing though. Going back to our “Anxiety 101 blog”; if you are attacked by a lion that was hiding in a bush, thereafter, you will now be going to associate that bush with fear. Therefore, you are going to start avoiding that bush as much as you can to increase your chances of survival. In comparison to today’s society, if you spend early years seeing a loved one physically abused by somebody else, or being thrown-out on the street, or being brought up in an abusive home, your brain is being trained to have a lifetime of vigilance. People with anxiety tend to over generalize harmless things and associate it with an irrational scary outcome.
For the past few years, mental health and anxiety disorders is on the rise. Hence, the increase usage and spending on anxiety products especially anti-anxiety medications. There is also the rise of Google searches for anxiety. People wanted to know more about it. More people are open to talk about their innermost feelings, thus, more and more people are now seeking mental health counseling as a sign of strength as compared to older generations. We can observe that even media platforms are joining the bandwagon and has been discussing the prevalence of anxiety in our society.
Throughout history, there are different societal changes that perceived to cause increased anxiety in the population. This happens whenever the gap of rich and poor is increasing in a society. The invention of television thought that it would cut human interactions. Big and sudden changes in the society have always meant new triggers that is something unique to humans causes increase in anxiety in the population. Nowadays, we do not use anxiety anymore to survive like our ancestors. We made our life easier by inventing things to make our lives easier and in turn, we keep inventing new reasons to be anxious. We put ourselves in situations now that we cannot just “fight of flight”; we must live in this modern time of traffic, working 8-10 hours a day, new gadgets and technologies, thus, every generation is struggled with mixed success to figure out what to do about it.
Worldwide only about a tenth of people with diagnosable anxiety receive adequate treatment. Most people who experience anxiety tend to try to just get through it by themselves. Some people turn to alcohol to relax; but alcohol can make anxiety worse in the short and long term. Others turn to weed / marijuana that can have mixed results. Some sort to anti-anxiety drugs. There are drugs that provides a sort of natural sedative in our brain. There are anti-depressants that helps us improve our serotonin levels to help us with the feeling of sadness and anxiety. Then there is exercise, if your body is in a state of stress and anxiety, you are always in this “fight and flight” mode. If your body is looking for a way to close that loop, sometimes it could feel great to go workout to get out some of that tension.
A 2015 review of 234 studies compared the effects of doing nothing, exercise, placebo, pills therapy mindfulness meditation, and medication; they found out that the most effective treatment is a combination of drugs and therapy. One of the most popular types of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) where you talk with the therapist to alter negative thought and behavior patterns. Therapist tries to create scenarios that activate fears until clients get to a point where they learn how to manage these thoughts and slowly dissociates it from their life. Fe-SiO, which combines assisted stretching with sensory stimulation, is another technique to counteracts the stresses of modern-day life. Fe-SiO trains someone to move forward with their lives and learn to let-go of things they cannot control. It prepares them for whatever life might have installed for them and learning to embrace the present moment to make them feel more relax and enjoy life as it should be.
Managing anxiety is much more about learning how to experience anxiety. Our ancestors learned to survive with the right amount of anxiety, the plan is not to get rid of it – we need a little healthy dose of it to help us enjoy life to the fullest.