All human beings experience anxiety. Anxiety is not something to feel ashamed about. Anxiety is both a mental and physical state of negative expectation.
Mentally it is characterized by increased arousal and apprehension tortured into distressing worry, and physically by unpleasant activation of multiple body systems—all to facilitate response to an unknown danger, whether real or imagined.
The cognitive feelings of dread in anticipation of some bad outcome, and physical sensations such as jitteriness and a racing heart are designed for discomfort. Anxiety is meant to capture attention and stimulate you to make necessary changes to protect what you care about.
Occasional bouts of anxiety are natural and can even be productive. Anxiety can be considered the price we humans pay for having the ability to imagine the future.
In many cases, anxiety can have some beneficial and adaptive qualities such as pushing one to study for an upcoming difficult exam or propelling ap person to flee from danger. Although experiencing some anxiety with life stressors and worries is normal, sometimes it can be difficult to manage and can feel overwhelming.
Anxiety is now the leading mental health problem around the world, and the incidence of anxiety is still rising, especially among youth. Increasing numbers of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with the disorder.
One often-cited reason for the general rise in anxiety is the burden of uncertainty in almost every domain of modern life, in response to an array of economic and cultural shifts. Uncertainty doesn’t cause anxiety, but it provides breeding grounds for it.
Two important factors contributing to anxiety among the young are parenting practices that overprotect children and the rise of social media. Technology provides new opportunities for connecting people, but it also leads to new experiences of negative social comparison and new pathways for social exclusion.
Anxiety disorders can often be addressed successfully with psychotherapy, alone or in combination with medication, and with lifestyle shifts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), tailored to an individual’s specific anxieties, is one of the most effective options. Patients learn to challenge distorted thought patterns that create so much distress.
Exposure therapy, in which patients are safely and gradually exposed to their fears so they no longer avoid them, is an essential part of most behavioral treatments for anxiety. Medication is often used to help patients control symptoms enough to focus on talk therapy.