Most Americans are conditioned to be very high in achievement motivation, and over time they learn that high achievement equals happiness and success through rewards in school, work, and life in general. This push for achievement can be difficult and intimidating, leading to anxiety. Dr. Nancy Snyderman suggests that the reason anxiety statistics have skyrocketed is because “we’ve underdiagnosed it in the past and we’re probably over diagnosing it now.” This increase in diagnoses is because we live fast paced lives now more than ever and strive to get ahead as quickly as possible without slowing down and taking breaks. Sarah Fader, a social media consultant, has said that “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious, there’s something wrong with you.” This quote suggests that in today’s world it is almost impossible not be anxious in at least one point in your day. Anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition to many health physicians. Over the past three decades, anxiety has jumped over 1200% and its search count on google has doubled in only the past five years. If anxiety wasn’t an issue, it would seem to be obvious that these numbers would be a whole lot lower. Dr. Gail Saltz, a well-renowned psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, explains that the driving force of these high numbers is because of the gap between our high expectations for ourselves and our ability to actually fulfill them.
Growing up is hard, high school is hard, responsibilities are hard, work is hard, ….life is just hard. Being in a competitive private high school, I see people dealing with unreasonable amounts of stress every day. There are heaps of pressure to do well in school so that we can go to a great college and then go on to live a very “full and successful” life. It isn’t hard to see this pressure affecting how people go about their days and how it begins to affect their physical and mental health. This intense pressure metamorphosizes into stress for the majority of young people. It has been shown that excessive amounts of stress on top of debilitating mental health can lead to a generalized anxiety disorder. GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, is “characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things [and] people with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues,” according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Although stress does not always lead to anxiety, many people have said that their intense stress led to them having their first anxiety episode before the age of 18.
It is important to point out that there is a difference between anxiety and stress; stress triggers emotions such as sadness, anger, worry, and anxiousness, but anxiety on the other hand is more of a feeling of dread, fear, and apprehension. Sometimes anxiety doesn’t have a specific trigger, but stress is caused by an external force. The ADAA describes their relationship as stress being a response to a threat in a situation while anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Stress and anxiety aren’t necessarily all bad, in fact there is a healthy amount of them that everyone should feel because they are natural motivators and helps us avoid trouble. The problem with anxiety, however, arises when anxiety reaches an unhealthy state and it becomes very difficult to cope with.
I wanted to write about this topic because anxiety has been affecting my life and my friends’ lives as well. I want to raise awareness and help others be informed about the problems of anxiety!