November | 2010 | All About Anxiety

Archive for November, 2010


Anxiety and Panic disorders are problems. Psychology and medical science have both confirmed this. We have mental health services in place to treat them. So, why is it that they are both considered less serious or less important than any other disorder or disease of the body? Why does mental health still carry such a stigma, against all logic and reason, and what does that mean for those with mental disorders?

Unfortunately, what it means is that an estimated less than 30% of all people with a diagnosable mental disorder ever actually seek treatment. The reasons for this vary. Some just never receive the resources or education needed for them to know that they actually are suffering from a specific condition that it is treatable. More often, though, the problem lies within society and common misconceptions about mental health and those with mental disorders.

Though it would be erroneous to say that we haven’t made progress in public awareness and decreasing stigma about mental health, it would be equally wrong to state that we are now able to rest on our laurels and be satisfied with only what we have accomplished. Too many still use words like “weak” and “lazy” to refer to people who struggle with mental disorders. Aside from an alarming lack of empathy, these judgments come in part from mass media depictions of mental health, in both fiction and news. This probably isn’t even done consciously; it’s likely more a product of the idea that bad news in all things is more entertaining and gripping than good news. Awareness campaigns geared toward content creators for mass media, then, are equally important as they are for the public.

The main concern that this stigma creates is that those who need help will not seek it, for fear of being thought of as weak, useless, or crazy by the rest of society. With all of the media focusing on the negative, it’s easy to see how this can have a large impact on someone thinking about looking for help. People are coming around and realizing the error of their previous thinking, and awareness campaigns are a big part of that. The term “raising awareness,” in and of itself, has its own stigma as something that is ultimately ineffectual and pointless. Raising awareness has a power of its own that has a ripple effect, though, and it should not be ignored. If even one person’s mind is changed by an awareness campaign, that person can be a vector, spreading knowledge to people around them who might also have misconceptions.

Stigma remains a large problem, and even though the problem is ingrained in society, it is a foe that can, in time, be defeated. If you’re suffering from symptoms of a mental health disorder, please fight the stigma and seek treatment, for yourself and your loved ones. You don’t have to go it alone. If you aren’t, think about participating in an awareness campaign near you, and join the fight to spread education about mental health. Check out NAMI and NIMH for more information about events near you.

Holiday Anxiety

The holiday season is here, and as we prepare for huge feasts, presents, and quality time with family rarely seen, we also need to recognize that, unfortunately, this joyous time is also fraught with anxiety and stress for millions across the country. In fact, it’s probable that if you’re reading this, you’ve most likely experienced holiday anxiety in some form during more than a few holiday seasons. Some of us stress about that particularly negative uncle that always seems to put everyone on edge. Maybe we fret about making the holiday dinner unreasonably, impossibly perfect. And especially now, making ends meet while buying gifts and food for everyone is an ever-looming source of anxiety. It might all sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be, and it shouldn’t be. It’s the holidays! Make sure you relax this year, and enjoy time with the ones you love the most.

Try to stay realistic with your expectations of yourself and others. Nobody is perfect, and the hardest person to apply that maxim to is ourselves. We aren’t, and no one really expects us to be. Unfortunately, the holiday season can lead to feelings of inadequacy when things don’t go exactly as planned. During the holiday planning process, take some time to evaluate and re-evaluate your thoughts and feelings about the holidays. Is the world going to end if everyone doesn’t get the perfect present? Is everyone going to shun you if the holiday bird is a little overcooked? Of course not, but it’s hard to come to this realization amidst the furor of preparations. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and if you’ve got that one family member who tends to be everyone’s critic, brace yourself beforehand and resolve to take their words in stride. It can be a daunting task, but it’s not worth letting a little negativity (which, for most, is inevitable) ruin the whole of the holidays. No family is completely perfect, and we all know this, even if we forget to tell ourselves from time to time. Just remember: everyone’s going through some stress during the holidays. We’re all in this together; most of your family is probably too worried about their own concerns to have time to think about judging you for your holiday performance!

Address yourself and your concerns head-on. Looking to crutches like alcohol and food can be attractive, but they tend to be short-term relievers that end up hurting yourself and others in the long run. Evaluate your goals, and figure out what is realistic for you to achieve during the holidays. When you keep your focus on you and your health, rather than on easily accessible stopgap measures to cope with stress, you help yourself to live with and manage the anxiety and stress, rather than trying to live against it. Stress and anxiety are permanent parts of our lives, and that’s OK. Trying to fight it off is only going to make it come back stronger. When we accept and own our fears and anxieties, we empower ourselves to put stress and anxiety in perspective, and in its place. It’s only when we do that that we can finally relax and enjoy the holidays for what they are: good food, good people and time to kick back and relax after a long year.