Anxiety and Depression in Western Society

Many individuals today experience some form of anxiety. In fact, it’s practically the norm. Who isn’t stressed, overworked, worried, or tense? There’s work, children, family, friends, finances, meals, and more to tend to each day. That’s what the workweek is all about! And then, on the weekend, hopefully, it’s time to relax.

Yet, for some, the mind keeps going. It keeps thinking, worrying, analyzing, and planning. It’s been going and going all week long, how is it supposed to come to an abrupt stop suddenly on Saturday morning?

Eventually, this mental overworking, over-thinking, over analyzing can lead to mental illness. It can either lead to depression; a word that has Latin roots which means “pressed down”. It is as though the energy of the mind and heart has been pushed inward instead of expressed, leaving an individual feeling “down”, despondent, or low. Or it can lead to anxiety, which the over-thinking mind is not only a symptom of but it also contributes to anxious feelings. Furthermore, depression and anxiety are closely related. Underneath an anxious thinking mind is the unconscious tension of keeping those repressed emotions inward in fear of actually experiencing them and having to express them. These are often intense feelings of sadness, anger, shame, or a combination of these.

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological illness. According to Moretza and Karen Khaleghi, authors of the book Anatomy of Addiction, 19.1 million adults suffer from anxiety, which translates to about 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every seven adults. Also, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders.

There are various forms of mental illnesses that are anxiety-related. However, a common one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters. What’s interesting about this disorder is that those who suffer from it will have difficulty putting their finger on the source of anxiety, fear, or worry. Yet, their experience of anxiety is persistent and chronic.

At times, those who appear to have a wonderful life – a thriving career, children and a spouse at home, volunteering on the weekend, an active role in the community –can easily become preoccupied with mundane concerns which fester and grow into persistent fear and chronic anxiety.

Often, underneath anxiety is depression, underlying emotions that have been directed inward. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is another common mental illness in the United States. In fact, about 70 percent of all antidepressants sold in the world are sold in the United States. About 9 percent of American adults suffer from depression, and globally, five percent of the population across the planet suffers from depression, according to the World Health Organization.

Depression includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.

Whether anxiety or depression, a thorough psychological treatment plan should include an examination of underlying feelings. Anyone who has been diagnosed with GAD or MDD would benefit from participating in either individual or group therapy or both. In fact, medication alone is now considered to be an incomplete form of treatment since it only addresses the symptoms of the mental illness. However, both therapy and medication combined can address the symptoms as well as the underlying issues that contributed to the anxiety or depression in the first place.

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