Here’s the shocking thing about anxiety that we just learned from Family Nurse Practitioner Bonnie Thomas – “Anxiety most commonly begins in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood with the median age of onset of anxiety being 11 years old, which means half of people have their first episode by this age.” Thomas, one of our longtime 9Health Fair site coordinators, adds that it’s more common in females.
Panic Attacks, Stress, and Anxiety
Oftentimes, panic attacks can be linked to anxiety. Have you ever thought you might be having one? “A panic attack is a sudden and rapid onset of intense apprehension, fear, or terror which is disproportional or inappropriate for the circumstances in which it is occurring,” explains Thomas.
Thomas says the symptoms can make you feel like you’re having a heart attack. Your heart might be racing, you may notice shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness.
You don’t have to have a panic attack to experience anxiety though. What you consider stress, may be anxiety. “Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably,” says Thomas. “We all experience stress and anxiety as a normal part of life. Stress and anxiety become a problem if they are interfering with what we call activities of daily living, such as work, relationships, school, physical activity, healthy eating, etc.”
But if you’re not sure, Thomas says, “The best advice is to see your primary care provider who can discuss your symptoms, examine you and administer a very basic screening test called the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD7) which will help with the diagnosis.”
Then, There’s Depression
You might be wondering about depression. Does it fit in with any of this? What’s the difference between depression and anxiety? According to Thomas, “Depression can be described as being unusually sad, loss of enjoyment and interest in things that used to be enjoyable.”
Of course, that’s not all. She says other symptoms can include lack of energy, exhaustion, irritability/agitation, difficulty concentrating and either sleeping too much or not enough.
“Depression affects about 7% of the population in any one year and is more common in females. Anxiety, on the other hand, comes with varying feelings of uneasiness to panic attacks with racing thoughts and worry disproportional to the events being considered. Approximately, 18% of the population in any given year has one of several types of anxiety disorders,” says Thomas. Those several types of anxiety disorders include suffering from “specific phobias, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.”
Could you have both at the same time? “Yes,” says Thomas.
Why More Young Adults are Experiencing Anxiety
We asked Thomas if she thought more adults experience anxiety today than the generations before. She says yes.
So, why is that? Her theory – “The cause is multi-factorial and is much debated among health professionals. But definitely, the increased scrutiny of people’s lives with the excessive use of social media has played a big role. Being always “on” and expected to respond to text, et cetera has led to people not being able to “turn off” and relax.”
How Professionals Can Help
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, a professional can help you. “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication can be very helpful in treating both anxiety and depression, along with living a healthy lifestyle which includes getting enough exercise (outside is preferable), getting enough sleep, and eating well,” says Thomas. “CBT has the strongest evidence for effectiveness and can include education about self-managing anxiety, problem-solving, helping with relaxation, social skills strategies, etc.”
The idea behind CBT is to focus on how people think and act. You can learn more about it from the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists website.
She also suggests trying guided meditation and yoga.
Many of our 9Health Fair sites offer a mental health screening. It can help you determine if you are suffering from either anxiety or depression. Plus, there are many medical professionals on site that can answer any questions you may have about either condition. We encourage you to attend if you want to learn more. If you are experiencing symptoms and feel you need immediate attention we recommend you contact your primary care professional right away.