Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems today. In fact, 4 out of every 100 people around the world have one, and research my colleagues and I were involved in at the University of Cambridge has shown that women and young people under the age of 39 are most affected.
Anxiety disorders reportedly cost the health care system and employers over $42 billion each year in the United States alone, and if left untreated or unattended, can lead to depression, substance use, and suicide.
There is a difference between normal anxiety, which all of us experience, and an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety is a feeling which serves to motivate you, mobilize you for action, and protect you. In the modern world, anxiety makes you feel energized as you are trying to meet an imminent deadline or a rush if you find out that someone close to you has been in an accident. But if these feelings start arising in situations that don’t pose a real threat, that’s when you might have an anxiety disorder.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, and some of the most common are panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. If you have a panic disorder, you feel intense spikes of anxiety arising out of the blue—your heart starts beating fast, and you feel dizzy and out of breath. You might even think that you’re about to have a heart attack or die.
If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you tend to worry about everything happening in your life and you find it very difficult to shift attention from your worries onto something else. The worries can be so intrusive that they can make you want to skip school, work, or important life events.
Anxiety leaves no marks, scars or bruises on your body, but can be more debilitating than serious physical illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes.
There is medication, but relapse is common and some people don’t experience improvement in symptoms. There is also cognitive behavioral therapy, but waiting times to get an appointment can be long and not all therapists are well-suited for everyone. But whatever options you choose, you can also help yourself using some simple methods based on science.
Stop Censoring Yourself
People with anxiety often edit what they’re about to say in their minds because they don’t want to offend anyone. They try to find the perfect moment to bring up something and worry about the impact they have on other people. In general, they tend to assume the worst and worry about all the things that might go wrong.
Because people with anxiety are afraid to voice their ideas, they often feel unassertive and that others take advantage of them.
The solution is to stop censoring what you say or do.
It might seem hard at first, but it’s important to start doing it. Start with the people you feel most comfortable with and extend it to others around you, one by one. As soon as you begin to do this, you will feel a sense of ease and see yourself as an independent thinker. And this is a skill that can be developed with practice.