Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting close to 40 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)1. That’s about 18% of the population! However, only about one-third of those who struggle with anxiety receive treatment. One likely reason for this may be the stigma surrounding mental health. Due to this stigma, those who struggle with mental health concerns may lack social support, become isolated, and carry low self-esteem. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to spark the conversation about mental health and give people a deeper understanding of it.

Below you’ll find eight facts on anxiety to help clear up any confusion on this mental health condition:

1. There are 6 main types of anxiety disorders2

Anxiety breaks down into six categories: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms vary according to the specific type of anxiety, but in most cases, people who suffer from them often feel “on edge” or nervous, experience insomnia, and shortness of breath.

2. Anxiety is more prevalent in developed countries and among women

The U.S. is considered one of the most anxious nations on earth3. Furthermore, most types of anxiety disorders are more prevalent among women than men4, except for OCD and social anxiety disorder, which affect both sexes equally5.

3. About half of those diagnosed with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression6

This can make their symptoms worse and recovery even more difficult… which is why seeking out proper treatment is essential.

4. Anxiety makes everything stink — literally

People with anxiety disorders tend to label neutral smells as bad smells. Professor Win Li explains, “In typical odor processing, it is usually just the olfactory system that gets activated. But when a person becomes anxious, the emotional system becomes part of the olfactory processing stream7.”

5. There are natural remedies that can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety

As little as 20 minutes of exercise may temporarily lessen feelings of anxiety. It can even help reduce anxiety when faced with a stressful situation afterwards8. Meditation is another remedy. One study found that four 20-minute meditation classes helped reduce anxiety by up to 39 percent9! Another study found that people with healthier diets, including food with omega-3 fatty acids (like Wild Alaskan Salmon), probiotics (kefir, pickles, sauerkraut), and b-vitamins (avocados, almonds) tended to be less anxious than those who followed more “western” diets of processed, fried, or sugary foods10.

6. Genetics play a role in anxiety

If one or both of your parents suffer from anxiety, there’s a higher chance that you’ll experience it as well11. Most likely, both genetics and environment play a part. People who’ve gone through traumatic experiences, such as abuse or the sudden death of a loved one, may develop anxiety disorders as well.

7. Anxious people are more sensitive to changes in facial expressions

People with anxiety are quicker to perceive changes in facial expressions than those without anxiety — however, they are less accurate when perceiving their meanings. It is easy for those who struggle with anxiety to overthink and jump into conclusions12. This may lead to tension and conflict in relationships.

Want to learn more about Anxiety?

8. Socially anxious? Don’t worry: Research says your friends think you’re pretty great

People with social anxiety usually think they don’t do well in social situations, but new research indicates otherwise13! Friends of those with social anxiety tend to think very highly of their nervous companions. This is possibly due to how sensitive anxious people can sometimes be — meaning, they think before speaking and always consider the feelings of others.

Anxiety is not a rare condition and it is very much treatable. Greater visibility leads to greater social support. Educating others and being open about mental health may help people become less ashamed to discuss their own mental health issues. If you or somebody you know is suffering from anxiety or any other mental health issue, encourage them to seek help. Let’s help end the stigma together!

1 National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
2 Magaldi, Kristin. “6 Main Types Of Anxiety Disorders And What They Mean [INFOGRAPHIC].” Medical Daily. N.p., 10 June 2015. Web. 09 May 2017.
3 Jones, Orion. “How America Became the World’s Most Anxious Country.” Big Think. N.p., 06 July 2012. Web. 09 May 2017.
4 “Burden of Mental Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 09 May 2017.
5 “Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
6 “Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
7 Krusemark, Elizabeth A., and Wen Li. “From Early Sensory Specialization to Later Perceptual Generalization: Dynamic Temporal Progression in Perceiving Individual Threats.” Journal of Neuroscience. Society for Neuroscience, 09 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 May 2017.
8 Smith, J. C. “Effects of emotional exposure on state anxiety after acute exercise.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2013. Web. 09 May 2017.
9 Zeidan, Fadel, Katherine T. Martucci, Robert A. Kraft, John G. McHaffie, and Robert C. Coghill. “Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Oxford University Press, 21 May 2013. Web. 09 May 2017.
10 Naidoo, MD Uma. “Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety.” Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.
11 Morris-Rosendahl, Deborah J. “Are there anxious genes?” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. Les Laboratoires Servier, Sept. 2002. Web. 09 May 2017.
12 Fraley, R. Chris, Paula M. Niedenthal, Michael Marks, Claudia Brumbaugh, and Amanda Vicary. “Adult Attachment and the Perception of Emotional Expressions: Probing the Hyperactivating Strategies Underlying Anxious Attachment.” Journal of Personality. Blackwell Publishing Inc, 17 May 2006. Web. 09 May 2017.
13 American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

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