What do Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, and Kourtney Kardashian have in common? These celebrities suffer from anxiety, a normal reaction to stress that can cripple a person both emotionally and physically when it gets out of hand.
In a 2013 interview, Winfrey, dubbed as “the Queen of All Media”, revealed that she almost had a nervous breakdown due to anxiety. On the other hand, comedian and TV host Colbert first experienced panic attacks in his late 20s. He eventually learned to control his anxiety by performing. Similarly, Kardashian admitted that she felt nauseous whenever she was anxious.
Millions suffer from anxiety disorders
Anxiety is normal and can happen before a test, job interview, or when you’re making an important decision. Headlines that scream about global warming, unemployment, and crime can also make one anxious.
But high anxiety or excessive worrying is a common mental health problem that affects 275 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, about 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, phobias, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our World in Data, a website that shows global living conditions, added that the number of patients could be higher since the problem is usually underreported.
Anyone can experience anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone regardless of race, age, or gender, although more females (4.7%) than males (3%) have the problem. The exact cause of these disorders is unknown, but the disease tends to run in families and may be triggered by changes in the brain, environmental stress, genes, or a combination of these things.
People with anxiety disorders react quickly and severely to stressful situations. Being anxious triggers the fight-or-flight response that helps people deal with physical and psychological stress or danger. This prepares the body to either face the threat or flee from it, enabling people to perform better at work or school, or survive in the case of a life-threatening situation.
The fight-or-flight response protected our ancestors from predators and helped our species survive. In today’s world, however, we seldom encounter wild animals and stressors come in the form of a demanding boss, a hectic job, or an argument with a loved one. As the tension builds up, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like cortisol that boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats).
While the byproducts of these hormones can be used by the body as fuel to deal with anxiety, they also cause physical reactions. These include difficulty sleeping, panic, fear, uneasiness, sweating, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, heart palpitations, and nausea. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, rapid breathing, dry mouth, trembling, and dizziness.
Chronic anxiety triggers harmful habits
In severe cases, chronic anxiety may ruin your appetite, relationships, sleep, and job. To make matters worse, anxiety-ridden individuals often turn to harmful lifestyle habits like overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.
Since the excessive fuel in the blood isn’t used to fight or flee, the body is bombarded by stress hormones that may cause a host of problems like a suppressed immune system, digestive disorders, memory loss, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks. Untreated, excessive anxiety can also give rise to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Is anxiety dragging you to the depths of despair? Seek help immediately by consulting a qualified clinician. The mental health professionals of Meridian Psychiatric Partners, LLC have been providing world-class mental health services to residents throughout the Chicago area and suburbs. We specialize in psychotherapy and medication management. With our help, you can say goodbye to anxiety disorders and become a fully functioning member of society again. Contact us today for details.