Did you know that anxiety is costly to both society and the person who suffers from it, and costs the U.S. economy $42 billion annually? Did you know that anxiety affects 500 million people, and is a leading cause of disability worldwide? Did you know that self-help interventions and natural supplements are effective for anxiety? If these facts are news to you, then please read the following 11 must know things about anxiety:
- Anxiety is expensive
- Anxiety is a leading cause of disability
- Anxiety is common
- Anxiety can disrupt your life
- Anxiety holds you back
- Anxiety is detrimental to health
- CBT is effective
- Self-help is effective
- Rest, exercise and diet are helpful
- Supplements are helpful
- Medications are last resort
Anxiety has a total annual cost of $42 billion in the U.S., which is a substantial portion of the total mental health cost of $148 billion (Greenberg et al., 1999). So the economic burden of anxiety includes the cost of psychiatric treatment, non-psychiatric treatment, lost productivity, mortality, and medication treatment. Anxiety is expensive for both the sufferer and society. It makes economic sense to treat anxiety when it is first evident, early in the course of illness, so that the costs of more expensive psychiatric and medication treatment can be avoided. Also, when anxiety is treated early on, the effects on work productivity can be minimized.
Anxiety is the 6th leading cause of disability worldwide, with females accounting for 65% of the anxiety disability, and the most common age group affected were those in the 15-34 years of age range (Baxter et al., 2014). So not only does anxiety exact an economic burden, it also is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
The global prevalence of anxiety disorders is 7.3%, ranging from 5.3% in African to 10.4% in European/Anglophone cultures (Baxter et al., 2013). So with 7 billion people in the world, approximately 500 million people will have an anxiety disorder. To put this in perspective, there are more people with anxiety disorder than all the people living in Canada, USA, and Mexico.
Anxiety can wreak havoc on different domains of your life…anxiety disrupts relationships, employment, friendships, family cohesion, and financial stability. A marriage or relationship can be stressed by mistrust, jealousy, fears, and worry, which also leads to invalidation, unrealistic expectations, and negativity. In addition, having anxiety about performing at work can have detrimental effects on carrying out your job. The more you worry about the quality of your work, the more it suffers. Anxiety also causes problems in the family. For instance, worry about the well-being of one’s children may cause a parent to not allow their kids out of their sight…the helicopter parent, which has such a negative context. Regarding friends, anxiety may cause you to lose them. Friends will get tired of hearing about the ruminations and worry-about-everything-and-nothing scenarios. Who wants to be associated with nervous people? Still, anxiety about money can make financial problems worse, as the worry about money can paralyze one with rumination and the negative emotional states associated with replaying money problems in one’s mind. Instead of licking one’s wounds and moving on, the dwelling on the money trouble leads to inaction and mounting unpaid debt.
You know the saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Anxiety is detrimental to accomplishing anything, as one is worried about failure. Subsequently, one ends up doing nothing but worrying. Too much time worrying is too little time working towards goals. Anxiety is wasted time and energy. Dreams are not fulfilled when so much time is spent with catastrophic thinking and negativity. Start thinking about how you will succeed rather than how you will fail. Think Nike…just do it.
Anxiety and stress wreaks havoc on one’s physical health, as one is at increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems. Having anxiety places stress on the body, with subsequent release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which increases heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, and other physiological responses. In addition, anxiety has an anorexic effect, where one’s appetite is greatly reduced. And without proper nutrition and diet, the body is not able to regenerate and recover from the detrimental effects of anxiety. Try to counteract the anxiety by eating well and choosing nutritious food.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders (Hofmann et al., 2012). CBT is first-line treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT addresses the cognitive distortions, thought patterns and behavioral patterns that contribute to anxiety.
Although CBT administered by a therapist is effective for eradicating anxiety, not everyone can afford or access the services of a therapist. Research has revealed that self-help interventions for anxiety are effective. Although treatment administered by a therapist is more effective than self-help, it was shown that self-help was more significantly more effective than the waiting list (Lewis et al., 2012). Treatment outcomes for self-help interventions were improved with the addition of guidance and utilization of multimedia or internet-based self-help materials.
Quiet rest and good sleep are helpful for anxiety (Raglin and Morgan, 1987; Zalta et al., 2013). Aerobic exercise (Jayakody et al., 2014) and mind-body exercise (qigong, tai chi, yoga) are also helpful for anxiety (Wang et al., 2014). Additionally, anxiety tends to make one eat less than someone who is relaxed (Steere and Cooper, 1993). So anxiety tends to make one not hungry, and not eat as much. Eating a great meal addresses the anorexic effects of anxiety, and eating helps to replenish calories and nutrients needed for recovery from anxiety.
Natural supplements for anxiety are viable treatment options, generally have fewer side effects and are generally less expensive than psychotropic medications for anxiety. Kava and inositol have good evidence in peer-reviewed medical and nutritional journals to recommend them for anxiety treatment (Hofmann, 2012). Lavender has a few positive RCTs for anxiety, and with more positive studies, it may eventually have the evidence to recommend it for anxiety treatment as well. Still, there are several other natural supplements that have preliminary evidence that they may be effective for anxiety, but more studies are needed.
Psychotropic medication should be reserved for when psychological treatments fail, and for severe cases. Although anxiolytic medications are effective, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, they are associated with significant side effects and are generally costly. However, when anxiety is severe and nothing else works, anxiolytic medications are quite effective.
In summary, anxiety is costly, common and disabling. Additionally, anxiety is detrimental to one’s life and health. Fortunately, there are several treatment options that are available and have research evidence to back them up.