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Depression and anxiety: Should they be treated as a real threat to health?


Many people have experienced occasional anxious thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, but anxiety and depression disorders involve more than just a temporary feeling. Anxiety and depression disorders are the two most common psychiatric illnesses. They are also the leading causes of disability in the United States among people ages 15-44 (Chand, 2022).


Anxiety disorders vary, but they are all linked to fear and excessive worry. The most prevalent anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD affects 6.8 million adults, yet only 43% receive treatment (ADAA). 25% of adolescents ages 13-18 are diagnosed with GAD (ADAA). Symptoms of GAD include feeling restless, getting easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep problems, and controlling feelings of worry (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Individuals with this disorder feel these symptoms for most days for at least six months (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Another form of anxiety is panic disorder. This disorder consists of unexpected panic attacks, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and feelings of being out of control (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to developing an anxiety disorder. Some of the most common risk factors include temperamental traits in childhood, exposure to stressful events in childhood or adulthood, a biological history of familial anxiety, and various health conditions, such as thyroid problems and substance abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). In addition to this, there are significant mediators of anxiety within the central nervous system (Chand, 2022). The autonomic nervous system mediates most of the symptoms people report (Chand, 2022). Anxiety is a true threat to health as it can negatively impact an individual’s day to day life. There are a variety of treatment options for those with anxiety disorders such as psychotherapy, medication, or a mix of both (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).


Furthermore, depression affects more than 17 million people ages 18 and up in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Similar to anxiety disorders, depression can manifest itself in a variety of disorders. The overarching symptoms of these disorders include feelings of hopelessness and sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, loss of appetite, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in activities, headaches, digestive problems, and thoughts of death or suicide (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Individuals who experience five of these symptoms nearly every day, for at least two weeks are diagnosed with some form of depression disorder (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). These disorders are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The onset of symptoms can begin at any age and can co-occur with many other illnesses. Similar to anxiety, depressive disorders are treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a mix of the two (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).


The scope of anxiety and depression in the United States is vast. Aside from the millions already diagnosed, there are even more who live with these disorders without knowing. The stress on the body caused by these two disorders places individuals at greater risk for co-morbidities and experiencing a harder time fighting of infections (ADAA). It is imperative to treat anxiety and depression disorders as true medical conditions as they affect millions and have significant pathophysiology behind them.


References:

Chand SP, Marwaha R. Anxiety. [Updated 2022 Feb 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/.


Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.

 

Contributors:

Author: Sarah Ellis

Editor: Lauryn Agron

Health scientist: Sarah Ellis


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