Please see below selected recent anxiety-related change.
- What's New? - Anxiety
- What's Changing? - Fear
- What's Changing? - Health
- What's Changing? - Depression
- What's Changing? - Self-Esteem
- What's Changing? - Therapy
- The discovery of an “anxiety gene” - and a natural way to turn it off - in the brains of mice could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders, the most common type of mental illness in the world. If further research validates the finding in human brains, the discovery of this gene could serve as a blueprint for treatments to help people with anxiety disorders.
- "Meta-anxiety - anxiety about anxiety - is the thing that’s destroying us,” according to Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, a clinical psychologist and author of Future Tense: Why Anxiety is Good For You (Even Though it Feels Bad), tells me. “That’s why we’re having this mental health crisis now. We’re talking about it incorrectly.” Dennis-Tiwary claimed that rather than trying to avoid anxiety, we should be facing it to build skills and emotional resilience that help us manage it. Further, by framing it negatively, we miss out on the the more positive features anxiety can bring: vigilance, focus, motivation and a burst of energy that can help us perform at our best.
- Anxiety is our brain’s way of alerting us to a looming threat. Think: snake slithering up your arm. Social anxiety is designed to do the same thing: alert us to social threats. Social threats are anything that involves being rejected, such as being made fun of or ousted from a group. Social anxiety tricks us into believing that certain situations cause anxiety, but in reality, our thoughts about the situations drive the anxiety.
- In her book, The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower, Aarons-Mele invites us to "make friends" with our anxiety and embrace the strengths that being anxious can bring. “When you understand your anxiety and learn to leverage it, you develop a leadership superpower,” she writes. “It may not feel like it now, but anxiety can enhance your leadership, ambition, creativity, empathy, communication, and vision. When you’re attuned to your emotions and what they’re trying to tell you, you become a conscious and thoughtful leader.”
- For Samir Chopra, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, anxiety and philosophy are intimately related because enquiry - the asking of questions, the seeking to dispel uncertainty - is how humans respond to this philosophical anxiety. Indeed, Aristotle suggested in his Metaphysics that ‘All men by nature desire to know,’ but the questioning, philosophical being is, in a crucial dimension, the anxious being. Anxiety is not therefore a pathology, but an essential human disposition that leads us to enquire into the great, unsolvable mysteries that confront us.
- “There are people who have anxiety, and it is not properly diagnosed, then they have panic attacks, but think they’re having a heart attack,” according to Alexander Niculescu, a professor of psychiatry at Indiana University. Niculescu led the development of a blood test for anxiety that could help doctors identify patients with anxiety disorders and more quickly find effective treatment for them. The research was published in Molecular Psychiatry.
- Rumination is defined as a tendency to repetitively fixate on the causes, meaning and consequences of one’s distress. Rumination is characterised by a style of thought (repetitive and obsessive) rather than the specific content of thoughts; however, it most often involves a preoccupation with negative content. Moreover, some evidence suggests that rumination may reflect difficulties with disengaging from negative information, as opposed to a tendency to easily engage with it, noted Psyche, adding that researchers have divided rumination into two subtypes: brooding and reflection.
- Microstresses are small moments of stress that seem manageable on their own, but are not as harmless as they seem. As they’re so small and brief, they don’t trigger the normal stress response in our brains to help us cope; instead, microstress embeds itself in our minds and accrues over time. The long-term impact of this build-up is debilitating: it can sap energy, damage physical and emotional health and contributes to a decline in overall wellbeing.
- For The School of Life, it’s a curious phenomenon that humans today are more prone to anxiety than at any other point in history. The threats we face are no greater than the ever-present spectres of war, pestilence and famine that bedevilled our species in days gone by. What are we all so worried about? This analysis neglects a crucial fact: that, more so than any previous era, the modern world is tailor-made to breed anxiety. Our society and culture are designed to induce a near-constant state of vigilance and unease. Anxiety is not a ‘bug’ of modern life: it’s a feature. We are doomed to remain prisoners of anxiety unless we learn to recognise the social and cultural forces which inspire it - and figure out a way of escaping their influence.
- Further reading:
- Anxiety does not cause bad results in exams - The Economist
- Anxiety-driven procrastination - Kumu
- Drug to treat alcoholism could also safely reduce anxiety - Big Think
- Emotional Maturity in a Crisis - The School Of Life
- How to overcome agoraphobia - Psyche Guides
- How to stop feeling anxious about anxiety - Tim Box TEDxFolkestone on YouTube
- On Needing to Find Something to Worry About — Why We Always Worry for No Reason - The School Of Life
- Should I declare my anxiety to potential employers? - Substack
- Shoulda, woulda, coulda: why FOMO won’t let go of us - The Economist
- The True Cause of Dread and Anxiety - The School Of Life
- The truth about social media and anxiety - Curio
- Therapist Julia Samuel on how to manage anxiety and grief during coronavirus - Curio
- Three Ways to Harness the Power of Anxiety - Psychology Today
- This crib costs $1,700. Can it stop a baby dying? - The Economist
- Why overthinkers struggle with remote work - BBC Worklife
- As avoidance and safety behaviours maintain anxiety over the long term, they are often key targets in therapy. The part of therapy that deals with them is called exposure therapy because it involves helping people to gradually expose themselves to their feared situation. Facing the situation helps people to learn not to fear the physical sensations of anxiety and to challenge their exaggerated predictions. With regard to safety behaviours, therapists and their clients work together to uncover all the unhelpful things clients do to try to feel less anxious in a feared situation and then the client will gradually drop these habits.
- People who worry a lot (whether or not they have an anxiety disorder) tend to believe that worrying is useful - despite the distress, exhaustion, and frustration it can cause. They hold what psychologists call ‘positive worry beliefs’. These include believing that worry helps you effectively prepare for and prevent future challenges, increases motivation for upcoming tasks, and helps you solve problems. Those who have higher levels of worry tend to hold these beliefs more strongly, but many people think that worry is useful on some level, noted Psyche.
- Financial anxiety - that is, worry, rumination, or guilt regarding money - is extremely common. If anxiety is severe enough to harm work, relationships, or financial responsibilities, it may be appropriate to talk with a doctor or a therapist, but even mild levels of financial worry can negatively impact your mental and physical well-being; anxiety can affect concentration, decision making, sleep, hormones, and immune system.
- The turbulent news cycle of the past few years has seen a rise in "doomscrolling" – and the habit is affecting people's health, research suggested. The pandemic provided a combination of negative headlines and more time to read them, and for some, the habit has become a compulsion. Researchers at Texas Tech University said for 17% of participants in their study, news consumption had become "severely problematic", with reading negative headlines leading to a vicious cycle of "obsessing over the news", raising stress and anxiety levels and impacting their day-to-day lives.
- According to ADAA, 18% of people in the U.S. suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. And 1 in 5 adults experiences some sort of mental illness every year - depression, anxiety, bipolar and/or panic disorder
- An estimated 979m people worldwide experience ‘illness anxiety disorder’ - either focused on their own health and/or the health of someone they love. Unless properly treated, illness anxiety disorder can be chronic and disabling. The constant worries about illness, even after getting reassurance, can interfere with school, work, sleep, relationships, and lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. It can also lead to unnecessary medical tests and procedures when doctors accidentally get caught up trying to reassure patients nothing is wrong. Whether health anxieties are currently mild or more serious, the key is to break out of this trap and regain perspective and peace of mind.
- US-based VR and health innovator, BehaVR launched its NurtureVR programme, designed to relieve anxiety, fear, and stress in pregnant women. The platform uses virtual reality to provide an immersive, calming environment where users can tap into meditation tools, breastfeeding simulations, and support. The programme takes the prospective mothers on a 22-week journey, from the third trimester to eight weeks post-partum.
- Teenagers can learn how to deal with stress in 30 minutes, scientists claimed. A half-hour online training was found to have lasting and powerful effects on their mental health. (Mental health problems are on the rise in UK teenagers, with rates of probable mental health disorders among six- to 16-year-olds increasing from one in nine (12%) in 2017 to one in six (17%) in 2021, and long waits for access to services in some regions)
- Concerns are rising about the impact of social media on mental health. One study found that the UK saw a rapid rise in anxiety, depression and self-harm between 2003 and 2018, as well as a modest increase in eating disorders among young people. Another found there are a growing number of 15 and 16 year olds who have reported feeling lonely in most parts of the world. Whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen urged both the UK and the EU to introduce new laws to ensure that social media users aren't pulled down "psychological rabbit holes". FT columnist Tim Harford wrote: “It took time to demonstrate that cigarettes caused lung cancer. If social media causes depression and anxiety, it will take time to demonstrate that, too.”
- Further reading:
- Generalised anxiety manifesting as fear or social discomfort is significant and growing: the World Health Organisation warned in 2022 that the pandemic had triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
- Anxiety disorders form the most common type of mental illness (Penninx, Pine, Holmes & Reif, 2021) yet globally are underdiagnosed and undertreated (Alonso et al., 2018). Anxiety UK responded by developing of a network of like-minded, not-for-profit, anxiety organisations; building a global anxiety alliance, believing that it makes sense for the global anxiety community to come together to meet the rising demand for services and support.
- Workers who aren't offered flexibility in return-to-office plans are far more stressed and anxious than their bosses, according to a Future Forum survey. It found employees who'd been given office-return ultimatums had the worst levels of work-related stress and anxiety since the survey started in 2020, and their declines in work-life balance were twice as steep compared to flexible workers. The survey also noted a "troubling double standard": Even though executives want rank-and-file workers back in the office, bosses only show up about half as often.
- Further reading:
- For The School of Life, far more than we tend to realise, we’re all - in private - deeply anxious. There is so much that worries us across our days and nights: whether our hopes will come true, whether others will like us, whether the people we care about will be OK, whether we can escape humiliation and grief. Often, we bottle up our anxieties or try to avoid looking at them directly. We are ashamed of how worried we are and end up feeling isolated and yet more worried. However, perhaps none of this is necessary and anxiety is deeply normal and, like so much else that troubles our minds, it can be understood and brought under our control.
- Further reading:
- Psyche noted that, for treating anxiety, duloxetine and venlafaxine and escitalopram are all efficacious, and most people take them without problems. Other options, including mirtazapine, sertraline and fluoxetine, cause few problems and are also effective, although these findings are limited by smaller sample sizes. The sedative antipsychotic drug quetiapine can also be helpful for anxiety and depression, but weight gain can be a problem.
- Further reading:
- Triangling, or focusing on a third person, is a common way to manage anxiety in a two-person relationship. Marriages can stabilise when both parents are worried about a child. Two colleagues can bond when they’re mad at the boss. Siblings might feel more at ease when a parent is present as a buffer. Triangles are an inevitable part of relationship systems, but our one-to-one relationships can become watered down when we always need to focus on another person to relate to each other.
- On top of their normal job responsibilities, many people in today’s workforce are grappling with an ongoing global pandemic, political polarisation, the effects of climate change, and the day-to-day stressors of balancing work and home life, leading Big Think to conclude that it’s little wonder that nearly 20% of the adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder.
- A study published in the Lancet estimated that cases of depression rose by 53m globally as a consequence of the pandemic, 28% above pre-pandemic levels; cases of anxiety increased by 76m, a 26% rise.
- A study suggested that those who engage in regular exercise may lower their risk of developing anxiety by almost 60%. Using data on almost 400,000 people spanning more than two decades, the authors from Lund University in Sweden were also able to identify a noticeable difference in exercise performance level and the risk of developing anxiety between males and females. Anxiety disorders - which typically develop early in a person’s life – are estimated to affect approximately 10% of the world’s population and has been found to be twice as common in women compared to men.
- According to The School of Life, we live in an age of freedom. Modernity has made us free in almost every area of life, from the people we choose to love to the careers we choose to pursue. Yet with this freedom comes a burden: anxiety. Any choice we make might be the wrong one, and ultimately, there is no one who can tell us which is right.
- Psyche noted that while anxiety isn’t normally considered a good thing - it’s often an unpleasant feeling associated with inner turmoil, sleepless nights and chewed fingernails - some philosophers have looked on anxiety as potentially valuable. Clinical anxiety is simply disabling, but existential anxiety, adopted in the right spirit, is potentially liberating. Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger both gave a central place to anxiety in their analyses of human existence, influenced by the 19th-century Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard.
- A global study by Qualtrics found 42% of people have experienced a decline in mental health. Specifically, 67% of people are experiencing increases in stress while 57% have increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted. 53% of people are sad, 50% are irritable, 28% are having trouble concentrating, 20% are taking longer to finish tasks, 15% are having trouble thinking and 12% are challenged to juggle their responsibilities.
- A Psyche article argued that in small doses, worry, rumination and stress can be positive forces in our lives, and serve an evolutionary purpose to protect us from harm. It’s only when they become persistent and overwhelming that it’s problematic. The good news is that we can stop this from happening by learning to control worry and rumination, which can then have long-term benefits for your lifestyle and health. Despite recent statistics showing that we are an increasingly stressed population, there are simple and evidence-based steps to help manage worry and intrusive thoughts.
- Many people reported social anxiety about returning to the office, still feeling unsettled. After over a year of remote work, and seeing co-workers only on screen, the idea of seeing everyone again in person can feel overwhelming. And since the Covid landscape was still in flux in mid-2021, it was hard to feel sure about how long the “return to normal” will last. Many people have become used to only seeing colleagues on screens and are unsure what future office-lives hold in store. Transitions naturally spike our anxiety, whenever we’ve avoided something, we may feel anxious about returning to it and social relationships and boundaries have changed.
- People who worry a lot (whether or not they have an anxiety disorder) tend to believe that worrying is useful – despite the distress, exhaustion, and frustration it can cause. They hold what psychologists call ‘positive worry beliefs’. These include believing that worry helps you effectively prepare for and prevent future challenges, increases motivation for upcoming tasks, and helps you solve problems. Those who have higher levels of worry tend to hold these beliefs more strongly, but many people think that worry is useful on some level.
- People with social anxiety had to think about how they'd adapt to life after lockdown. Those who suffer from social anxiety disorder have a fear of social situations and includes worrying about meeting strangers, how to act with groups of friends and generally feeling self-conscious. It can make everyday life extremely difficult and can manifest physically by causing sweating, palpitations or panic attacks.
- A study from 2019 showing that at least 25% of regular meditators have experienced adverse events, from panic attacks and depression to an unsettling sense of “dissociation”. Given these reports, one researcher even founded a non-profit organisation, Cheetah House, that offers support to ‘meditators in distress’. Another recent paper reviewed the potential ways that meditation could backfire. Sensitivity to every slight change could become overwhelming. The result could be full-on panic attacks, as, indeed, around 14% meditators reported in a Portuguese study.
- The pandemic and subsequent work-from-home boom have increased people's reliance on digital communication - and it’s elevating anxiety and paranoia at work. In the absence of impromptu office interactions - which help to “reassure us we’re in good standing” - small virtual moments can be being picked apart as uncertainty about status proliferates. Employees are increasingly stressing out about how they appear onr Zoom, or wondering whether unanswered messages mean they’re going to get fired, exacerbating stress among those working from home.
- Ipsos’ What Worries the World survey tracks public opinion on the most important social and political issues across 27 countries today, drawing on 10 years of data to place the latest scores in context. October 2020’s results showed that people worldwide continue to say coronavirus is one of the main problems facing their country today. A total of 44% select this issue, placing it in first spot once again. Meanwhile, unemployment is second with 38%.
- In stressful times, anxious thoughts can prove harder to ward off. Yet, there are ways to worry more mindfully, claimed The New York Times. Experts suggest we accept our worries by observing them neutrally before deciding whether they’re worth acting on or not. They also propose listing our worries and scheduling in time to dedicate to them - literally popping 30 minutes into the calendar - to reduce the hours spent worrying and then planning times outside of worry where we can be fully present.
- Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide is a World Health Organisation stress management guide for coping with adversity. The guide aims to equip people with practical skills to help cope with stress. A few minutes each day are enough to practice the self-help techniques. The guide can be used alone or with the accompanying audio exercises. Informed by evidence and extensive field testing, the guide claims to be for anyone who experiences stress, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
- The School of Life noted that, when faced with adversity, many of us opt for a peculiar coping strategy: we try to be as productive as possible. It’s not a disaster: it’s an opportunity to set ourselves new goals. At one level, this impulse is understandable. Since the world has become unpredictable and frightening, we’re trying to reassert what little control we have over our own workload and schedule. But it may also be deeply unhelpful: compounding our stress by imposing unrealistic expectations on ourselves. The times are trying enough as it is: we should be aiming to put less pressure on ourselves, not more. In the depths of a crisis, a less punishing and more beneficial use of one’s time would be a combination of self-care and self-reflection. We should seek out undemanding pleasures and pastimes and, if we must be productive, we should apply ourselves to the task of understanding our own minds, so that we’re able to get to grips with the root cause of our anxieties and hopes.
- People tend to think that being neurotic - persistent worrying, rumination and overall anxiety - is bad news: bad for our health, bad for our relationships with others, bad for our careers, but research suggests neuroticism has a silver lining, according to the BBC. People who are both neurotic and highly conscientious are more likely to put their worrying to good use. These "healthy neurotics" convert their worries into motivation to take healthy, productive actions, like exercising more, eating better and taking overall better care of themselves.
- Many COVID-19 survivors are likely to be at greater risk of developing mental illness, psychiatrists claimed, after a large study found 20% of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days. Anxiety, depression and insomnia were most common among recovered COVID-19 patients in the study who developed mental health problems. The researchers from Oxford University also found significantly higher risks of dementia.
- A variety of studies show that too much time spent on social media can stress us out, leave us anxious and depressed, and ironically increase feelings of loneliness. These findings have been confirmed for both adults and children. Big Thing pointed to a variety of ways to make avoiding checking your feeds every six seconds a little easier, including the following: delete your apps; set time limits on your usage; consider what you're following; set a day of rest and turn off notifications,
- Remote workers are constantly navigating between different forms of technology throughout the day, whether answering emails, joining video calls or turning to a streaming service to relax after work. Constant technological stimulation and feeling the pressure to be accessible 24/7 is leading to rising levels of "technostress", particularly among those who feel they need to be seen at work, or those doing creative work who find technology disruptive.
- Research conducted on mice suggests repeated heavy drinking causes synaptic dysfunctions that lead to anxiety. For the study, researchers simulated a 10-day alcohol binge on one of two groups of mice. One group was given 1.5 grams per kilogram of ethyl alcohol each day, which translates to about five daily drinks for an adult human. The other was given water. After 10 days, the researchers analysed images of the mice brains, and conducted behavioural tests to measure anxiety. They found that the mice that had binged alcohol exhibited significantly more anxiety-like behaviors, reported Big Think.
- According to Bupa, September can be an unsettling month and often bring new worries. Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, says: "It’s not uncommon for us to suspend our usual routine and habits during the summer months, which can make it harder to adjust back to normality." "Much like how we used to feel as children when September saw us going back to school, this period brings a sense of trepidation and naturally we may feel a bit unsettled," he adds. "While September isn't officially the start of Autumn, it does feel like a change of season, which can also play a part in our mood and mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern."
- From eating to dating, we are presented with endless choices. But is this leading to lives full of anxiety and guilt? Sociologist Renata Salecl used examples from popular culture to show that the freedom to choose might not be making us as happy as we think.
- Research analysed by the Harvard Business Review shows that anxious states of mind can cause individuals to display greater egocentric thinking and behaviours. When a person feels the mounting pressure of uncertainty, the ensuing anxiety biases their view of the world so that they see only themselves and their own distress. Equally detrimental, research shows that anxiety degrades our ability for perspective-taking. In other words, we fail to see things from another’s point of view.
- With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to play out around the world, business leaders are trying to anticipate what will come next. The most significant development EY tracked globally was the emergence of what it called the “Anxious Consumer”. In lockdown, people around the world have been worrying about how the pandemic will change the way they live. Even as consumers are returning to “normal life,” many remain deeply concerned about picking up where they left off. If this trend repeats in a significant way across other markets, organisations around the world will have to adapt to serve a far more worried and cautious consumer.
- Financial stress is an underrecognised cause of mental health challenges. For many marginalised communities, financial instability is a mental health crisis. Data from the American Psychological Association shows that people often cite money as a top contributor to their overall stress and that anxiety about money is most likely to occur among people with lower incomes. Yet talking about money remains taboo, and discussions of mental health and self-care rarely include tangible ways to deal with the unique agony of financial struggles or the structural injustices that financial stressors stem from.
- According to Mind, the mental health charity, many workers experience mild paranoid thoughts from time to time. These might include fears that your work is not up to scratch, that you are being excluded, or colleagues are gossiping about you. Roderick Kramer, professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Business School, describes the trigger for paranoia as unexpected events - such as a merger or redundancies. To fill the void of uncertainty, his research finds, people tend to become “hypervigilant”, scrutinising the behaviour of peers and bosses for meaning - making people think even more about whether they are being noticed, reports the FT.
- The equivalent of 19 million adults in Great Britain say they had high levels of anxiety in the first weeks of lockdown, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested, reproted the BBC. The data covering the period 3 April to 10 May showed: the number of people reporting high levels of anxiety more than doubled compared to pre-lockdown levels; older people were more anxious than younger people, with those aged 75 and older twice as likely at those aged 16-24 to report high anxiety during lockdown and feeling lonely was the factor most strongly linked with high anxiety. Juggling work and homeschooling commitments was a source of stress for parents.
- Big Think noted that. according to a 2016 Stanford University School of Medicine study, there are three areas of our brains that change during a state of hypnosis - and this could actually be used to benefit us. Scientists scanned the brains of 57 people during a guided hypnosis session, similar to one that may be used to help treat anxiety, pain, or trauma. First, there is a decrease in dorsal anterior cingulate activity. Next, there is an increase in the connection between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. Finally, there are reduced connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex.
- Globally, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an estimated 284 million people had an anxiety disorder as of 2017, making it the most prevalent mental disorder worldwide. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” Anxiety is fear of what might happen in the future. Sometimes that fear is rational and sometimes not. And sometimes it’s about something that will happen in three minutes (stepping onto a stage to make a presentation, for example) or in 30 years (having enough money to retire). In the United States, anxiety is the most common mental illness, affecting more than 40 million adults each year. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health has indicated that about 30% of Americans experience clinical anxiety at some point in their lives.
- Indeed, anxiety appears to be a galloping epidemic. Since its introduction as a medical condition in the 1980s, anxiety has risen from 2% of cases to the most commonly diagnosed mental illness.
- Nearly half of the UK's over-16s said they experienced "high anxiety" as the country went into lockdown, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics. Anxiety levels were highest among an estimated 8.6 million people whose income fell, according to the weekly survey on the impact of coronavirus, with an estimated 2.6 million people saying they were struggling to pay bills. Renters and the self-employed were also particularly affected. Measures of well-being were at their lowest levels since records began in 2011, the ONS said. The survey suggested that more than 25 million people - 49.6% of over-16s in Britain - rated their anxiety as "high", more than double the amount who did so at the end of 2019.
- Far more than people tend to realise, many of us are - in private - deeply anxious. There is so much that worries us across our days and nights: whether our hopes will come true, whether others will like us, whether the people we care about will be OK, whether we can escape humiliation and grief. Too often, we bottle up our anxieties or try to avoid looking at them directly. We are ashamed of how worried we are and end up feeling isolated and yet more worried. None of this is necessary. Anxiety is deeply normal and, like so much else that troubles our minds, it can be understood and brought under our control. We all deserve to wake up every day without a sense of foreboding.
- Stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are two very distinct functions and feelings. Stress is caused by a known source and can trigger feelings of anger, sadness, or irritability, while anxiety is defined as a feeling of fear, panic, or dread that could very well not have a known trigger. Where the confusion happens is that stress oftentimes can trigger anxiety - someone whose body experiences consistent surges of stress hormones is at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Recent research suggested possible connections between chronic stress and anxiety and structural degeneration of the hippocampus, which leads to impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex.
- Coping with Anxiety warned that more and more people - about 50 million of them in the U.S. alone in 2015 – suffer from acute anxiety. Of course, people confronted difficulties in the past, but the book argues that modern life promotes anxiety through the rapidity of change in modern societies, a lack of agreement on moral and social norms to live by and an increasing disaffection with postindustrial societies' functioning.
- Research by Triodos Bank suggests increasing numbers are feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis, with up to a third of the public suffering from 'eco anxiety'. For example, just over a third (34%) of the British public report feeling anxious because of the environmental crisis and 29% of feel overwhelmed by the crisis, rising to 40% amongst younger people aged 16-24.
- The School of Life notes that all of us worry to some degree but, for many, the worry is constant and all-consuming. We don’t just worry about the gas bill, or the bin schedule. We worry that our friends secretly hate us; that we’ll be abruptly fired from our jobs; that our partners are planning on leaving us for good. Catastrophe is not a remote possibility but an inevitability - a matter of when, not if. Though our dread manifests itself in endless different ways, it has a root cause. It is not that we have been marked out for disaster (much as it might feel that way). We’re anxious because, in some vague yet profound way, we dislike ourselves. Our fears are not rational appraisals of the threats we face, but embodiments of the punishment we feel, at heart, we deserve.
- Quartz noted that climate anxiety is growing. And it’s not just the increasingly well-understood effects of living through related catastrophes like fire and drought - the American Psychological Association has recognised that being inundated by the bad news of a slow-moving disaster, delivered 24/7 by news and social media, could be wearing us down.
- The School of Life believes that we are often terrified of so many things: disgrace, illness, unemployment, our mortality, the suffering and death of loved ones. When these fears arise, we are often encouraged, out of kindness, to think of the best-case scenarios. This is a well-meaning move, but it also unintentionally leaves our fears to fester and they can fill us with unnamed dread and sometimes loom far larger than they should. Therefore, the opposite move involves looking our anxieties directly in the eye, refusing to be cowed by them and examining them exhaustively so as to drain them of their debilitating power. Doing this can bring us to an important realisation: we could cope, even if the worst did come to the worst.
- There are feelings that exist in an ‘unprocessed’ form within us. A great many worries may, for example, remain disavowed and uninterpreted and manifest themselves as powerful directionless anxiety. Under their sway, we may feel a compulsive need to remain busy, fear spending any time on our own or cling to activities that ensure we don’t meet what scares us head on.
- A key cause of high anxiety can be self-hatred. People who have grown up not to like themselves very much at all have an above average risk of suffering from extremes of anxiety, for if one doesn’t think one is worthy, it must – by a dastardly logic – follow that the world is permanently and imminently at high risk of punishing one in the way one suspects one deserves. It seems to fit that people may be laughing behind one’s back, that one may soon be sacked or disgraced, that one is an appropriate target for bullying and rejection and that persecution and worse may be heading towards us.
- For The School of Life, one of the most difficult features of anxiety is that it tends to be all-consuming. It sits in the middle of our minds and refuses to let anything else in or through. Though the anxiety causes us great pain, it denies any attempts to be questioned, analysed, probed or reconfigured. We are both terrified and unable to think beyond our terror. Our thoughts become low, relentless, repetitive and anxiety dominates over and excludes any other form of mental activity.
- The Guardian noted that, alongside products designed purely as medical aids, such as meditation apps, there is now a thriving offshoot of lifestyle goods marketed through their anxiety-relieving qualities. Product innovation oriented around anxiety (encompassing stress, mood and sleep) already spans nearly 30 different categories, including chocolate, yogurt, air fresheners, fabric conditioners and skincare.
- For Big Think, modern Western approaches to mental well-being largely focus on the symptoms and not the root causes, meaning that the mechanisation of mental health treatment often muddies the water even further, One of the solutions for anxiety, and other assorted mental ailments, set forth by Eastern belief systems such as Taoism is the idea of mindfulness or being within the present moment. It is from within this philosophy which emerges the art of meditation. The concept of presence flows throughout the Eastern idea of being within the now.
- A Pew survey found that anxiety and depression were now the biggest concerns for US teens, with 70% of respondents considering both to be a “major problem.”
- An article in The Philosopher’s Magazine argued that we have no soul, no fixed self, and no inherent purpose. We exist simply because we exist, tiny specks on a small planet in an infinite universe, and not because a god made the Earth for us. This conception, called “naturalism,” leaves many people feeling deeply uneasy—consciously or unconsciously - and casting about for meaning.
- According to Pew, between 1980-2015, desk jobs increased 94% while physical labour only went up 12% While there is value in any form of engaging work, the loss of working with our hands means we no longer engage with our environment, perhaps a key reason why anxiety and stress rates are skyrocketing. Working with our hands affects brain chemistry in a positive way, while automation technologies can strip away a sense of agency and meaning in our lives, warned Big Think.
- For The School of Life, the modern world is geared to causing a high background level of anxiety and widespread low-level depression, and it believes that there are there are six particular features of modernity that have this psychologically disturbing effect: meritocracy, individualism, secularism, romanticism, media and perfectability (but each has a potential cure).
- The School of Life believes that it sounds paradoxical and absurd to think that some of us might need to find something to worry about in order to recover our equilibrium. Worry is, after all, something we should rightly hate to have to suffer and should engage with only when absolutely necessary. Yet, some of us do start to feel distinctly nervous when things around us settle down and pervasive stillness descends. We start to feel anxiety about the future precisely when – and in a sense because – there is nothing especially awful on the horizon.
- Researchers created an artificial society to investigate religious conflict. The model found that two xenophobic groups that are in regular contact create “periods of mutually escalating anxiety”. In practice, such a policy would create moral concerns about separating and confining groups based on identity, as well as whether dividing groups based on religion should be a goal in any society, noted Quartz.
- Over the last decade, digital disruption has heightened anxiety, putting pressure on incumbent governments and reshaping democracy in fundamental, sometimes detrimental, ways. However, for Raconteur, while digital disruption may have subverted democracy in some respects, in others it has revitalised it. Within government, digital tools are being used to engage citizens and improve service delivery.
- The Wall Street Journal found that while holistic approaches to mental as well as physical wellness often include nutrition, the connection between food and mental health is now gaining traction in the medical community, too. Research in the field of nutritional psychiatry supports the scientific claim that what you eat and how you feel may be connected, especially when it comes to managing anxiety and depression.
- The psychological toll of climate change is only beginning to be investigated, claimed Quartz. Papers have been published on farmer suicides in India going up in tandem with crop-scorching heat, and on the mental-health issues accumulating throughout the US as average temperatures climb higher and storms intensify. Last year, the American Psychological Association validated ‘ecoanxiety’ as a clinically legitimate diagnosis - read more.
- For The School of Life, our single most important move is acceptance. There is no need - on top of everything else - to be anxious that we are anxious. Mood is no sign that our lives have gone wrong, merely that we are alive. A calm life isn’t one that’s always perfectly serene. It is one where we are committed to calming down more readily, where we strive for more realistic expectations; where we can understand better why certain problems are occurring, we can be adept at finding a consoling perspective. The progress is limited and imperfect, but genuine.
- What Worries the World - July 2018, a global poll from Ipsos, found that four concerns top the world’s worry list: unemployment, poverty/social inequality, crime/violence and financial/political corruption.
- Canadian author, psychologist, and intellectual Jordan Peterson has a new way of overcoming your self-doubt and anxiety: run right into it. Or, rather, write right into it. Jordan's latest book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
- Raconteur welcomes the fact that, increasingly, business leaders are speaking out about how workplace mental health issues, such as anxiety, affect their lives, even when they appear to be successful and at the top of their game, responsible for decisions that affect thousands of people.
- For Forbes, the confidence people should have with today’s low unemployment and jobless rates is impeded by their anxiety that robotics and AI will shortly make most people unessential.
- According to EY research, general anxiety is the most common form of mental issue in the UK, where one in four people experience a mental health concern each year.
- Social media may be playing a role in our social anxiety, leading to blurred lines between what is real and what is not and a reinforcement of 'wants' rather than 'needs'.
- Further reading:
- Henry David Thoreau tells us not to succumb to status anxiety:"Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."