Is Anxiety Becoming More Prevalent?

thoughtful man resting on sofa

Anxiety can be a challenging condition to manage, especially if life events are creating chaos, uncertainty, and suffering in your daily environment. One issue that has affected a large percentage of the global population for the past two years is the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions, if not billions, of people worldwide face health and financial challenges as a result of the virus and subsequent government policies.

It is not surprising, then, that more people are experiencing higher levels of stress. Persistent stress can trigger anxiety symptoms that appear to be more prevalent today than before the pandemic began. Fortunately, there are anxiety coping techniques you can use in numerous settings whenever you feel the weight of anxiety develop in your chest. Mental health programs are another option for those who need more assistance.

What’s the Prevalence of Anxiety?

Before the pandemic began, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that 19.1% of adults in the U.S. had an anxiety disorder in the past year. These data were based on a nationally representative survey conducted in the early 2000s. The researchers also predicted that about 31.1% of adults will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

Anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions, like depression, can cause significant disruption to daily life and lead to other health complications like drug or alcohol addiction. This condition is common in American society, but circumstances related to the pandemic appear to be increasing its prevalence.

Anxiety During the Pandemic

An online survey to assess the public’s mental health was conducted by the CDC between August 19, 2020 to February 1, 2021. The researchers found that the percentage of adults reporting anxiety and depressive symptoms during the past seven days increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. These increases impacted both men and women, but the 18-29 age group was most affected. For anxiety symptoms, statistics were provided from August 19-31, 2020, and ending December 9-21, 2020. A significant increase from 31.4% to 36.9% occurred.

Researchers also discovered an increase in the percentage of adults reporting that they needed mental health services but did not receive them during the past four weeks (9.2% to 11.7%).  Mental health treatment increased from 22.4% to 24.8%; those in the following age groups experienced the highest increase in treatment: 18-29, 30-39, and 60-69 years old. These statistics cannot be directly compared to those estimated by the NIMH. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that cases of both anxiety and depressive symptoms appear to be more prevalent.

Similarly, a study looking at multiple countries published in The Lancet estimated an increase in anxiety disorders between 23.2-28.0%. They found that increases in both anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder were associated with daily infection rates and reduced human mobility.

Deep Breathing to Cope With Anxiety

If you’re experienced increased anxiety symptoms, try deep breathing. This commonly used relaxation technique can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and muscle tension. Deep breathing may also improve attention span and reduce cortisol levels associated with stress levels. Box breathing may be particularly helpful and involves four steps:

  1. Breathe in through the nose for four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  3. Breath out for four seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for four seconds
  5. Repeat as needed.

Ground Yourself With the 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise

Another technique is called the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. This exercise uses your five senses to calm anxiety. The next time you are on the verge of a panic attack, ask yourself the following questions in this order:

  • What are five things I can see in my environment?
  • What are four things within my reach?
  • What are three things that I can distinctively hear? (Listen closely!)
  • What are two things that I can smell?
  • What is one thing that I can taste?

This practice is best performed after your breathing has slowed down, perhaps after the box breathing technique. To manage an ongoing anxiety disorder, regularly practice these and other exercises to help you maintain resilience to stressors. Other activities and therapies that you may find helpful include:

What if I Need Something More? 

Anxiety affects different people differently. Some can manage their condition by implementing lifestyle changes, while others need medication, therapy, or a combination of both. If you are still struggling despite making solid attempts to manage your condition, you may need clinical assistance. Getting help at a treatment center that specializes in anxiety disorders may be exactly what you need to improve your mental health.

Anxiety is a common mental health condition in the U.S. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, American society and citizens of other countries worldwide are facing novel and unexpected challenges that make their future uncertain. Dealing with anxiety symptoms is possible through intentional relaxation techniques. However, if you need more support to manage your anxiety disorder, Casa Recovery might be right for you. We are a mental health treatment facility that has been treating clients for over ten years. Our programs are affordable and client-focused, and our clinicians are highly trained and supportive. We take a multidisciplinary clinical and holistic approach and individual treatment so that each client gets exactly what they need. We also treat other mental conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorder. At Casa Recovery, we understand that, like many others, your life has probably become hectic and unpredictable. Don’t wait to get the help you deserve. Call us today at (888) 928-2272.

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