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Anxiety – Fact or Fiction?

Anxiety – Fact or Fiction?

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In this new world, when every time we turn around there is another crisis, is anxiety really something to be concerned about? Especially these days, everyone may feel a little anxious at times. Anxiety is the mind and body’s normal reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It is the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event.

A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal—it can be completely debilitating. The most common form of anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), consists of persistent worry and the stress and tension that accompany it. Some of the symptoms of GAD are:

  • Restlessness or being keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless or dissatisfying sleep)
  • Quick, shallow breaths
  • Increased adrenaline
  • Impending doom
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Light headedness
  • Chest pains

Anxiety and Fear Are Not the Same
The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The intensity, duration, or frequency of the anxiety and worry is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event.

Anxiety differs from fear in several ways. Fear is a response to present danger. It is usually highly focused, attached to a very specific object or circumstance, and is meant to mobilize fast action. Fear is contagious, marked by widened pupils, pale skin, and signals others to be afraid.

Anxiety does not require an external stimulus—it is a response to a real or imagined future threat, thus the need for constant vigilance in anticipation of some calamity. It is the name we give to the internal sensations of warning generated by the body’s reaction to an alert to protect us from danger. Without waiting for us to make a conscious assessment of the danger, chemical (cortisol, adrenaline) warnings are sent to the various organs.

Other Forms of Anxiety
As addressed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), other types of anxiety are:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Specific Phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to a Medical Condition
  • Other Specified Anxiety Disorder
  • Unspecified Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is a response to uncertainty and danger and can be triggered by almost anything, or by nothing in particular—just a generalized, vague sense of dread or misfortune. People can feel stress because their neural circuity has become so sensitized it perceives threat where it does not exist.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.—over 40 million adults aged 18 and older, or 18% of the population. The gold standard of treatment for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Anxiety is highly subjective. People differ in susceptibility to anxiety due to biological makeup, parental inheritance, life history, personality factors, or coping skills that they have acquired or cultivated. Caffeine or medications can also cause anxiety.

Anxiety across Genders and Races
Anxiety disorders also affect other races and sexes differently. Anxiety disorders in women are more common than in men. In the past year, 23% of women have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, compared to 14.3% of men.

The following table showcases how specific types of anxiety disorders affect individuals by race.

White Americans Hispanic Americans African Americans Asian Americans
Generalized Anxiety Disorder 8.6% 5.8% 4.9% 2.4%
Panic Disorders 5.1% 4.1% 3.8% 2.1%
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 6.5% 5.6% 8.6% 1.6%
Social Anxiety 12.6% 8.2% 8.6% 5.3%


Jennifer Vear Hoy has spent over 20 years in the corporate world as a corporate strategist operating her firm in Chicago, for which she earned her first master’s degree in Management and Organizational Behavior. She has since relocated to Naples, and after the death of her husband, she realized firsthand the need for professional and compassionate counseling in the Naples area. She went back to school and earned her second graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her passion is helping others live the life they were meant to live. Jennifer Vear Hoy, Peaceful Summit Counseling, LLC located at 1048 Goodlette Road North Suite 201 in Naples. Call the office at 239.307.4708, mobile at 239.450.8090, or visit: www.peacefulsummitnaples.com to learn more.