Anxiety can be been explained as “the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, exam, or first date.” It is a normal emotional reaction in response to stressful situations. While fleeting anxiety is unavoidable, it is atypical for an individual to experience frequent, intense, debilitating, persistent worries and/ or fears related to everyday situations, and such anxiety could be indicative of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the America. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder and approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.” There are currently five distinct types of anxiety disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). They include the following: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia). There are several known complications that could arise when anxiety is left untreated, some of which include:
- Chronic anxiety triggers the body to release a flood of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Too much adrenaline or cortisol over a long period of time can cause:
- Unwanted weight gain
- Cognitive decline
- Immune system deficiencies
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Increased risk for other mental illnesses
- Worsening risk for disorders like Cushing Syndrome
- Higher cholesterol
- Long-term anxiety has been linked to the development of heart disease.
- One study found that people with untreated anxiety exhibited reduced functioning in physical health.
- Anxiety can compromise one’s immune system, increasing one’s susceptibility to infections, such as colds, the flu, and other viral and bacterial diseases.
- Research has shown that anxiety can damage the brain and increase one’s risk of developing dementia later in life.
The short- and long-term consequences of an untreated anxiety disorder will fluctuate based upon individual genetic makeup, presence of co-occurring disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, symptom severity, and more. An undiagnosed or untreated anxiety disorder will pervade every aspect of a person’s life.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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