Anxiety and Mental Illness in America

Many Americans are surprised to learn that anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US. But, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million American adults aged 18 or older or 18% of the population suffers anxiety. The anxiety-related numbers are mind boggling but the chances are good that you know people struggling with this powerful disorder.

According to a study entitled “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” anxiety costs the US about $42 billion per year or one-third of the country’s total annual mental health expenditure of $148 billion.

More than $22.84 billion of these annuals costs are related to repeated use of healthcare services. This is because people with anxiety disorders seek relief from many symptoms that imitate actual physical illnesses. Research has shown that persons suffering anxiety disorders are five times more likely to seek professional assistance and six times more likely to be hospitalized than people who do not suffer anxiety.

Surprisingly, only about one-third of anxiety sufferers receive treatment for the condition. This creates a significant overload on hospitals and clinics.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression

The relationship between anxiety and depression is complex but many people who suffer anxiety also suffer from depression. The reverse is also true. ADAA reports that almost half the persons diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors that include:

• Genetics

• Brain chemistry

• Personality

• Personal experiences

• Life events

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and several other mental illness disorders can be linked to anxiety disorder. In the US, 6.8 million adults (3.1% of the population) suffer from GAD. Interestingly, women are twice as likely as men to be affected by GAD.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is another form of mental illness that affects 15 million Americans. Men and women are equally susceptible to this condition. Many sufferers began suffering this disorder as early as age 13. In a 2007 ADAA survey, it was revealed that 36 percent of persons suffering Social Anxiety Disorder experienced the condition for 10 years or more before seeking treatment.

Other Connected Mental Illness Disorders

There are a number of serious mental health disorders that are related to anxiety. Like anxiety most of these disorders are treatable.

Panic Disorder – 2.7 percent of the US population or 6 million persons suffer from panic disorder. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer this disorder. However, panic disorder is serious and has a very high comorbidity rate with major depression.

Specific Phobias – 19 million Americans suffer from specific phobias that can begin as early as age 7. Again, women are twice as likely to experience specific phobias as men.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are linked to anxiety disorders. 7.7 million Americans suffer PTSD. Rape and childhood abuse are prime examples of PTSD triggers. 2.2 million Americans suffer OCD, which is split evenly between males and females. 25 percent of OCD cases occur by age 14. The average age at onset is 19.

Major Depressive Disorder – Believe it or not, Major Depressive Disorder affects more than 15 million Americans or 6.7 percent of the population and is the leading cause of disability in the country. The median age at onset is 32.5 years. This mental illness is more prevalent in women than in men.

There are several other co-occurring disorders with anxiety including:

• Persistent depressive disorder

• Bipolar disorder

• Irritable bowel syndrome

• Sleep disorders

• Substance abuse

• Adult ADHD

• Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Anxiety is treatable. If you know anyone with symptoms of anxiety, please make sure they see a mental health professional for treatment.